Planty Resolutions

At this time of the year, everyone is making resolutions.  So I guess I will talk about what I plan to do for this next year.  More than resolutions, these are my goals.  The first four goals apply to this blog directly and the last five apply to me and my plants.

  1. Continue posting at the rate of 2-3 times per week.  I started this blog a year and a half ago, but only began posting at regular (frequent) intervals a couple of months ago.  So far I have not had trouble coming up with at least 2 posts a week.  I hope to keep that trend throughout the year.
  2. Review about 1 plant book a month.  Even if I don’t read one new plant book each month, I have a backlog that should last me the full year – all I need to do is write the review.
  3. Write a “trip report” about once a month.  This will be a little trickier, as I don’t know off the top of my head 12 different places to visit and write about.  But I will give it a shot.  More than likely this will become more of a quarterly post, or just as they occur.  I won’t hold myself to the month interval, since my vacations tend to be distributed more heavily towards Spring and Summer.
  4. Write a “project” post once a month.  I have written three posts that I tagged and categorized as “projects.”  I foresee more of these in the future, as I plan to write about my successes and failures of making hypertufa pots and terrariums.  We’ll see what else I get my hands into.
  5. Start a collection of Asarums (Wild Ginger).  I have had just one species of Asarums in the past, but I’ve been saving up some money so that I can order 2 or 3 varieties from Asiatica Nursery and begin a real collection.  [I’m not sure if I want to start the collection in the Spring or wait until the Fall, since they will thrive in my cool, dark house overwinter.]  I received a collector’s book on Asarums for Christmas that I will be posting about soon – stay tuned!
  6. Grow some of my own food.  During the summer of 2008, we grew about 5 tomatoes (maybe less) and 3 limes.  For the summer of 2009 I have some ambitious plans to grow: tomatoes, potatoes, kiwi (will not have fruit this year), and broccoli.  Last year I tried broccoli, but the plants kept getting eaten by some caterpillars.  I don’t have a lot of room for gardening in the sun, but I am going to try growing the tomatoes and broccoli in pots this year, so that I can move them into the appropriate full sun locations and save my ground space for potatoes and kiwi.  The kiwi will take a couple of years before fruiting, but I want to get them in the ground this year.  The potatoes (my favorite vegetable) will also be a new venture for me.  Wish me luck!
  7. Vigorously plant front figure 8 bed.  We have a wonderful front flowerbed in the shape of a figure 8 that is filled with red and white tulips in the Spring.  The rest of the growing season it gets invaded by grass.  We have tried putting down tarp and covering with mulch after the tulips are finished, but that’s just not very pretty.  Last year we planted potato vine, which was great.  The only problem is that we didn’t plant enough.  This year I want to plant sooner (while the tulips are just finishing their blooming) and plant about twice as much.  If I stay on top of watering them at first, they should really fill out the bed nicely and keep the grass out.
  8. Fertilize. I have never fertilized any of my own plants before.  Some of my plants have not bloomed for me – ever.  Are these two items coincidental?  I think not.  I was very happy not fertilizing my plants, but I have committed to fertilizing regularly starting this spring.  Maybe I will get my Walking Iris, Shell Ginger and Bougainvillea to bloom this year!
  9. Recreate the corner garden.  Two years ago we started a beautiful little corner garden in our backyard.  At the time it was a shade garden.  After the ice storm in December 2007, it became a full/part sun garden, since the trees hanging over the garden were destroyed.  To make matters worse, the small cherry tree we had planted in front of the garden has since died, so we can’t hope for it to one day shade the garden.  And I can’t count on my tiny Japanese Maple to provide shade anytime soon.  This last summer the garden suffered because I had planted it with shade perennials (hostas and coral bells, mostly).  Now I need to either rethink the garden or plant a new shade tree so that this garden can return to form.  I’ve been thinking about planting a ginkgo tree ever since I saw one last fall that was a beautiful solid shade of yellow.  What do you think?

Well, that does it for now.  Those all seem like doable goals.  And each one of them will probably result in a couple of posts.  I’ll keep you updated.


Trip Report: Myriad Gardens continued

Last week I posted a new photo album containing over 200 pictures of the Myriad Botanical Gardens in Oklahoma City.  I posted the album in pre-Christmas haste, without labeling any of them.  But now I have labeled the majority of the pictures.  So, if you haven’t seen them yet, or you already looked and want to know an ID of one of the plants, you can check them out here.

Last week in my Myriad Gardens post I just wrote about a couple of the highlights.  I wanted to give a little more information about the Gardens today.

The Myriad Botanical Gardens is a 17 acre colorfully landscaped plot in downtown Oklahoma City.  In the center is the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory, which is a big tropical rainforest inside a cylindrical greenhouse on it’s side.  The big greenhouse hovers over a pond, giving it the name “The Crystal Bridge.”

The outdoor gardens are nice, but the real action is inside.  About 2/3 of the inside space is dedicated to a tropical rainforest collection, while the remaining 1/3 is dedicated to a dry tropical zone.  There is no physical boundary between the two collections, so I am partly surprised they coexist so well, sharing the same humid air with one another.  The dry zone is watered less frequently the entire year and is watered sparsely if at all during a certain dormant period of the year.

While many of the plants at the Myriad Gardens are those you would expect to see in a rain forest recreation, the Myriad Gardens has focused on a couple of specific plant groups.


This is not one of the collections noted on the official website, but being an Aroid collector, I couldn’t help but notice how many plants were present from this family.  Maybe the website needs a little update.

The collection of Aroids from the genus Anthurium was astounding.  There are two types of Anthurium (in my mind): those with the very colorful blooms and ordinary foliage, and those with the really cool foliage but discrete blooms.  The Myriad Gardens had several color varieties of the first category.  I had never seen a pale purple Anthurium before and unfortunately I didn’t get a very good picture of it.

Pale purple Anthurium sp. at Myriad Gardens
Pale purple Anthurium sp. at Myriad Gardens

They also have a number of the unique foliage species of Anthuriums, including the King Anthurium (Anthurium veitchii).  Notice the size of the guard rail in comparison.

King Anthurium - Anthurium veitchii
King Anthurium – Anthurium veitchii

I also saw a cool shingler Aroid that I had never seen before.  This little climber was so appressed to the rock wall that the leaves were conforming to the contours of the rocks.

Rhaphidophora cryptantha - an Aroid shingler - at the Myriad Gardens
Rhaphidophora cryptantha – an Aroid shingler – at the Myriad Gardens

Really there were tons more Aroids that I noticed (and photographed) but I won’t waste any more space here.  If you’re interested, go to my photo album to see them.

Marantaceae (Prayer Plants)

This category was also not mentioned on the official website, but I noticed quite a few unique species from this family that I had never seen before, and several that I had.  Two particular varieties from the same species caught my attention.  I had seen the Stromanthe ‘Triostar’ before, but never this large.

Stromanthe sanguinea Triostar at the Myriad Gardens
Stromanthe sanguinea ‘Triostar’ at the Myriad Gardens

I have not quite identified the other variety, but I think it is also from Stromanthe sanguinea.

Stromanthe sanguinea? at the Myriad Gardens
Stromanthe sanguinea? at the Myriad Gardens

Of course, there were also several very large Zebra Plants (Calathea zebrina), of which I have a small one of my own at home.  It was fun to see these plants waist high or higher.


According to their website, there are supposedly 100 species of palms in the Myriad Gardens.  If I had to count, I would probably tell you there were about 10.  The only palm I could correctly identify was the Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera).  They also have the palm species which has some of the largest leaves in the world – the Bismarckia nobilis.

One of the palms in the Myriad Gardens
One of the palms in the Myriad Gardens


The Myriad Gardens also has a nice collection of cycads scattered throughout their rainforest collection.  Cycads are pretty much the oldest plants on the planet, having shared time with dinosaurs.  They are often mistaken as palms and have similar characteristics, but are usually shorter.  I don’t know that I got any good pictures of the Cycads.


Ah, one of my favorites!  The collection of gingers may just seem large, but not very diverse, whenever the plants are out of bloom.  But when they are in bloom, it is easier to see that the Myriad Gardens has a number of different species of Gingers.  These are beautiful, tall plants with very colorful blooms.  I am still waiting for my own personal shell ginger to bloom.  Maybe next summer.

A variegated shell ginger - Alpinia zerumbet variegata
A variegated shell ginger – Alpinia zerumbet ‘variegata’ – at the Myriad Gardens
An unknown ginger at the Myriad Gardens
An unknown ginger at the Myriad Gardens

One closely related plant to the family of gingers is the genus Heliconia.  Heliconias are commonly called “False Bird of Paradise” because of their resemblance to the Bird of Paradise inflorescence.  The Myriad Gardens had a couple of different Heliconias in their collection.

False Bird of Paradise - Heliconia lankesteria
False Bird of Paradise – Heliconia lankesteria


No one would call this collection of bromeliads small.  And it seems they are always in bloom.  The botanical family Bromeliaceae contains the genera Aechmea (the most common Bromeliad), Ananas (which includes the Pineapple plant), Billbergia, Bromelia, Cryptanthus, Tillandsia (commonly called “Air plant”) and more than 50 others.  Many of the Bromeliads (Aechmeas, Ananas) are planted in the ground, while others (Tillandsia) are growing attached to trees or rock.  I didn’t take too many pictures of the bromeliads, but there are several in my photo album.

One of my favorite Bromeliads on the left (striped purple and green).
One of my favorite Bromeliads on the left (striped purple and green).

And here is a picture of just one of the many bromeliads in bloom.

One of the many bromeliads in bloom
One of the many bromeliads in bloom


The Myriad Gardens actually has a fantastic display of orchids.  At one location there is a concentrated wall of orchids.  But elsewhere in the rain forest collection you can see them attached to trees and rocks and walls.  It is simply amazing how many orchids are in bloom at any one time.  More than 1200 of the orchids in the collection were bequeathed to the Gardens in 2002 by a local collector named Fred Strothmann.  My photo album has quite a few pictures of the orchid collection.  Even though I have had some experience raising orchids, I didn’t try to tackle identifying any of them.  I could tell a couple of the genera, but nothing beyond that.

An unknown orchid at the Myriad Gardens
An unknown orchid at the Myriad Gardens


To be honest, I only noticed 3 or 4 begonias in the Gardens, but the website states that there are over 100 species present.  I’m not denying that they were there, because I was kind of being overstimulated by the place.  If I worked there everyday it would probably take a good month before my head stopped spinning each time I walked in the Gardens.  One particular (large) begonia did catch my eye, the Begonia ‘Black Taffeta.’

Begonia Black Taffeta and my beautiful wife
Begonia ‘Black Taffeta’ and my beautiful wife


Euphorbias are a bit of mystery to me.  Why?  Well, because the most common Euphorbia I know is Euphorbia pulcherrima – The Poinsettia.  Most of the other Euphorbias with which I am familiar all have spines and are what I would call in a very general sense – cacti.  Now I know that technically Euphorbias are not cacti, and I’m okay with that.  But what I don’t understand is what is the Poinsettia doing in the same genus as Euphorbia lactea?

Euphorbia lactea Cristata
Euphorbia lactea ‘Cristata’

The Myriad Gardens collection of Euphorbias resides in the dry tropical zone.  Do you know the difference between a cactus and a Euphorbia?  Euphorbias grow in the Eastern Hemisphere while cacti grown in the Western Hemisphere.  Both plant groupings are filled with succulent plants with thick stems that store a milky sap and require very little moisture in their natural environments.  The Myriad Gardens collection of Euphorbias contains 40 species and if I had to guess, I would have told you it contained more than that.  There are quite a few pictures of Euphorbias in my photo album.

My favorite Euphorbia in the building was probably Euphorbia punicea – The Jamaican Poinsettia tree.  Here is one picture and there are a couple more pictures in my photo album.

Euphorbia punicea - The Jamaican Poinsettia Tree
Euphorbia punicea – The Jamaican Poinsettia Tree

The Myriad Gardens are a really great place to visit, with a small admission for the time that you can spend inside (if you’re a plant lover).  If you haven’t yet clicked on any of the dozens of links I provided to my photo album, I suggest you do so now.  You can get a better feel for the wonderful collection on hand.

Trip Report: Myriad Gardens of OKC

I recently visited the Myriad Botanical Gardens of Oklahoma City with my family for the holidays.  I have been there a couple of times before, but not since I became a plant nut.

I was really excited about going to the Myriad Gardens, only having vague memories of the place.  The Gardens far exceeded my expectations.  I saw so many different plants, I can’t begin to name them.  And the identifying placards were about 1 for every 15 plants, so there were many I had not seen before and still don’t know what they are.  Currently the gardens are strung up in Christmas lights, which were lit and visible for about the last 30 minutes that we were there.

I took over 200 pictures – probably about half of the plants present – and put together a photo album here.  I will go through this photo album and add names as I identify them all, but for now it’s just the pictures.  I’m sure I will dedicate several future posts to plants I saw there, as well.  The pictures are nothing special and a number of them are out of focus.  But for the most part you can tell what I was trying to take a picture of.

Here is a quick list of some of the highlights (all should be pictured in the photo album):

  • pale purple Anthurium in bloom
  • HUGE Philodendron bloom
  • unknown Aroid shingler (possibly Rhaphidophora cryptantha) climbing rocks – most appressed plant I’ve ever seen
  • Jamaican poinsettia tree (Euphorbia punicea) in bloom
  • many different varieties of Heliconia (False Bird of Paradise) in bloom
  • Yellow Neomarica (Walking Iris/Apostle Plant) in bloom
  • TONS of orchids (Phaelenopsis, Dendrobium, Oncidium and others I can’t name)
  • lots of bromeliads, lots of ginger, lots of palm trees
  • couple of large staghorn ferns

Enjoy the photo album!  (and check back for picture captions)


Why “The Variegated Thumb?”

This post really should have been my first post on this blog.  But it wasn’t, and that’s probably for the best.  There are actually a couple of people who read my blog now. 🙂

You may have (although probably not) wondered why I named my blog “The Variegated Thumb.”  If you have wondered this, I wonder what you decided.  Did you decide that I am simply a lover of variegated plants?  Or maybe that my green thumb is not full photosynthesizing – implying that my skill with raising plants is sometimes lacking?  Pretty much anyone who knows a thing or two about plants (and by a thing or two, I mean things like “plants have leaves” and “plants can grow from seeds”), knows the common “green thumb” moniker applies to those who have an uncanny ability to grow any and every plant they toss in a pot or pile of dirt – or dark closet for that matter.

Well, I guess I took that oh-so-common moniker and modified it for a couple of reasons.  First, although some might confuse me for a green thumb because my house is filled with plants and I spend a lot of my free time tending to them, I don’t consider myself a green thumb.  Maybe I’m trying to be modest, but I think it’s more likely honesty.  I have more than once found myself killing a plant that I thought would be easy to care for – and I didn’t even shove the plants in a dark closet! Now don’t go thinking that I have a brown, black or dead thumb.  I have never killed a silk flower.  And I have grown a number of plants quite successfully, some of them considered difficult.

A variegated leaf, while having many cells that do photosynthesize, contains a variable number of cells which do not photosythesize and are usually white.  I feel that explains my success with plants rather well.  I just don’t quite consider myself attaining the title of Green Thumb — yet.  I’ll consider it a future goal of mine.

Now, if you were one of those people thinking I named this blog after my love of variegated plants, don’t let your heart be crushed.  (whispering) I’ll let you in on a little secret… That was part of the reason, too. Actually, it was a big part of the reason.  The Variegated Thumb just matched me so well because of the abstract discussion above, as well as the fact that I tend to look for the not-so-ordinary in plants.  I know, variegated plants are a dime a dozen these days.  But you have to admit, they are more rare than non-variegated plants.  Most of my favorite plants fall in to the variegated category – from the Aglaonema genus to Scindapsus pictus.  If they aren’t variegated, there is usually some other not-so-ordinary attribute for which I have picked the plant.  I really like to find the unusual, rare, exotic and quirky plants to put in my collection.

So, The Variegated Thumb is much more than a catchy name for my blog.  It describes me and my experiences with the great Kingdom Plantae.

Christmas cacti in bloom

This blog post marks my first update on a particular plant.  Last year I posted some information on seasonal plants and some pictures of my seasonals in bloom, including my Amaryllis and “Christmas Cactus.”  Once again, it is that time of year and my cactus is covered in tiny buds.

My Christmas cactus buds
My Christmas cactus buds

As you can see, my cactus doesn’t look too good this year.  I sat it outside a little early in the Spring and I think it actually froze one night, but was able to hang on.

About a year ago, a friend of mine left for Ireland to live for a year or two.  She left her plants behind with me (which is fun) and her big, healthy Christmas Cactus is also blooming.  Hers looks much better than mine:

My friends Christmas cactus in bloom
My friend's Christmas cactus in bloom


I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a little about  this plant and its correct identification here.  The Christmas/Thanksgiving/Easter/Holiday Cactus has been called lots of names.  And there are actually about four or five different species from the genus Schlumbergera that are labeled with this common name.  Two other genera are commonly called Name-Your-Holiday Cactus – Hatiora and Rhipsalis, both of which are less common.  Both of my plants are from the genus Schlumbergera, although I have not tried too hard to identify which species.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they are two different species, but they might be the same one.

General Care

They are very easy to care for and very easy to bring to bloom.  Last year, my wife read some information about bringing them to bloom – putting the plant in a cold room (our garage), allowing it about 12 hours sunlight, 12 hours dark, and putting a glass of water next to it to increase the humidity slightly.  It worked great.  This year I think both plants beat us to the punch, putting out buds before I remembered to put them in the garage.

During the summer I leave them both on my back porch, which receives dappled sunlight most of the day and water them infrequently – about once a week or less.

They are also very easy to propagate.  Simply pinch off a section of plant and put it in dirt.  Viola – You have a new plant!

A Christmas cactus I started
A Christmas cactus I started