Monday, September 30, 2013

Garden Update 9-30-13

The temps are finally back to seasonal norms, which at this time of year means highs in the 90's and lows in the 60's, and the plants are responding affirmatively.  Even though I'm disappointed by how few of the sunflowers I sowed actually sprouted, those that did are being rather showy, with multiple flower heads. They're also attracting bees, which is good for the sunflowers and other plants in the gardens.

My small sunflower patch.

A honeybee diligently going about its' duty.

One of the native bees loaded with pollen.

The Dwarf Mexican Petunia, Ruellia brittoniana, is blooming profusely now that it's no longer in the shadow of the hollyhocks.  I think I need to move this, maybe to a large pot, so that it gets more sun year-round.

I'll be collecting seeds from this one soon.

The cannas are really liking the cooler weather and are blooming profusely, as are the roses.  speaking of roses, I found yellow mini roses at the 99 Cents Only Store and bought 9 to fill one of my window boxes.  I removed all the soil, mixed in some rose food and added more soil, then refilled the box and planted the roses in it.  While they look nice now, they'll be magnificent once they get established and fill out.

There are bloom stalks like this one throughout the canna patch.

The perfect rose bud.

At only $1 each, I'm sure to buy more of these.

The habanero plants are over a year old now and still produce profusely once the temps get out of the 100's.  I expect to get a couple of pounds of fruit from the two plants in the next 6-8 months, provide we don't have another freeze this winter. About a week ago I sowed seeds for 18 varieties of peppers and most of them came up, so I transplanted them to individual 2" peat pots. Since there's no way to put labels on peat pots, I made markers by printing out enough labels for each seedling and taping them to toothpicks like little flags. Soon I'll resow the ones that didn't come up and replacements for any that don't survive the transplant, plus a few varieties that didn't get sown the first time.

36 pepper seedlings

And finally, here's an updated photo of the inflorescence on the plumeria 'Novelty'.  It's about 3" tall now and definitely developing blooms, but as long as it's taken to get to this point, I'm not sure when to expect them to open.

Plumeria 'Novelty'

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Stapelia Bonanza!

This week I acquired eleven new Stapelia specimens from Mesa Gardens in Belen, New Mexico. It took a lot of searching on the Internet to find a grower in the States, since shipping of plants into the country requires a lot of paperwork I'd rather not have to hassle with at this point.  I should have researched the species a little closer as well, as it turns out two of the "species", flavirostris and ambigua are actually synonyms for grandiflora.   It looks like a couple of the Stapelias I acquired from Miles2Go in Tucson, AZ are preparing to bloom.

"Group shot" of the new Stapelias.

Stapelia divaricata, Buffeljachte, Swellendam, Cape Province, South Africa

Stapelia glandulifera, South Africa

Stapelia grandiflora, South Africa

Stapelia hirsuta, South Africa

Stapelia kwebensis, Botswana, Zimbabwe and the northern Transvaal.

Stapelia obducta, South Africa

Stapelia scitula,Western Cape Province of South Africa.

Stapelia hirsuta var. tsomoensis, South Africa 

Stapelia hirsuta var. vetula, South Africa.

Stapelia erectiflora with what appears to be a flower bud (far right, top).

Stapelia flavopurpurea, with a small flower bud (center of photo).

The kalachoe I got at this year's Spring Swap is living up to the common nickname applicable to several species, "Mother of Thousands" or "Mother of Millions", as it is developing lots of plantlets along its' leaf margins.

Now for an update on some of the seeds I sowed indoors and the progress of the infloresence on the plumeria 'Novelty'.  The pumpkin seedlings were getting leggy, so they were planted on Saturday in the tree well under the nectarine where they should get some shade for a few weeks before the leaves fall off the tree. Almost all of the peppers have sprouted, as have some of the dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus) seeds.  The plumeria infloresence continues to grow larger and it appears that flower buds are starting to form.

Dragon fruit seedling

Inflo on 9-18-13

Inflo today, 9-23-13.  It's changed a lot in just 5 days.

I also sowed some of the seeds of Hesperaloe parviflora that I gathered from a plant in a parking lot about a week ago, to make sure they're viable before I send some to a few of my friends.  I also sowed some of the black hollyhock seeds from Monticello that my friend Julie got for me this summer.  If all ten sprout, I'll be giving a couple to Julie, planting a few and taking the rest to the Fall Swap.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Project update

Thought I'd provide updates on some of the plant projects I've got going, some recently started and others that have been more long term.  The Hollywood apple has settled in nicely and is even showing some new growth, so I need to finish the espalier frame and prepare to start training the tree to the wire.  The Eureka Lemon tree has made a full recovery from the hard freeze in January and I've spent some time pruning it to improve its' shape.  Surprisingly, it has a handful of lemons on it, which is unexpected considering the freeze hit just as it was beginning to bloom.

It'll be a few more months before this can become lemonade.

In early May I planted some amaryllis 'Minerva' seeds and have had one successful sprout, which is now almost 6" tall and has two leaves.  I'm keeping it under the cloche until the daytime highs stay in the 80's to make sure it survives.

About a month ago I took a cutting from my elephant food plant, Portulaca afra, with the goal of turing it into a bonsai, and over the weekend I decided it had developed enough roots to pot it up.  Eventually, I'll get some moss to cover the exposed soil and place between the rocks, but for now, I think it looks nice enough to brag about just a little.

Two of the peppers I planted last month have already developed some mnature fruit.  The Fushimi has a sweetness tempered by a bit of acidity and should be nice in salads and salsas, while the Padron is sweet with just a bit of heat at the finish and should go well in salsas and egg dishes.



Another sunflower has bloomed and 9 out of 10 pumpkins seeds have sprouted and are already straining towards the sun, so I think I'll have to move the seed trays under a window.

Lastly, I've shown pictures of the flowers of Stapelia gigantea before when they're fully open or nearly so, but I don't think I've ever shown them as they progress from a tiny bud, barely noticeable, until they bloom in all their attention grabbing glory. Every day starting today, I'm going to take a picure of the two buds I found forming and then I'll post a timelapse video once they open.  I'll try to take the pictures as near to 24 hours apart as possible for consistency.

Can you see the two flower buds in this photo?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Things Are Blooming Again, More Seed Sowing and a Larry Update

On Monday we got rain, and lots of it, mostly in a steady drizzle rather than the usual monsoon deluge at this time of year.  When it was all said and done, the total was 1.15", which is 1/8th of our annual average and I haven't had to water all week, except for the planters on the porch.  The plants are responding to the soaking with water that was a lot less alkaline than our groundwater by bursting out in bloom after struggling most of the summer just to survive.  I trimmed back the sunburned leaves off of the cannas last week; new growth and blooms indicate it was the right thing to do.  The Climbing Don Juan and Iceberg roses are blooming again and the petals aren't showing any sign of sunburn like they were a month ago.  The moss rose, a least what survived, is covered in blooms.  I sowed seeds in the top two tiers and am waiting to see if they sprout; if not, I'll have to buy some more plants.  Two of the dozen or so sunflowers that sprouted and managed to survive the irrigation issues have bloomed, even though they're only 1 1/2 feet tall and I'm not sure if that's normal or if they're stunted; guess I'll have to go through my seed packets to see if I can identify them.

Cannas are looking a lot better than they did a week ago.

Climbing Don Juan and Iceberg roses.

Moss rose

The one surviving strawberry plant is sending out runners and hopefully when the weather gets back into the 80's, I'll be picking berries again.  The boysenberry is also putting on new growth which I'm tying onto the trellis in the hope that it will fill the entire trellis by Spring.

This year has been hard on the wheelbarrow succulent garden, between the freezes in January and February and intense heat this Summer, I lost several plants and this week I filled some of the empty space with an Aloe aristata and a Haworthia symbiformis.  Next month is the Fall Plant Sale at the Desert Botanical Garden and I think I'll wait until then to see want else I can find that peaks my interest.

Aloe aristata

Haworthia cymbiformis

Two weekends ago, I went to visit my good friend Julie to plan our cruise next year, have barbecue, play Scrabble and pick up a bunch of pots and other garden goodies.  I got two shepherd's hooks and placed one outside my office window with a feeder on one side and a waterer on the other.  Now I'm starting to see a few sparrows along with the finches, and I've even seen some of them drinking from the waterer.

Some of the seeds I sowed on Monday have already sprouted, including the cabbage and turnips.  I also sowed seeds for 18 varieties of peppers, both sweet peppers and chiles.  The list consists of the following sweet peppers: California Wonder, Cubanelle, Marconi Red, Piment d'Espelette, Orange Sun, Shishito and sweet Banana.  The chiles consist of Aji Limon, Anaheim, Cascabel, Cherry Hot, Chiltepin, Costeno Amarillo, Datil, Jalapeno, Pequin and Uba Tuba.  Combined with the four varieties I already have in the ground, that'll make twenty-two varieties, split 2:1, hot to sweet.

A few sprouts peeking their heads above ground.

Larry put on his annual tribute to the American worker for Labor Day, then in anticipation of the beginning of the football regular season opener, put on his Packer's shirt and hat, got out his pennant and cheered them on last Sunday; unfortunately it wasn't enough, but there's always next week.

Tailgating with the efl.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Time To Start The Fall Garden

It's been so hot for so long, it felt like it would never end, but today it finally happended and we had a high of just 90, plus 1.15" of rain.  This put me in the mood to get started on the Fall garden, so I started seeds for Blue, Jack O'Lantern and Small Sugar pumpkins, plus Calabrese Broccoli, Early Golden Acre Cabbage, Early White Vienna Kohlrabi, Purple Top White Globe and Seven Top Turnips and Iceberg Lettuce.  I used some of the seeds and seed starters I bought recently at Dolllar General and set them up on a table in my backroom, since a return to highs in the low 100's is in the 10-day forecast and I don't want the sprouts to get toasted.

The pumpkins are in the covered container; the rest are labeled using toothpicks.

I also recently picked up a dragon fruit, Hylocereus undatus, at a local Asian market as I wanted to gather seeds to try to grow some, plus I love the flesh of the fruit.  I cut open the fruit and used the knife edge to gently scrape some seeds out, then placed them on a paper towel to separate the seeds from the pulp.  I filled one of the fiber seed starters with a mixture of compost, sand and vermiculite, wetting the soil, then tamped it down, placed several seeds in each section and coverd with more soil.  The whole tray then went into a plastic container used as a greenhouse; once the seeds sprout, the lid will be removed and the bottom will remain as a water reservoir.  Various references state that germination happens within 3-14 days, with most stating 11-14 days, so time will tell which is most accurate.

Dragon fruit

Sectioned to expose the seeds

Seeds after being removed; note the seeds on the left that have been separated from the pulp.

Seeds ready to be sown.

Seed tray ready to be planted.

Now I wait for them to sprout.

In other news, I finally have some inflorescences developing on one of my Plumerias that I got at this year's Spring Swap.  The variety is 'Novelty' and I can't wait to see what this one looks like; pictures will be forthcoming.