Monday, October 30, 2017

The Church of Gesneriads

Last Saturday, Alan, Assistant Yvette and I, all piled into the car to go see Gesneriads.

Having told Alan I wanted to go see a Gesneriad Show, his response was "what the bejeesus are Gesneriads?!?" 

Gesneriads are another family of plants consisting of over 3,000 species and 133 genera. Yet another group of plants to occupy my time, energy and pocket book. As if I didn't have enough plant interests already, with the changing of the seasons, I needed more houseplants for indoor "gardening."

Most likely, you may already have a Gesneriad in your home and not know it!

The most common well-known plants in this group are African Violets (Saintpaulia), Gloxinias (Sinningia) and Cape Primrose (Stretocarpus). There are many other plants in this group, most tropical, and many making good houseplants. 

We've all had an African Violet at some point in our lives or one of those florist Gloxinia with the gaudy bright red or purple cupped flowers you get at the grocery store. That type of Gloxinia is on my "death list" of plants too easy to kill with love.

This summer, I bought several Cape Primrose (Stretocarpus) in the annual section of my local nursery. I had never seen them for sale as a garden annual before. Of course I bought three (red, purple and pink) and had them sitting in my kitchen window. They bloomed all summer and were a cheery pick-me-up to look at every time I stood at the kitchen sink. I recently divided them as they were getting too big and needed prettier pots to reside in than the black square nursery pots.

When I received notification that the Mt. Hood Gesneriad Society and Portland African Violet Society were having a Fall Show & Sale at the Tabor Heights Methodist Church, how could we not go to check it out?!?  

We did joke a little that we might get "smoted" walking into a church, but I was pretty sure the show would be in a meeting room and not at the alter.

The flyer said that the sale was "a great opportunity to buy from a huge selection of African Violets and other unusual Gesneriads..." and I was itching for a wider variety of Cape Primrose and hopefully a few other interesting new plants.

That's exactly what I got too! New plants I have not experienced before!

I enjoyed chatting with the folks at the show and saw a few "orchid people" from days gone by.

The plants were very reasonably priced and there was a nice selection to choose from.

Poor Alan waited patiently in a chair for me to make my plant selections. Assistant Yvee even had a nice Society member feed her tri-tip steak nibbles while waiting. Such service! 

Some of the plants I bought are featured in the next section of pictures:

Some of my bounty! Forgot to photograph the OTHER box...
Petrocosmea 'Whirlpool'
Episcia 'Pink Panther'
Streptocarpus (Cape Primrose)
'Jolly Sun Chaser' African Violet
Primulina 'Loki'
A Sinningia hybrid
Deinostigma tamiana
The familiar thing about many of my selections is that they generally grow in the same conditions as African Violets and like the same soil, moisture, don't appreciate water on their leaves, and enjoy filtered light. Many of them also propagate new plants with leaf cuttings. 

Sounds easy right?

Below are views of part of the sale area and some of the plants from the show. 

One of the several Show tables
Some of the "For Sale" round pink tables.
'Irish Ruffles' African Violet
'Boo Man' African Violet
'Jolly Frills' African Violet

'Cupid's Jewel' African Violet
Sinningia richii 'Robeson Lopees'

Petrocosmea forrestii

That ribbon is bigger than Assistant Yvette!
'Treasure Chest' African Violet
'A Call to Heart' African Violet
'Little Inca"

Friday, October 13, 2017

Persimmon Dreams

2017 has been the year of getting everything I always wanted. Well, not everything... But plant-wise, I did really good.

There were a few plants I had on my mental list of "Plants I Have to Have".

When out and about, I would always look for them and then not buy them if I saw them. I was pretty good about talking myself out of them for whatever reason.

I finally bought Cypripediums at the HPSO sale in the spring. I always thought these hardy orchids were too expensive and that I might kill them. This year I bought two varieties at the Spring HPSO sale (now dubbed The James Lee Hubbard Memorial Plant Buying Spree) and they grew well this summer and bloomed beautifully. The real test will be next spring when I will wait with baited breath to see if they come back.

Midsummer, I finally brought home Genista aetnensis (Mount Etna Broom). It's a tiny little fluffy thing at the moment. Hopefully one day it will be a tree. Even in it's tiny form, it still was a check mark off my have to have plant list. I look forward to helping it grow into tree-dom.

The last plant I have always wanted was a Fuyu Persimmon tree.

At the apartment complex kitty-corner from my office, there are several very nice Persimmon trees. I always thought they were not only beautiful trees, but I looked forward to late fall when our gardener would pop over there and pilfer a few before the apartment maintenance crew would hack them all off.

Fuyu fruit are crisp, delicious and not astringent. I prefer to eat them when they are firm but they can also be left to soften and get sweeter. To me, they taste a bit like a cross between an apple and a squash. Perfectly yummy to just slice and eat.

On a recent outing with Mardigras Gardener Alan and Assistant Yvette, we were at the Stark Street Portland Nursery. They were having a sale on trees, including fruit trees. I happened to see a small table with baby Persimmon trees. There were several varieties to choose from. With the sale, the tree was around $20. How could I say no?!? So, I came home with Diospyros kaki 'Early Fuyu'.

And more importantly, Alan would have beaten me over the head had I not bought it. He's heard me talk about getting one now for at least 3 years.

The thing about buying a tree, was that now that I had it, and could cross it off my plant list, where the hell was it going to go in the yard?

My two mantras are "At least its not snowing!" during Portland winter and "No more trees!" for plant shopping.

I wondered around the garden holding my baby tree for a bit. I didn't want to "cramscape" it into the garden.

I finally decided to do the unspeakable. I dug up a peony on a corner of the back patio! (clutch pearls!). Those that know me and my peony addiction, would know this was a difficult decision. 

It was an unnamed herbaceous peony that has been given to me, so I felt I could let it go. In this spot a new tree would have the ability to spread out a little.

Cute baby Diospyros kaki 'Early Fuyu'
In a moment of brilliance, I gave the peony to a neighbor for his front yard. So although I gave it away, it didn't go far and I can still visit it and take care of it for him. Such a good compromise!

It will be several years before I have my own Persimmons to eat.

Until then, persimmon dreams!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Summer Recap

Summer sort of flew by in a blur this year.

I was hoping summer would take my mind off my father's passing in April. At least I would have gardening, fish and flowers to occupy my brain for a while.

I hosted the Portland Blogger's spring plant exchange May 7th. It was a good excuse to get the garden looking good. One of the best parts of gardening is sharing your garden with others. But having 22 plant aficionados in your garden is still a little intimidating.

In June, I took my work pal Anita to the open house of Sarracenia Northwest and bought way too many carnivorous plants. I do love my bogs now and can see how this could evolve into "a thing". My Venus Flytraps, Darlingtonia, Sarracenia and Sundews all bloomed and were adorable all summer. I worried about killing the Darlingtonia constantly, but it put out a lot of new runners, so I think I made it happy.

Open House at Sarracenia NW
New plants!

Most of June and July went by like a breeze. I swear I only remember preparing for the unusual amount of hot weather we had this summer. There were several episodes of really hot weather too.

The first hot spell was several days of 105 degrees. This takes a toll on plants, the lawn, the fish and my water bill. Seems like I spent the last few months watering constantly and not doing much else. Thankfully, I have a routine for placing out my sprinklers and following up with hand watering here and there.

Gah!  Too Hot!
While I appreciate the convenience of the sprinklers, I really feel like I lose touch with the plants when I'm not really spending time in the garden fussing.

With the heat, I also had to worry about the ponds and fish. Four of my fishy babies didn't make it through the first round of hot weather. But considering there are probably 100 fish in total, my losses were very minimal. For the second hot spell, I spent a lot of time out in the heat trying to keep fish cool with a combination of shade cloth and daily water changes.

Eclipse shade

This summer was the first that the ponds were not repeatedly ransacked by raccoons, so the water lilies looked amazing all summer. My ugly surrounds of chicken wire finally kept the raccoons at bay. With the exception of one hot tubing lily leaf pooping opossum, the ponds were pest free all summer.

Assistant Yvette and I watched the August eclipse from the garden. While we could have gone south to see it in totality, I was really content to just be at home with her. I watered flowers out front while wearing my glasses, occasionally looking up at the sky to see what was happening. Miss Yvee camped out on the back porch with not a care in the world.

Assistant Yvette was not impressed by the Eclipse

Side yard view corridor
My only real complaint this season, was that in late August/early September something happened that has never happened before! FLEAS! OMG FLEAS!

I have never even seen a flea in 11 years of gardening at The Lents Farmer and they popped up suddenly and in huge numbers. I could walk barefoot in the grass and 10 fleas would jump on my feet. I could not even walk to the back to feed the fish before work without having to pick fleas off my pants. So gross! My "flea paranoia" got pretty bad as did the bites on my ankles.

I sent Assistant Yvette to live with her other parent, so that I could try to get a handle on the yard fleas. I didn't want her to suffer and I didn't want fleas in the house too.

Other then watering the lawn and mulching the grass most of summer, no other changes happened to the garden. So I'm not sure why the fleas popped up so suddenly?

I am still battling the fleas.

I started out with biological treatments and as they invaded my garden, then progressively began using harsher solutions to try to combat them. They will die soon when the weather gets colder thankfully. I will try Nematodes (Steinerma carpocapsae) in the spring that specifically enjoy killing fleas. I would try applying them now, but I'm afraid some of the harsher flea treatments, might kill them too.

So here's to looking forward to Fall. Autumn begins today!

Below is a potpourri of random pictures from this summer:

Nymphaea 'Mayla'
Dionaea muscipula 'King Henry'

Seemannia nematanthodes 'Evita' (Gloxinia) was a surprise in a pot
Callistemon pallidus (Lemon Bottlebrush)

Nymphaea 'Wanvisa'
Clematis viorna
"Angel" the fish
One of the bogs with last year's plants
Darlingtonia californica (Cobra Pitcher Plant)

Nymphaea 'Perry's Orange Sunset'
'Neil Bell' decided to die suddenly after a hot spell :(
Garden bounty

Lobelia tupa in full bloom

Monday, July 17, 2017

Bad Water Lily Daddy

It all started a year or two ago.

You notice something that needs to be done, but you just decide it can be put off longer. Then a lot LONGER goes by, much longer than you thought.

Eventually you just decide "F-it", whatever happens, happens. The lazy man's justification.

Thus the following story of  'Perry's Almost Black'.

'Perry's Almost Black'

I've had this water lily for ten years. I'm pretty confident that I have repotted it a few times since then, except, for the past few years. After the upgrade to a 300 gallon trough a couple years ago, I think I let it slip.

I knew there were three lilies in the trough and over time I thought they'd probably grow together out of their pots and across the bottom and all would be right with the world. Last year, I had more flowers than ever out of these three.

It never occurred to me that one day, a giant mass of water lily would begin floating to the surface and no amount of large rocks on top of the mass would keep it down. I can only surmise that the crowns must have a certain amount of air in them and they finally got to the point where their mass floated the entire pot to the surface. Who knew?!?

Well, poop!

I guess now I finally had to do something about it. I couldn't have exposed growing lily crowns bobbing in and out of the water in the hot 80 degree sun.

So, off to my big box store for supplies: new pots, soil and decorator rock.

In the past, I used my vegetable garden soil for repotting water lilies. This year, just looking at the project at hand, made my back ache, so I opted for a bagged "soil" that was a mix of compost and sand. I read all the labels on the various bags and this seemed like it could work. It will be an experiment to see how the plants do in this soil.

My friend James, offered to help with the hefting out of the water lily and the other menial tasks, so I could concentrate on the lily.

I plunged my arms into the pool and started feeling around. I quickly determined that the other two water lilies (Nigel & Sioux) were only slightly entangled in the mix. My floating problem was entirely a very overgrown 'Perry's Almost Black'. It had grown out of its pot considerably.

We hoisted the pot and trailing roots and leaves out of the pool and took to the shady side lawn.

Wad of 'Perry's Almost Black'
What a mess!
Removing sections of tuber carefully with shears.

James had pre-washed the gravel and laid out the pots partially filled with dirt and three PondTabs.  The pots I chose were a little more than I wanted to spend for something I will never see submerged in the water, but I liked that they were wider on top, giving lots of space for growing crowns.

Note: Remember to fertilize lilies monthly as they are exceptionally heavy feeders!  They should be fertilized monthly during spring and summer. Yellow leaves, infrequent blooms or slow growth usually indicate that the plants are not getting enough food. That being said, I usually only fertilize two or three times a season, because I forget. So do as I say, not as I do.

I got to work separating the plant into divisions, so that they could be replanted quickly and put back in the pond. You don't want them to dry out and it doesn't take long. 

I ended up with four new pots and saved what was left in the original pot.

Hopefully I have learned my lesson about neglecting my water lilies.

But I wouldn't hold my breath. I seem to recall similar blog posts in the past, so I'll probably be doing this again next year and cursing myself.

Some pics of the other water lilies this year below:

Funky Nymphaea 'Wanvisa' flower
Nymphaea 'Black Princess'
Nymphaea 'Perry's Orange Sunset'
Meal Time!
Nymphaea 'Burgundy Princess'
Nymphaea 'Mayla'
Nymphaea 'Gonnère'
Nymphaea 'Mayla' and fish in 300 gallon trough
Nymphaea 'Nigel'