Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Hidden Jewel

Bougainvillea 'Orange Ice'
I know my husband loves me. Our Valentine's Day was a trip to Hidden Lake Gardens in Tipton, Michigan. He is a plant person, but definitely enjoys outdoor plants more. He doesn't understand why we go to see houseplants when we are surrounded at home. Whatever..... It was cold but we did see some plants outside, as well. We had the conservatory all to ourselves, and it was so nice and peaceful.
Hidden Lake Gardens was donated to Michigan State University, then college, by Harry A. Fee in 1945. At that time it was only 200 acres, but has grown to encompass 755 acres. The conservatory was added in 1968. Of course, this is my favorite part. The garden also includes a fabulous conifer, hosta, and bonsai collection. We go there a few times a year and there is always something different to see. 
There are 3 different areas of the conservatory; the Arid Dome, the Temperate House, and the Tropical Dome. 

The Arid Dome

My 6'5" husband by the Agave salmiana.

Bowiea volubilis or climbing onion
The Arid Dome was just recently renovated with help from the owners of the Root System Nursery, a specialty cactus and succulent nursery in nearby Jonesville. When they refurbished the Arid house they kept some of the larger plants, which were irreplaceable. The picture of the agave and opuntia above with my husband, shows how large the plants are-he is 6'5" tall. All the plants have labels with the botanical name and the common one if available.

Euphorbia millii hybrid or Crown of Thorns

Close-up of Echeveria 'Blue Waves'

Echeveria 'Bluewaves'
Crassula ovata or Jade plant in full bloom.

The Temperate House

2011 Spring display

The next area is the Temperate house and it contains begonias, orchids, camellias, bromeliads, and more. It is also the house where they host seasonal displays. It is cooler than the Tropical dome and less humid. There are a large amount of plants in bloom here and the cooler temperature helps the flowers last longer.

Streptosolen jamesonii or Marmalade Bush

The begonias were in full bloom last week. The flowers are just a bonus to the fabulous foliage of begonias.

Begonia flowers

Begonia masoniana or Iron Cross Begonia

Pelargonium 'Mrs. Cox'

There were flowers on these geraniums, but who needs flowers when a plant has foliage like this!

Pelargonium 'Vancouver Centennial'



 Kohlerias are gesneriads, cousins to African violets.



As I have described in a previous post, there is a difference between the Thanksgiving and  Christmas cactus. This is a huge, old Christmas cactus blooming, with many more blooms to come. They bloom later than the Thanksgiving cactus, obviously even into February and from the amount of buds, even into March.  


The Tropical Dome

The view looking up to the top of the dome.

Philodendron leaf  

The Tropical dome is very warm and humid. It has plants like cocoa, citrus, papaya, coffee, and vanilla.

Trevesia sundaica blossoms

Anthurium spathe and flower.

Papaya plant

We had a great day at Hidden Lake Find a conservatory near you, and take a day to visit. There is nothing like a warm, blossom filled conservatory to warm you up, and soothe the soul in the dead of winter.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hearts Aplenty

Heart shaped ivy topiary framing my Mom's circa 1956 Valentine card.

Philodendron hederaceum  'Lemon Lime'

 Love is in the air this month and the ultimate symbol of that is the heart. My engagement ring is a heart and I really love anything heart shaped; stones, beads, vases, etc. It makes sense that I would also love any plant with heart shaped leaves. The topiary above is made of ivy, but can be made with any vining plant and a  frame.
The two philodendrons shown are commonly called heart shaped philodendron, Philodendron hederaceum (or scandens)  and the 'Lemon Lime' variety. They are very easy to grow, tolerate low light levels, and are relatively pest free. I really have an appreciation for this plant. Common does not mean boring. This plant definitely has a place in my home, wherever I have a low light situation.
Heart-leaf Philodendron

Ceropegia woodi 'Variegata'

I love the Rosary vine, Ceropegia woodii, but I like the variegated form even more. This is an easy to grow succulent vine, perfect for a hanging basket. It produces small tubers on the vines which can be used to propagate the plant. They need plenty of light to have the best coloration.

Ceropegia woodii on a heart shaped frame.

The rosary vine also has the common name of string of hearts, so I wound it around a heart shaped frame.

Ceropegia woodii

Notice the tuber in the upper left corner.

Adorable heart shaped cactus.

I'll be honest, I do not know the botanical name of this cactus, but I had to have it. It is so cute and only about 1.5 inches across. I planted it in a 2" pot.

Opuntia microdasys at Matthaei.
I saw this stacked heart opuntia at Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2012. (Read more about it on this post.)
I recently bought one at an IGC (Independent Garden Center) (see picture below) and I'm hoping mine will some day look like this one.

I'm not sure how long that will take, but I'll keep you updated as it grows.

Recently purchased Opuntia which already
 has a couple of hearts.

Hoya kerrii 'Variegata'

Hoya kerri is a wonderful succulent

vine, one of many hoyas I have in my collection. They have lovely star shaped flowers borne in clusters, many of them fragrant. The varieties and sizes are endless, but that is a post for another day. 

Hoya kerrii
Philodendron at Hidden Lake Garden

I photographed this philodendron at Hidden Lake Garden in Tipton, Michigan. I loved the unusual heart shape leaf, and it was Valentine's Day.  The anthurium below was also at Hidden Lake. Of course it's not a leaf, but I included it anyway. It's a pink pretty heart.

Anthurium spathe and flower at Hidden Lake Garden.

Hope your month and year are filled with love and of course plenty of houseplants!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fabulous February Flowers

Cleistocactus winteri
I was so excited today when I found these plants flowering in my greenhouse. I decided to share them with you.
The first is of the Cleistocactus winteri, also called the Golden Rat Tail, not the most endearing name.  The flowers, which have been described as pink and red, are orange to me. Maybe different growing conditions affect the flower color. This can be a large cactus with stems as long as 3 feet. Quite often it is found as the cristate form and I have a couple that started out that way, and have since reverted to the regular form. I should have cut the normal stems off, but I'm glad I didn't, as the crested form wouldn't have bloomed. As with any crested or montrose form, if allowed to revert and not trimmed, the reversion will take over.

Open flower plus a bud and spent flower.

Notice the spent flowers on the stem. I missed those...It obviously blooms prolifically.

Chlorophytum amaniense  'Fire Flash'

This is the flower of the 'Fire Flash' spider plant. The foliage certainly doesn't look like the ubiquitous spider plant we all know and love (or hate), but the flower certainly identifies it as a spider plant. The resulting seeds matured, fell into the pot, and sprouted. When they are big enough, I will pot them up individually. It has been very easy to grow. I've let it dry out, it takes the heat in the greenhouse in the summer, and it has been in the same pot for a long time, and yet continues to thrive. And the best thing; the orange stems.

'Black Truffle' Begonia

The 'Black Truffle' begonia is just one of the begonias blooming in my greenhouse. The speckled tepal undersides on this plant, though, really caught my attention. They are so unusual! (What look like petals on this plant are called tepals.) The black leaves with chartreuse veins only add to the beauty. Even when not flowering, the foliage is a winner.

Notice the chartreuse veins.

Dischidia ovata or Hoya ovata

The watermelon dischidia is a beautiful hanging plant,  a succulent epiphyte native to the tropics of Asia to the western Pacific. These flowers may look large, but are actually very small and not showy at all, but interesting, none the less. The true attraction of the plant is the small leaves that look like watermelons, thus the name. My plant has a tag, identifying it as a hoya. After investigation, it seems it can be called by either name.

 These are the flowers of the terrestrial jewel orchid, Ludisia discolor. These orchids are really grown for their beautiful foliage, but the flowers, which usually show up between December and February, are very nice, as well . They are native to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Burma, where they thrive in soil on the forest floor, unlike most orchids which are in the trees, growing as epiphytes.  Mine basks in the morning sun in the East window and flowers reliably every year. They like high humidity and warmth. I've been fighting scale on this plant, but I think I finally have it controlled.

'Emerald Love' African violet.
The last flower today is this amazing green African violet called 'Emerald Love'. What a fitting name-I love it!  It is so vividly green and really pops against the dark foliage.
I hope you enjoyed these flowers on this cloudy February day!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Here's To You, Fabio!

Columnea hirta 'Light Prince'

I was gifted this plant about 2 years ago by my sister-in-law. We found it at one of the big box stores.  The minute I saw it, with its variegated leaves and orange flowers, I knew it was a "must have" for me. I love variegated plants and orange is one of my favorite colors. It is an Exotic Angel plant and the tag read Columnea 'Prince'. After looking this up on line, I've found that everywhere else it is identified as  'Light Prince', so I am assuming they had the incorrect name on the tag. This isn't the first time I've found the wrong tag on plants from big box stores, so I'm not surprised. Some of the common names include goldfish plant, flying goldfish, dancing dolphins, and shark plant because of the shape of the flowers.

Columneas are in the Gesneriaceae family, and so are cousins of the African violet, Saintpaulia. It was named by Linnaeus to honor Italian botanist Fabio Colonna. The Latinized version of his name is Fabius Columnea, thus the name. 

Well, it's finally blooming again after almost 2 years. I'm not sure why it didn't bloom last winter as it has been in the exact same place the entire time. Did I wash the windows? I don't remember. Did I fertilize it more often this year? Was it over potted?  They bloom better when they are pot bound. Had I been keeping it too wet? They are epiphytic plants in their native Central and South America, so excellent drainage is very important.  It did lose a lot of the leaves  and a few stems when I brought it home so maybe it just needed to recover and get healthy again before it bloomed. I don't know. Maybe all of these were contributing factors. Whatever the cause,  it's blooming now and I couldn't be happier.

Picture of the flower from underneath.

Notice the hairs on the flowers.
FYI- If you like Columnea plants, I found that Lyndon Lyon Greenhouses has a huge assortment to choose from. Go to their website to see all the varieties.