Friday, September 19, 2014

Dancing Dolphins

Columnea 'Melissa'
 I went to the Ohio African violet show and sale today at Kingwood Center in Mansfield, Ohio. If you've never been there, you should make a point to get there. It is a beautiful garden. The sale was great, but the judged show is amazing. One gets to see African violets and other gesneriads (African violet cousins) grown the very best they can be. One group of plants really caught my attention and we are going to talk about them today, the last day of National Indoor Plant Week.

Columnea 'Melissa'
Columnea are commonly called the "goldfish plant" though the goldfish plant is Nematanthus. These plants are gesneriads, cousins of African violets. Their long tubular flowers are horned and so give the illusion of flying fish. They are also called "dancing dolphins" and "Shark plant" because of the shape of the flowers.They are cascading plants and so usually are sold in hanging baskets. They, like African violets need a bright, but not hot window. They are epiphytic plants (which means they grow on trees without soil) from Central and South America. They prefer to be kept evenly moist with a very well drained soil.

Columnea 'Melissa'

My first Columnea was a gift from my sister-in-law and I wrote about it here:
Columnea 'Light Prince'
Columnea 'Firebird'
Columnea 'Firebird' flower
Columnea 'Aladdin's Lamp'
Obviously this Columnea above was the best gesneriad overall in the show.  I don't think it's hard to see why.

Columnea 'Aladdin's Lamp'

Check out the yellow base of the flower. To me it looks like a wax dot holding the flower on. I'm always amazed by the diversity of flowers. God's artistry is so obviously seen in flowers!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tassel Ferns-Not Ferns at All

Lycopodium squarrosum at Matthaei Botanical Gardens
I first saw Lycopodium (Huperzia) in Elvin McDonald's book, The New Houseplant (page 45). It was a picture of a florist's window in New York with one of these plants hanging in it. There was nothing to tell me what it was, as it was in the background of the picture. I loved it all the same. The next time I saw it was at a local greenhouse and I parted with a lot of money and bought it. It was quite a large hanging plant. I hung it in my greenhouse, but unfortunately it was too hot, it dried out and I lost it. I was so bummed. 
So, the next time, I bought a small one, still expensive, and it is on my counter where I make sure it is watered and the humidity is high. I bought it last summer, and it has doubled in size. These aren't the fastest growing plants.
Though the common name would lead you to believe they are ferns, they are not. They are spore producing and are distantly related to ferns. The ones we are discussing today are epiphytic. There are terrestrial ones as well, but not as easy to grow. They prefer moist, humid conditions and do not tolerate drying out for long, thus the reason my first one is dead. The name Lycopodium comes from the Greek lukos, wolf, and podion, foot. They are also known as ground pines or creeping cedar.

My lycopodium.
  Imagine my excitement when I walked into the fern corridor at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. ( I was already ecstatic just to be there!) I was amazed to see these enormous specimens hanging from the ceiling. Wow! The following are pictures of those.

Lycopodium carinatum

The next time I saw Lycopodiums was at a friend's greenhouse. He had 3 different species and I love them! The pictures of those are below.
Lycopodium nummulariifolia
Lycopodium phlegmaria
Lycopodium carinatum
I have seen varieties of these for sale at the orchid shows. If you have a chance to own one of these, don't pass it up. I think they are amazing plants and I would be thrilled if mine even remotely looked like the ones at Longwood someday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Gnomes are for Houseplants, Too!

Maranta or prayer plant with gnome
I love gnomes and fortunately they are back in style. I know you've probably only seen them outside, but it doesn't have to be that way. I love the small ones that are meant for small pots and mine all end up in my houseplants inside.
Contemplating life in my Pachypodium lamerei or Madagascar Palm

"Hello out there......" in my Beaucarnea recurvata
Pothos 'N Joy'    He made it to the top!

A bird in the hand is worth two in the rabbit's foot fern! Davallia fejeensis
Philodendron 'Xanadu'
Fukien tea bonsai--I found this little guy at an antique store

I think this is a Wade figurine from Red Rose tea

Not a gnome, but a cute gargoyle, none the less

The gargoyle in this ficus was at a bonsai nursery. I wanted it very badly, but the price kept me away. I love the little gargoyle caught in the roots.


The close up of the gargoyle caught in the roots of this bonsai

Why not have fun with your houseplants?  Gnomes are a great way to do that. And they're cute, too! Now, the gargoyle.....not so cute. But I still love it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mini Orchid-Haraella odorata

Haraella odorata

I love this miniature orchid. I have many of these diminutive orchids, but this one which to me resembles a pansy, is my favorite.  The odorata in the name means it has an odor or "sweet citrus fragrance" as the books say. I'm going to go smell mine right now....Okay, I'm back. I don't know how anyone could say that it has a smell. I've only ever had 2 flowers on the plant at once and unless you have 10-20 flowers, I don't know how you could smell these flowers. I sniffed it and the whole flower almost went up my nose. It is cute though.....


The picture above is of the frame I filled with chicken wire to hang my mini orchids on.  This hangs on the side of the cupboards in my west window over my kitchen sink. This is a perfect place for these orchids because the steam from the stove and sink is beneficial to them.

Haraella odorata flower close-up
 This plant is not planted in a pot, but mounted on a piece of tree fern bark. All my miniature orchids are mounted instead of being in pots and hang over my sink on these frames. Not only is the humidity in the kitchen beneficial, having them in an obvious place reminds me to water them and I can also enjoy the flowers, as they are so small. Obviously my eyes are as bad as my nose!
Next time you are at an orchid show, don't overlook these miniatures in favor of the larger blooms.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Who Doesn't Love a Piggy Back Ride...or Plant?

Tolmiea menziesii

Since this week is National Indoor Plant Week, I'm going to try to write about a different houseplant every day. I'll see how it goes. 
I had one of these plants a long time ago-at least 25 years ago. I don't know what happened to it, but it is no longer with me. Plants come and go around here (not as many go as come, much to my husband's disappointment). I have since read on line that they aren't a long lived plant and need to be started over quite often, so there is the answer.
Anyway, this plant is called the piggy-back plant, mother of thousands (not the kalanchoe), or youth-on-age. Tolmiea menziesii is the botanical name. It natively grows in the Pacific northwest of north America as a groundcover. Who knew? Another reason for me to go see the Redwood forest!

Tolmiea menziesii baby
 The most interesting thing about this plant is the way it reproduces itself. Little baby plantlets grow on top of the mother leaf where the the petiole meets the leaf. To make more plants, just cut off the leaf with the baby plant intact and place securely on top of a pot of soil. The little plantlets will grow roots and become its own plant.
 The important thing to remember is that this plant likes evenly moist soil at all times with high humidity. If it doesn't receive these two things, it will have brown dry edges on the leaves. I will say, from experience, it does recover well from wilting, but I do have some brown edges from allowing this to happen.

Notice the hairs on the leaves

So if you find one of these plants, which wasn't easy for me to do, you can start new ones and share with your friends. 
Remember its National Indoor Plant Week and we all need some green in our homes and offices. Plants make you happy and clean the air!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I Like Lifesavers-Do You?

I like Life Savers, especially Butter Rum. Who doesn't? I'm not talking about candy though, but the life saver plant, Huernia zebrina. This stem succulent is from South Africa and is in the Asclepiadaceae, or milkweed family. When I first saw this amazing flower at a local greenhouse, I had to have it. How awesome is this flower?! It does look just like a life saver with little striped triangles around it. I have mine on my south bedroom window and it blooms regularly.

Huernia zebrina
Huernia zebrina
 Another member of this family is the Huernia schneideriana, also called Red Dragon plant. It has small, maroon, 5-sided flowers, that look nothing like the life-saver plant, but still interesting, none the less. These flowers come from the base of the plant and are quite often hard to see as they are nestled down inside the plant.  You may miss them if you don't pay attention.  

Huernia schneideriana flower(Excuse the cat hair stuck to it......)

Huernia schneideriana flower with bud

 In the picture above, the entire zebrina plant is showing. The schneideriana on the left is hanging down from the shelf above. These two are both in the greenhouse.

Huernia kennedyana
 I have the huernia kennedyana but so far, have not seen it bloom. I can't wait for it to bloom, because it is really cool, with teeth-looking appendages on it. 
Huernias were named for Justus van Heurne [1577-1652], a Dutch missionary. Robert Brown, while naming it, spelled his last name wrong and so instead of being Heurnia, it is Huernia. Poor Justus.....
I'm always on the look out for new and interesting plants and these huernias definitely fit the bill.