Plant Find: Ming Fern

I’ve mentioned before my mom’s affinity for Asparagus ferns.  My mother-in-law also has a wonderful Asparagus fern that I was not really familiar with until I saw hers.  Since then I have seen it growing in a couple of other places, but it is not very common for some reason – possibly because it is less hardy.  My mom’s plants (Asparagus densiflorus) can usually survive our harsh Oklahoma winters in the garage and will sprout new foliage in the spring.  A little farther south of us, the plants can be left in the ground year-round.  This year, even the garage in Oklahoma got too cold for them.

My mother-in-law's Asparagus macowanii two years ago.
My mother-in-law's Asparagus macowanii two years ago.
My mother-in-law's Asparagus macowanii now.
My mother-in-law's Asparagus macowanii now.

The plant my mother-in-law has is Asparagus macowanii and is sometimes called Ming Fern.  She has had the plant for many years, but it has only been the last couple of years that it has really started to take off.  It has broken several pots open with the force of it’s ever-expanding root system!

Stems of the Asparagus macowanii
Stems and roots of the Asparagus macowanii. The greenish stem in the bottom left corner is the newest growth.

Recently when I was at my parents-in-law’s house I saw this huge stem growing out of the pot.  The new stems do look very much like edible Asparagus (see the picture below).  After this thick stem grew several feet long it produced blooms, followed by the regular fine foliage of this interesting plant.

New shoot from the Asparagus macowanii at the Myriad Gardens.
New shoot from the Asparagus macowanii at the Myriad Gardens. You can see how much this looks like the edible Asparagus.
Asparagus macowanii new leaves or flowers
Asparagus macowanii new leaves or flowers

There was a small division of this plant that I easily removed and have potted for myself.  Maybe someday I will have a monster plant to match!

2011 Edition of “corner garden additions”

Each year we plant new stuff in our corner garden.  It’s always a bit of a test to see what can become established, what we will remember to water, etc.  We always start with good intentions, but somewhere along the way it gets really hot and dry in the middle of the summer and we forget to water for a week or two and before you know it, we’ve lost some of our new plants.

This year we have started off with really good habits.  During this time of year we are normally allowing nature to water our garden, but this spring has been particularly dry.  To top it off, we laid out some Fescue grass sod about a month ago, so we were forced to be vigilant with our watering efforts.  Since we have been watering our sod and our new garden around the greenhouse, we have also been dragging the hose out to the corner garden and watering those new and established plants – to give them the water they are expecting at this time of year.

Indian Hawthorn
Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica)

A plant that I have admired in some flowerbeds around town is the Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica).  After first seeing it blooming and subsequently producing blue berries in the flowerbeds in front of my office building, I searched online to find out what it was.  I read that it was sometimes a challenging plant to grow, but I observed that no one was giving it special care in the flowerbeds at the office.  In fact, I saw it growing in several other flowerbeds that receive irregular attention through the year.  When I saw this plant being offered pretty cheap at Lowe’s, I snatched one up to try in the corner garden – saving my receipt, in case it doesn’t work out.  (I hope you know that Lowe’s has a 1 year guarantee on their plants…)

One of the new Gauras, in bud but not yet opened.
One of the new Gauras, in bud but not yet opened. Sorry for the fuzzy picture.

We have planted Gauras (Oenothera sp., sometimes called “Butterfly Weed”) in the corner garden before and lost them.  They are mildly drought tolerant, but need to become established first.  In other words, if you toss them in the ground, squirt them with the hose and then let them sit in the baking sun for the rest of the summer, they probably won’t make it.  But if you give them some TLC for a year and then leave them to nature, they should be much more successful.  We got two beautiful mature Gauras this year and planted them in our brick garden around the greenhouse.  They have been growing steadily and blooming up a storm, since we have been watering them regularly.  So then I saw some smaller Gauras for a really good price ($2.49) and I snatched up two of them for the corner garden.

Kniphofia
New Kniphofia, which is still quite small. Again, sorry for the fuzzy picture.

One of the really cool plants native to Ethiopia that we can actually grow outdoors in zone 7 is the Kniphofia.  My granddad actually had one of these growing in his front flowerbed a couple of years ago.  I saw a large one up in Seattle last year and it is really a cool plant.  My plant is tiny for the time being, but I’m hoping it will grow enough to produce the really neat red, orange and yellow blooms this summer.

New light pink Salvia
New light pink Salvia

We also added some of the purple/blue creeping Phlox, Christie’s favorite spring bloomer.  We have had a couple of them in the corner garden, but a couple didn’t come back this year.

Salvia which we planted last year and is getting bigger this year
Salvia greggii which we planted last year. It's getting bigger this year and has been blooming constantly.

I’m really happy to see that a couple of our additions from the last two years are thriving again this year – the Pink Preference Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Pink Preference’) and Elaeagnus.  The Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis v. minor) from two years ago is still just a tiny plant.  I really home this is the year that it takes off and blooms!

Sarcoglottis in bloom

My friend, Warren, gave me a jewel orchid (Sarcoglottis sceptrodes) at the IAS meeting in Fort Worth last fall.  Over the winter, several leaves turned brown and mushy and I had to remove them.  I asked Warren for some advice and he suggested I might need to increase the humidity.  I repotted the plant, having to cut the plastic pot apart to get the plant out.  Now it is in a larger plastic pot sitting inside a ceramic pot, where the humidity is a little enhanced from the rest of the greenhouse.  I was upset about the lost leaves because I really hadn’t seen any replacement leaves coming.  But then recently I saw some new growth, an offset, and also some new leaves(?) emerging from the center of two of the plants.  About a week later I could tell these weren’t leaves, but the emergence of blooming stems.

Sarcoglottis sceptrodes bloom stalk starting
Sarcoglottis sceptrodes first bloom stalk starting - April 11, 2011

The bloom stalk grew pretty quickly in height and another started a couple weeks later.

Sarcoglottis sceptrodes - April 28, 2011
Sarcoglottis sceptrodes - April 28, 2011

About 10 days after the stalk reached it’s full height the buds began to separate from the stem and start to open, from the bottom up.

Sarcoglottis sceptrodes buds - May 16, 2011
Sarcoglottis sceptrodes buds - May 16, 2011

The flowers area small, so all of these pictures are close-ups.

First open Sarcoglottis sceptrodes bloom - May 16, 2011
First open Sarcoglottis sceptrodes bloom - May 16, 2011
First Sarcoglottis sceptrodes bloom from the front - May 16, 2011
First Sarcoglottis sceptrodes bloom from the front - May 16, 2011
First Sarcoglottis sceptrodes bloom from the side - May 16, 2011
First Sarcoglottis sceptrodes bloom from the side - May 16, 2011

I realize these green blooms aren’t the most magnificent thing you’ve ever seen, but I think they’re pretty neat anyway.  And I really like the way the “fuzz” shows up in these pictures.

Sarcoglottis sceptrodes - May 24, 2011
Sarcoglottis sceptrodes - May 24, 2011

Now the first stem is in full bloom and the other stem is starting to get taller.  It will probably be another 2-3 weeks before it starts to open.

Sarcoglottis sceptrodes - May 24, 2011
Sarcoglottis sceptrodes - May 24, 2011

Warren, who gave me this plant last year, just last week sent me two more small jewel orchid cuttings to start.  I’ll be posting photos of those soon.  Thanks, Warren!

Plant Find: Ginkgo biloba trees

I have long admired the Ginkgo tree. I can pretty much name every place where I have seen one now – the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, the Missouri Botanic Gardens and two here in town (one small tree in my neighbor’s backyard and one near a park by our house). I have even been inspired by the Ginkgo to paint my first piece of art (maybe – it may or may not look like art once I’m finished).

Even though these trees are well known and well loved, they are really hard to find around here. The only ones I have seen for sale were very expensive at a local nursery. I got some seeds from a friend, but none of them have sprouted for me. Then I came across a real deal on eBay several weeks ago! For $14, I got two saplings between 18″ and 24″ tall each – shipping included! That’s much better than the $150 I would have had to pay for a 6 foot tree here locally!

Leaves just beginning to emerge from the tip of the tree
Leaves just beginning to emerge from the tip of the tree planted in the ground.

So I have two Ginkgos now. What will I do with two of these things? Not sure. For now, one is planted in our backyard near the corner garden. I have put a tomato cage around it to keep the pups from running it over while it is still small. The other is in a pot, where it will remain for the time being. I don’t know how long it will be happy in a pot, but I imagine it is doable, considering some people train Ginkgos to be bonsai specimens. My two trees are already too big to be trained as bonsai, but maybe this one will still make a nice container tree. Of the two trees I now have, the one in the pot is growing more quickly than the one in the ground, possibly because it is in partial shade and just quicker to establish.

Ginkgo biloba leaves out and mature
Ginkgo biloba leaves out and mature. This is actually the tree I potted.

The two plants were sent to me bareroot, wrapped in moist paper towel and had not yet produced any leaves, but they are already starting to pop out now, as you can see in the pictures above. Ginkgo trees have the most amazing leaf shape and really beautiful color in the fall, when they turn solid yellow. I am looking forward to that show every year.

Plant Find: Orchids from friends

This weekend my orchid collection grew without much impact on my wallet.  My aroid friend and fellow blogger, Jason, was in town, so he came over for dinner on Saturday and we got to hang out in the greenhouse and talk plants for a long time.  That was a lot of fun because most people that come over and see my greenhouse are like “Oh, that’s neat – there are some green things in there.”  It’s not very often that someone comes over who has a real interest in plants and specifically the plants that I grow.

Cirrhopetalum cuminghii division from Jason
Cirrhopetalum cuminghii division from Jason. It is a very small plant, shown here in a 2" (maybe smaller) pot.

Jason gave me a cutting of an orchid (above) he bought recently and I shared some cuttings of my plants, as well.

Blc (Lc Time-Life x Blc Lisa Irene 'Melinda') from Oklahoma Orchid Society meeting
Blc (Lc Time-Life x Blc Lisa Irene 'Melinda') from Oklahoma Orchid Society meeting. This one is pretty large and healthy. I have it hanging on it's side in my greenhouse to encourage growth on the other side.

Then, on Sunday, I went to my first Oklahoma Orchid Society (OOS) meeting and came home with two new orchids.  Both of them are in need of some TLC, having been neglected for a while by a former OOS member who doesn’t have time for her plants now.  She had donated 15-20 plants to the group and they raffled them off and ended up just giving them away by the end of the meeting.  I put in $2 in raffle tickets and came away with two orchids.  Not bad.

Dendrobium NOID from Oklahoma Orchid Society meeting
Dendrobium NOID from Oklahoma Orchid Society meeting. In need of some TLC, but you can see there is a new little cane starting down there at the base. This picture is kind of crummy. I apologize.

I learned that these meetings are a good way to grow your collection without spending too much money.  There was a giant Dendrobium (D. Candy Apply x. D. something-or-other) that was still in bloom and was auctioned off for $30 or $35.  A real steal considering the size of the plant!

I had a good time hearing about other people’s orchids and growing methods.  It reminded me that our aroid meetings should include more presentations concerning horticulture.  At our meeting in Fort Worth last year there were some really good conversations in the group whenever horticulture came up.  But we could have encouraged this even better by making it part of the agenda.

At our OOS meeting, someone proposed that we have a troubleshooting time of about 15 minutes built into our meetings from now on.  People could bring in an orchid that they are having trouble with and allow other members to comment on how they might be able to combat the problem and get the orchid happy and healthy.  I think this is a great idea and the other members were all for it, too.  It should be interesting for all involved, even if I am just a spectator for that portion at some meetings.

Zygopetalum syd monkhouse from Leslie
Zygopetalum syd monkhouse from Leslie. A nice, healthy offset from a large plant she has.

One of my aroid friends, Leslie, recently sent me a large Philodendron cordatum plant that she no longer had room for.  She snuck an extra plant in the box, too – a Zygopetalum orchid, one of my favorite genera.  The flowers of this orchid are dark purple and brown – really cool.  You can see a picture here.  I wonder where the name came from.  Does anyone know?

I’m thankful for terrific friends who share my interests and are happy to share plants with me.  Of course, it goes both ways, and I always send plants or shipping reimbursement in return.

I also bought a couple of orchids on eBay last week and they came in the mail yesterday.  I’ll be posting pictures of those soon!