Monday, December 24, 2012

A Few Losses and a Few Gained

Happy Holidays! I hope everyone at least gets to enjoy some time off from work or school, whatever you celebrate or even if you don't celebrate anything. I noticed my view count jump up, so maybe if you are on the internet, hiding from your family, you might appreciate something new to read ;)

So, the move wasn't entirely without it's losses. Unfortunately it was the succulents that decided they weren't so thrilled with the Florida weather. To be fair it was the ones that had gone into their winter-almost-no-growth-at-all life cycle already before the move. I think the sudden influx of humidity and rain they got when I didn't take them inside right away is what did them in. Hey, I've been extraordinarily busy, ok? Things should settle down in the next month or so and I can be on top of everything again.

  • Aloinopsis luckhoffii - Meh, I liked it and plan on replacing it at some point, but it wasn't the nicest or most exciting as far as Aloinopsis/Titanopsis go.

  • Lithops NOID - Cute as hell, love the colors on these. I figured it would be worth a shot seeing as how I can do Lithops apparently. I think I understand when not to water and when to watch they don't overheat or burn. I may have to change the media and pots they're in with such different growing conditions but I have more research to do 1st.

  • Aloinopsis schooneesii -Love, love, love it, so excited I found one. Have you seen the way some people have turned these into mini bonsai?!?! Just Google Images the plant name, you won't regret spending the 30 seconds. Now I just have to figure out how to make mine do that.

An excuse to buy a few more cheap little succulents is almost never bad, with the one exception of death. Seriously those two succulents melted in a matter of days. I haven't killed anything in a looooong time, so I guess I was due. I will try to replace that Frithia asap. It had the sweetest little purple flower that I will miss too much not to have around. I would like to have a better collection of weird succulents, but I'm just not so sure I want to deal with Conophytum or any other more difficult mesembs just yet. It's pretty darn humid here year round, not ideal for stuff that needs a dry winter or summer rest. Fingers crossed I can keep the rest of what I have by adjusting my conditions where I can. I'll have to scale back on my watering, and repot into a grittier mix.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Brassia Rex 'Tahoma' Blooming

I'm attempting to add pictures via the Blogger app, and it's terrible. It actually worked better before the last update to make it "better." I will have my camera and the rest of my stuff in about a week, so thanks for your patience with my iPhone pictures temporarily.

My Brassia Rex 'Tahoma' had spiked just before I drove it down here to Florida. I am kind of surprised the buds didn't blast, but it should actually be happier here than in NY, so maybe that helped.

Brassia Rex is a hybrid of Brassia verrucosa and Brassia gireoudiana, both very lovely on their own, but this hybrid came out pretty well. A rare combination of the best features of both parents, at least in my opinion. It's also rare that I think a hybrid is nicer than either parent species, but this is one of those few cases where I think it really works.

This is my biggest orchid, overall. It's a heavy one too, I repotted it not to long ago and it wasn't fun. Here's the whole plant.

The flowers of course:

One last bud to still open in the next day or so:


I can't really enlarge the iPhone pictures without them looking terrible, so here's a larger one that I brought over from Instagram too. If the flowers last long enough, I'll replace these photos with better quality ones in the future. Or, there's always next year!

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Coffee Break for Nepenthes

Fertilizing Nepenthes is a pretty hot topic. When I first started growing them everything I read said to never fertilize. This made sense at the time because the whole reason they are carnivorous plants is because they evolved to take in nutrients through their leaves instead of their roots. Nepenthes naturally grow in very nutrient poor soils, just like all other carnivorous plants. Watering them has probably cost me a lot over time as I use distilled water on mine. Our tap water back in NY was pretty hard, so it would kill them eventually trying to water with that. I used to collect rain water, but I now only use it on the Neps that go outside seasonally. I found it brought too much fungus and mold if I used it in a closed environment. There's also the option of using Reverse Osmosis water, but I won't have extra money for even a small one anytime soon.

Now nutrient poor doesn't mean nutrient devoid, so some brave people were spraying low doses of fertilizer onto the leaves or into the soil. It turned out well for those that found the right way to do it. Too much and the roots could burn and it could kill the plant or the plant would just stop pitchering and not do well. Too little and it was a waste of time. I passed on trying too find the right way to do it back then as the last thing I wanted to do was kill a healthy growing plant, just to try and make it grow better. However, within the last few years coffee has come up as another way to fertilize them.

Coffee works. I decided to try it after I let those brave, experimental people before me risk their plants first. I didn't have any to experiment on at the time, so waited to see how it worked for others for a while before making any decisions.

Coffee works for Nepenthes for a few reasons:

1. Coffee is acidic, most Nepenthes like their soil on the acidic side. If you use media that doesn't break down quickly, re-acidifying the soil at some point between re-pots isn't a bad idea.
2. There isn't a lot of minerals in coffee, but there is nitrogen and other trace nutrients which Nepenthes can use. Not so much that it can damage the roots, as long as you don't brew the coffee with mineral laden water, that is.

So I've been brewing a pot of coffee at regular strength with distilled water, letting it cool down and then watering some of my Nepenthes with it about once every six months or longer. This isn't exactly the most scientific experiment, as they are different species and my only control are ones I haven't tried fertilizing yet for one reason or another.

Below is newest leaf produced after a coffee treatment on my N. robcantleyi. All the old pitchers had dried up when I moved it to a lower humidity environment indoors for the winter. Now maybe this burst in growth is a coincidence, but the humidity levels in my apartment had gotten worse, not better. This looks like more than it's adjusting to new conditions to me. I've never seen a Nepenthes put out a bigger leaf right away, usually it throws out a smaller one or one that's slightly deformed before going back to growing normally when it has to adjust to a new environment.

Newest leaf after coffee treatment growing towards the bottom of the picture

Below are the newest leaves on N. ventricosa. I gave this one a coffee treatment back on the same day as the robcantleyi. The leaf growing straight to the bottom of the picture and the new one that hasn't unfurled yet are post-coffee leaves. N. ventricosa is a faster grower here than robcantleyi anyway, but this one had to endure a move to lower humidity than it likes too. Not quite as big a jump up in leaf size as robcantleyi, but still significant.

Post coffee leaf #1 growing straight down the picture, #2 not unfurled yet top right

I'll wait a few months before feeding them or fertilizing again, because too much could still cause the plant to stop making pitchers. A Nepenthes that wants to catch insects makes pitchers, an over-fertilized one won't. Same thing applies if you stuff the pitchers full of insects, it''ll temporarily stop making more. It seems pretty simple a concept when you think about why a plant would grow the way it does. Everything in nature happens for a reason.

Small Disclaimer: Coffee isn't a substitute for normal fertilization. I wouldn't recommend it for any other plants as it does not have all the nutrients the vast majority of other plants need.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Growing Nepenthes from Seed: This Year's Winter Project

I usually have some kind of project going on inside once it gets so cold outside you can't really do much. Luckily, I don't have to spend another year in the cold and gray misery that is a NY winter, but this project had already begun so we might as well continue. I wouldn't have started this at all had I known I wouldn't still be in NY, but whatever, things happen. Nepenthes are notoriously difficult to germinate from seed and grow through seedling stages, even without a cross country trip in there and a change in conditions.

This year's project wasn't so much planned, as gifted. I was sent a generous amount of Nepenthes ventricosa seed from a someone on one of the carnivorous plant forums. Back in November, I decided to try an experiment, using both of the generally accepted ways to grow Nepenthes from seed. I have one container that I sowed most of the seeds in using a 50/50 mix of Sphagnum peat moss/Perlite, (which I'm far more comfortable germinating carnivorous plant seed in.) The second container I decided to try germinating with pure (dead) long fiber Sphagnum moss. We'll see if either works better as both containers will be getting the same amount of light and heat, next to each other in my lowland terrarium. The advice I got as far as temperature goes, is better germination comes with warmth, regardless of the species normal preference for temperature range. So although N. ventricosa is an intermediate growing Nepenthes, (1000-2000 m above sea level, 75-85°F/24-29° C day, 55-65°F/ 13-18° C night,) we're going to germinate the seeds without that much of a temperature drop at night.

Container #1: 50/50 Peat/Perlite. It's one of those clear plastic pastry containers from the grocery store. I could've just put a plastic bag over a pot to achieve the same level of humidity, but this seemed easier and there were raspberry turnovers involved in the purchase of this container. An excuse to eat junkfood I never would otherwise have an excuse to eat seemed like a good plan.

Container #2: 100% Chopped, Rehydrated LFS. Clear plastic container again, although I didn't have to eat pastry to clean out this container, it's probably better that way.

I microwave sterilized the media for both containers, and pre-leached the Perlite for a few days.

Each seed is only about 5-10 mm long.

I carefully stratified the seeds with a tweezers on top of the media, then sprayed them down with distilled water one last time to ensure good contact with the media. Closed the container tops to get a high humidity level. I punched a few holes for drainage, and a few smaller one's for a little air flow in the containers as well.

Now to wait a few weeks to a few months to see if anything germinates. Nepenthes seed has a short shelf life and are best sown right after harvesting. I'm not sure how old these seeds are, but hopefully no older than a month or two would be best.

Container #1, 200 N. ventricosa seeds on 11/5/12

Container #2, 110 N. ventricosa seeds on 11/5/12
Wish me luck, because as of today we have 50+ that have germinated so far, with more popping up every few days. Although they won't all germinate, and every one that germinated will not make it to maturity, still way too many to keep if this rate keeps up. So aside from my promise to the person I received these seeds from to pay this generosity forward on the forum, I'd of course like to share them with my readers as well when they're old enough to be shipped. My only request is if any turn out to be female, you owe me a cutting, just, I'm serious. It'll be many years before these reach maturity and a flower is the only way to sex Nepenthes. Could you imagine the space I'd need for all those adult ventricosas to wait for each one to grow out so I could have at least one female? Exactly, so I can't keep them all that long.

Germination started around the end of November, about 3 weeks after being sewn. The majority of germination so far is in Container #1, the peat/perlite mix. Along with a lot more algae. I ended up removing the tops for both containers inside the terrarium because I got mold and fungus on the seedlings after about a week. I sprayed them down with water and without the tops it didn't grow back much. I think even though the humidity in the terrarium is not at 100% these seedlings need a little airflow more than they need ultra high humidity.

After the move these are in a 10 gallon terrarium that gets a combination of artificial and natural lighting, which keeps it warm enough in there too, never below 70 F/ 21 C. In the pictures below, look for 2 tiny leaves, that's all they are when they 1st germinate. Sorry no macro photos for the germinating seedlings, once I get my camera back I'll make up for this.

Bottom right, 2 tiny green leaves.

There are more than 1 in this picture, but one at the top center you can see easiest.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Off Topic: Florida

I apologize for the lack of updates recently. As some of you already know, we have been in the process of moving permanently to the state of Florida. I've moved myself and the plants and have been living here for about a month now. I'm also sorry that I only have my iPhone on me, the camera is in NY with the husband who will be following me after the holidays. This will temporarily limit my picture taking ability for posts. Moving is never fun, but starting a new job that I really am looking forward to is. I may be a bit busy but at least it isn't cold here, and so far everything has survived the move, so that's something. Here's a few of the (mostly) plant pictures I was motivated enough to take last week.

Tillandsia recurvata, and some usneoides aka "Spanish Moss" in the back starting to grow on this tree.
Both are really growing on almost every tree that isn't a palm though.

I am buying 10+ of these for my yard. They might be my favorite Palm that grows well here.
The label said it was an Adonidia merrillii.

Base of the Adonia merrillii Palm.

The weather was windy and gray, but this was somewhere around St. Augustine.
Palms of all kinds, everywhere.

These Palms grow along highways, yards, parks. Florida has an abundance of these.

This was at Big Value Garden Center in Daytona Beach. THIS IS A "POTHOS" or  really, an Epipremnum aureum. Yes, this is what happens when you can let it grow outside, year round, in hot to mild weather.. I'd say it was for show, but people had these growing up trees in their yards too in the Daytona Beach area. Want.

A Green Anole that got inside the apartment.
These are the only Anole species native to Florida.

Philodendron selloum, one or two of these will be in my yard one day too. I love those long aerial roots.
Close-up of the roots

Castillo de San Marcos,  a national monument from a distance. We were just driving through. I'll have to go see it sometime when I have time to be touristy, as it is the only extant 17th century fort in North America.

Some more different kinds of palms. I feel like I could write a whole blog on just different kinds of palms that grow well here. Actually, I may just take some pictures with the camera (when I have it again,) and just do a post of the best ones if I don't get run off of anybody's yard trying to take pictures.

What kind of plant hoarder would I be if I didn't at least get one cool plant they sell in FL but not in NY? This is Hylocereus undatus x polyrhizus 'Halley's Comet', a "Dragon Fruit/Pitahaya" that bears especially large fruit.

Nice to look at something other than pine trees for a change.

I'm convinced Florida itself is one big, constant struggle between people trying to build homes and infrastructure and nature trying to take the space back. Everything grows well here, including tons of invasive species and people's escaped pet snakes.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pinguicula Growth Explosion and Another Flower

Pinguicula moranensis flowering again this year.

The last time I wrote about this plant it had went from 1 to 4 plants, now it's 6 plants that I can see. I haven't been able to get the leaves to turn that nice pink color they can, but that may be a seasonal change. It's in adequate lighting and seems happy otherwise, so I guess we'll see if it's more of a temperature thing than a lighting thing.

Since I repotted it, it's getting huge. I don't need 6 of the same Pings. If anyone in the US (I do not have permits to ship elsewhere, nor do I plan on getting them anytime soon, sorry,) would like one of these, Email me. I would prefer a trade if you also have something extra (carnivorous plant or not,) but if you are new to the carnivorous plant growing scene I'll send it to you for cost of shipping.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Off Topic: Some More Spider Friends

Took these pictures towards the end of fall. I'm not sure what type of spider this is, but you have to admit it is pretty:

Then we had another Orb Weaver, caught her hiding during the day, then it was real hard to try and get a picture of her later once she was on the move trying to build her web for the night:

While I was out there I took some picture of some other insects. It's amazing how much you can see if you just take the time to really look around you.

Is it a cricket?

I have no idea

And another.......BONUS SLUG:

That's probably the last of the cool spiders for the year. The influx of cellar spiders into the apartment as the temperature outside drops will be all I see for months to come.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nepenthes ampullaria 'Lime Twist': The Arrival

This was the other birthday present I had mentioned that I had to wait, (wringing my hands,) for. I had seen pictures online of Borneo Exotics' 'Lime Twist' clone and loved it. I usually can't afford the latest and greatest releases from Nepenthes nurseries, (and I certainly would never ask someone else to buy me something expensive,) so I didn't think anymore about it.

I did check to see what my favorite vendor had up on his website a few weeks ago though, and there it was, (at a good price none the less!) I then had one of those moments when you debate your need for a particular item. My mom is a plant hoarder too, so she loves to give these kind of gifts as much as I like receiving them. I have to pick her out something really good for the upcoming holidays in return for this one.

So here it is, the package!

Awww yeaaaaa...

How it came packaged
Some tiny pitchers on it

The best part? It came with two growth points!

I always prefer getting plants bare root. I re-pot everything new right away anyway, plus it's safer for the plant to travel that way. Nepenthes are particular about their conditions and through some trial and error I know what works for mine here. I'd rather deal with the growth delay of the shock of a transplant and a move all at once. I've found it's just easier on everybody; the plant can go undisturbed for longer, gets potted ready for my growing conditions allowing for an easier adjustment, and I don't have to mess with it again for a long time.

A nice healthy root system

Re-potted. Although I trust this vendor, little ampullaria 'Lime Twist' will still be quarantined for about a week anyway. Then it goes into the lowland tank next to the other ampullaria (the 'Brunei Red' from last week's post,) so this one will have an impressive big brother or sister to inspire it to grow well. If nothing else I know it's a good spot in the tank for amps.


Tiny pitchers!
I know it's not much to look at yet, but when this one grows up a little, it will be stunning. The pitchers will have light lime green peristomes and  red bodies with harlequin type spots of darker and lighter reds.

You will very rarely see an online nursery or vendor recommendation in this blog. I don't usually have strong feelings about a place to bother for a few reasons. If they do their part of the transaction correctly your order should be processed in a timely manner,  the plants should be shipped fast, packed well, and arrive healthy. That's nothing to rave about, that's just what should be expected. I also will never put up a bad review because sometimes unexpected things happen and unless it's a total ripoff, I believe in second chances. Most importantly, I really don't want people coming after me about something I said when their experience turns out different.

That being said, here is the first (and hopefully not last?) time I actually do have something I feel confident enough to put out there. Par O Bek Orchids/ has been my go to place for Nepenthes, to the point where I really don't order from anywhere else anymore. Tony Paroubek takes better care of them for a better price than anywhere else. Highly recommended, skip the bigger/more famous carnivorous plant nurseries here that overcharge for smaller Nepenthes. I've consistently received better then expected service, Nepenthes, or both, with every order.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Woot! Birthday Gifts!

I know I said that if my Tillandsia bulbosa did well here that I'd probably look into getting some more. They're nice and wacky looking, plus small sized ones work well for the space issues of apartment growing. A super nice friend sent me this Tillandsia butzii for my birthday. So hooray, my collection has increased to two! Thank you again!

The whole plant

Flower spike!

What a cool pattern!

My husband had to import this CD for me, Black Sun Empire: Lights and Wires. For those that know me personally you know how much I listen to D&B and how much I love Black Sun Empire, so this is right up there on top of the list of things I really, really, like.

Last but not least, from my mom, (who clearly let me pick out this gift,) a Nepenthes I'm waiting on. It's a good one, I'll share when it gets here. I keep obsessively checking the USPS Track & Confirm website like a crazy person. I cannot handle the anticipation of a package coming in the mail. It's even worse when I can check on it for updates of every sort facility it comes into and leaves en route. I swear Track & Confirm is like a blessing and a curse because I want to know, but can't handle seeing a package get to my post office, but not be out for delivery yet. Or, even worse, it get sent to the wrong place and get rerouted like when I ordered my N. robcantleyi and it took an extra three days to get here. That was a rough one. That was back when robcantleyi was limited in numbers, tiny, and the most expensive plant I'd ever bought, (still is to this day.) Straight up fear was involved.