October 28, 2016

Cycad Seeds

Some years instead of sending up new fronds, a Sago Palm will 'bloom.' The male cycads make a cone. Female cycads make a round structure. If there's a male plant within a reasonable distance so the wind can blow pollen to it, eventually the female structure is full of orange seeds.

  Hiding in that soft, fluffy nest are dozens of orange colored seeds bigger than the end of my thumb.
The orange coating on them inhibits growth, so they must be soaked and scraped before planting.
It takes months before the seed coat cracks and a root emerges, then a tiny frond. Exciting.

A squirrel destroyed my first successful seedling when I put it outside for the summer.

I started over when there were more seeds. These seedlings are 2 years old, a long wait.

 This one has the center tuft typical of a cycad from which the fronds grow.

This one still has the seed attached.

I have not decided whether I'll try to grow more cycads from this year's seeds. There's a little new plant  growing beside an azalea I planted nearby the original cycad that I think came from a seed I disturbed when I dug there. I may try just putting them into the ground, using enough seeds so the squirrels and I can share.

Another way to grow cycads is by division of the pups growing around a plant. I successfully rooted 4 pups off Mrs. Cotele's cycad one year, then destroyed one by tugging it out of the pot to look at the roots. I put the pup into the ground, anyhow. This summer the remains of that pup put out a new frond. I still don't know whether the pups that did root and grow are male or female, they've never bloomed.He-Who-Mows ran over the smallest one with the mower. I'd cut the cold-bitten fronds off and I guess he thought that meant I didn't want it despite it having a little clump in the center. I'm waiting to see what comes from the roots next spring, if anything. It was cut awfully close to the ground.

October 26, 2016

Dirty Little Greenhouse Secrets Revisited

The primary components of a working greenhouse are damp and dirt.

Dirt is a given. Potting soil does not stay in pots. You know those fancy pictures you see where everything is spotless and the floor is white? Count the plants: a few perfect ones for decoration. If those are your aspirations, you want a conservatory with a writing desk and a place for tea, not a greenhouse.

I do a lot of hand watering.
Do you heft your pots to see if they're lightweight? A heavy pot may be water soaked and not need a general spraying with the rest.

Cachepots are not just for decoration. Plants in a plastic pot get top-heavy. In a cache pot they're secure and can be lifted out to water and drain, repot, dab with an alcohol-soaked q-tip for bugs, or whatever. The space between a thin plastic pot and a cache pot helps keep cold drafts off the plastic pot. A recycled glass jar inside a cache pot is a good place to root cuttings. A plastic container sitting in a ceramic cache pot is bound to have warmer roots than in a thin plastic pot sitting on a wood shelf.

Thermal mass helps mediate daytime heat to nighttime cold. There is not a way to keep a greenhouse above freezing in a cold winter without supplemental heat in some form. The easy, less expensive way is a couple of heaters from the big box store. Be sure they have high and low settings and a thermostat. You must use the low setting if you want your heater to last as long as your greenhouse. It takes some trial and error on cold nights to get the thermostat set 'just right.'

Behind the center group of plants is a piece of styrofoam that was packing for something we ordered off for. It is recycled as insulation behind this group, on the north side of the greenhouse where it reflects light coming from the south and west.

Heaters take space. Remember I said a greenhouse needs two? Better one still running if one goes out than a big heater that hasn't a back up when it fails. I didn't mention adequate wiring; it is important. Here's the thermal mass part: There are charts online that give the information about what substances are most useful in holding heat generated by the sun. Water is most efficient. If  you can get some barrels for water, hooray! The barrels can have a shelf on top to offset the floor space they take up.

Each plastic gallon jug of water used will help a little bit. I fill mine and line them up in front of the heaters, usually about 8 or 10 jugs for each heater. Heaters and water sit on the walkway. When the weather warms, heaters go back in the tool shed and I water plants from the jugs and put them in the shed until the next cold spell. The hot air blowing on the water jugs warms them and the heat is given off more slowly than the hot air all rising to the ceiling as the heaters blow on nothing. That's my theory, you may  not agree.

What else helps with heat mediation? Remember those cache pots? Ceramic material, bricks used as plinths, stones, pieces of concrete -- all these are helpful to hold heat. Sun shines on them during the day; later when heat is needed as the air cools that heat is given up.

I read this week about heating with compost. There isn't that much room in my greenhouse. I don't know of an feasible inexpensive, nearly free way to heat. I address keeping plants from freezing here, affordable but not cheap. I keep my orchids in the house where it's warm.

Divided the Guzmania. Two plants  replaced the old one; both those had pups
around them and now the pups have pups. Bromeliads have life cycles.

Too much is never enough. You'll never have enough space or too many kinds of plants. You may eventually have too many of one kind. Share with others.

Plants tend to grow. The little Birds Nest Fern of a few years back now takes up nearly 7 square feet of GH floor space. Sometimes I let plants bunk together, like Purple Heart and Persian Shield in a container together, or Foxtail Fern and Chlorophytum.

A 2" pot of Burro Tail yielded 7 pots full 
in under 3 years. Plants grow.

Frog Poop. The best pest control in a greenhouse are little toads, peeper frogs and lizards. They do donate their little share of fertilizer and it isn't always pretty. Sometimes when I add water to the cup of a bromeliad, a tiny green frog emerges. Cachepots are places for frogs to hide. The greenhouse is alive.

Persian Shield in bloom in winter.

It isn't really work.
There are plants that find just the right time to bloom when the days are short and they're hanging out in your greenhouse. I would never otherwise have seen blossoms on Burro Tail Sedums or Mistletoe Cactus and probably not on White Shrimp Plant and Persian Shield.

Burro Tail Sedum winter blossoms
Rhipsalis blooms, midwinter

October 21, 2016

Nighttime Greenhouse Peek

 Nighttime temperatures are changing rapidly. Today's high was 75º and work can pick up.
This afternoon I raked pine straw that was falling like rain in front of this morning's wind.

 Summering outside was good for my Staghorn fern. It tends to look sad by winter's end, a vacation under trees and good rainfall gave it new life.

 Underneath the the Staghorn are cuttings. Purple Heart looks good, Persian Shield is kind of sad and I think the Porterweeds will be to discard, despite one being secure in the soil as if it is putting on roots. There are more cuttings, in water. They do not look so weary as these.

Another Tradescantia with finer leaves, new this year from my Alabama friend Kathy, hangs off the shelf on the East wall. The inevitable tomato plant crawls across the the topmost shelf. It's been trimmed and has a single fruit so far. The ladder is from where I put in new light bulbs. I wish there was room to leave it.

Tomato on the north wall has blooms, no fruit. I am hopeful.

I like the new light bulbs. No globes because of the weight.

Anytime after next weekend Hyacinth bulbs can come out of the refrigerator to rest in little pots and grow roots. I hope for Christmas bloom. Usually they bloom after Christmas because I can never get bulbs soon enough. These are a new 'speriment at maturing bulbs in their pots to see if they'll set buds for a second year. Other bulbs are on order for later.

October 19, 2016

Up Close in the Greenhouse

Last year's red Pelargonium has buds and this cutting has a bloom as big as the tiny plant.

 After the mist was on for a little while, I noticed tiny droplets of water on a little spiderweb. I think it is spider mites. We'll likely do battle all winter.

 He Who Mows and Notices Things discovered a green tomato that had to be pointed out to me despite it being just above a plant I watered yesterday. I hope this is a trend.

 Tomato cuttings that I put in a jar of water already have roots. Plenty of blooms on the second biggest tomato plant growing in soil; it has yet to set a tomato. Maybe I just can't see it, neither can He Who.... When I think of it, I give tomato limbs a shake to encourage them to set fruit.

I wonder what other gardeners do with their plants that grow? Bromeliads have pups that need taking off and potting. I can't stop putting seeds in soil just to see if they germinate. Everything grew bigger over the summer.


It's almost time to pot up Hyacinth bulbs that are chilling. I can sneak little succulent cuttings into the bulb pots so that when I give them away, there's an extra treat with the bulb while they wait for a bloom. One year I put Sedum acre in the pots. I have Burro Tail cuttings to add to some of this year's pots. There might be a Kalanchoe cutting or two to use.

Little Rosettes of Ghost Plant make great bulb companions.

In the Mule Barn, a handful of pine cones I picked up when I raked. I never can have really neat sheds and greenhouse as seen on Pinterest and other blogs because I am driven to save bits and pieces and clippings and cuttings but I am greatly entertained.

October 14, 2016

Greenhouse Filled by Bloom Day, Few Blossoms

Everything that summered outdoors in back inside. Really.

Tillandsia cyanea. These are bracts. The little flowers are bright blue when they appear.


Cyclamen was a gift last spring. 
It rebloomed after a summer rest.

Wax Begonias will bloom all winter.
The dark foliage is Alternanthera.

Is this Gusmania or Bilbergia? I can never remember. Does it matter?

Happy Bloom Day mid-autumn. Join other Bloom Day blogs at May Dreams Gardens 
to see what is blooming in other locations around the world.


October 09, 2016

Filling with Plants and Pots

It is not as exciting as it used to be. Am I jaded or just weary?

 I brought Amaryllis into the Mule Barn for a rest. Foliage died back and new leaves emerged, so 4 are in bright light again, hoping for buds soon. I took one out of its pot -- the roots are pretty and white. The tops of the bulbs were kind of soft but the widest part is firm. I scratched away the cedar needles and left the bulb tops exposed. Not going to repot, just give a little fertilizer later.

I have containers of Burro Tail Sedum growing from little beans that broke off. 

 Episcia, new this year. It had a little worm, I saw frass. I can't find the critter. Yet. Those little green bits are tomato cuttings, more experiments for the winter.

Amaryllis, Bilbergia and Rabbit's Foot Fern
  The two pics below show shelves on the east end of the GH.
Tomato vines are vining across the top in front of the fan.
The next shelf has mostly aqua color pots,
few are filled yet except for a couple of Christmas Cacti.

 This shelf has Christmas Cacti in square pots: one each of yellow, white, peach, pink and red. A fern planted itself in one.

Here is a broader view below of the two shelves above:
 Bringing the jungle cacti into the greenhouse. The old Easter Cactus that belonged to Miss Winnie is still alive, needs to be cut into pieces and new plants started, a plan for next spring because so many pots take up room. There are 3 good pots of Easter Cactus.
I'm 'bottoming' some of the Cacti with new soil in the bottom of the pot and taking off all the cedar needles that fell into pots.

Bird's Nest Fern reached enormous proportions. Nightblooming cactuses are indoors.  The cactuses are going to be underneath where the tomato plant will eventually crawl past the tin rooster and rest over on the wicker shelves. One that didn't fit is under the shelf with the Bird's Nest. One long limb I couldn't make behave I just cut off and stuck in a pot of soil that was sitting at the door.

 The tomato vine is crawling right on over past the rooster. This is my experiment for the winter, to see if the same tomato plant can continue, topped with fresh soil and fertilizer.

 These are new this year.

 Mistletoe Cactus is one of my favorites. 

I'm disappointed in the Bromeliad tree. They lost a great deal of leaves in summer heat and look sad. It stayed inside because it was so heavy to try to drag out. I have some nicer Neoregelias and some pups coming on from the potted Broms that bloomed outside. Notice the Persian Shield growing behind the 'tree.' It needs cutting back to encourage new growth which might help the looks of the 'tree' too. 

 Burro Tail. There's lots of these.

 Empty cache pots are everywhere, awaiting grouping by color and filling as needed.

Brought Staghorn Fern in last night. It rejuvenated itself out under a tree.

October 06, 2016

Easing Back to Greenhouse Mode

It's too hot even with shade cloth to keep much in the greenhouse in summer. I kept 2 tomato plants going but they can't set fruit above 90º so they just grew vines.

 This tomato has bare stems up to 5 feet. Old Leaves turn brown and are cut off. I saw photos of the tomato trees at Epcot and decided I could do that, too.I just opened up a board or two on the shelves so the vine could grow up and be supported. It eventually got taller than the shelving.

 Some PVC pipe and a strip of hardware cloth improvised a trellis of sorts for the vines which were falling down among everything else. I did some pruning and now we wait to see if fruit will set when the weather moderates just a little more.

Notice I'm bringing in Bromeliads: Tillandsia cyanea above. Below is a Bilbergia I bought about 4 years ago for $1.25 after it had bloomed and the original plant was dying. There were three pups. They bloomed for the first time after I put a ripe pear beside the pot and let it rot.

Bilbergia. Rabbit's Foot Fern at right is new this year.

Bilbergia pyramidilis

 The big tomato in the corner grew in every direction. When I was cleaning the old foliage off, I had to give the vine in front of the fan a haircut where it was growing into the fan blades.

I think it kind of likes growing across and down. I hope we'll see tomatoes this winter.

Some of the trimmings went into a glass jar to see it they'll root. The jar went into a cache pot to help stabilize the jar. Behind is an Episcia, new this year and blooming for the second time.

Episcia in bloom

Something is chewing on the Episcia leaves and I saw frass. There must be a little worm feasting on it, maybe a moth larvae.

Pink and White Pentas cuttings took a whole year to reach blooming size. They will bloom through the winter and be ready to plant out next spring.

Our first frost date will be here soon. Still have cuttings to take and jungle cacti to bring in. I did manage to fill 2 pots with Agapanthus that will stay outside until the first frost hardens them as instructed by Claus Dalby.

Did I tell you that I gave away the white Agapanthus that I grew from seed? The friend who brought me the Rabbit Foot Fern and the Episcia among other things took it home with her. She sent a photo when it bloomed. I'll post when I find it again. The joy for me is in the growing.

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