Thursday, January 31, 2013

Streptocarpus 'Galaxy'

This is Streptocarpus 'Galaxy'. The genus Streptocarpus  is native to Africa and Madagascar, but the one pictured here is a hybrid. In fact, the genus has many beautiful hybrids and more come on line every year. Streptocarpus means twisted seed. It is a member of the Gesneriads whose other famous members include African violets. These are great houseplants, blooming almost all the time unless they become pot bound, a condition easily remedied. I like them because they bloom in winter . They do best with a little more light than African violets, but a little less warmth. Full sun will scorch the leaves and our hot summers make them struggle. That's why I keep mine inside in air conditioning. They are easily propagated from leaf segments and in 3 or 4 months it will produce a nice flowering plant. They should be watered only when they are dry as sitting in water will spell certain death. I seldom see them for sale in the stores, but occasionally I have gotten them from Southern Homes in Wetumpka. They are easy to find online and won't break the bank to get a nice selection. Their name is frequently shortened to "Strep".

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Look what I found blooming this morning in my wildflower patch!! This is Hepatica nobilis, closely related to the buttercups. It's common name is liverwort because of the shape of its leaves which have 3 lobes. It's one of my earliest blooming wildflowers, and frequently I miss it because I forget to look. These must have been blooming several days as one of them has already started shedding petals. Hepatica is said to come in shades of blue, but I have only ever seen the white.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

 The picture above is a close-up of a spotted Phalaenopsis  I have had for about 2 years. It was in bloom most of the summer, and after it stopped blooming, the flower stalks remained green and a few weeks ago sprouted buds. Now it's in full bloom.
The flower stalk is about 2 1/2 feet tall, which makes it difficult to move and/or find a place where it fits. But I will gladly deal with that in exchange for it's long lasting and beautiful flowers.
Phalaenopsis are commonly called moth orchids because of the shape of the flowers, which  to some, must look wing-like.  I have grown various moth orchids through the years, but I've never had one that had so many blooms,. I have also had a hard time getting them to rebloom. I believe this must be inherent in the genetics of this plant. Maybe whatever makes all those spots also gives it reblooming characteristics.
Phals have been hybridized to a great degree and a myriad of different colors will meet you at every big box store. No wonder! The variety is huge, they are well suited for the house environment, and basically easy to grow. Plus, they will far outlast a cut bouquet of flowers. For the most part they have beautiful foliage that is well behaved, unlike it's cousin the Cattleya.
 Phals are epiphytes, and in their native Asia, many grow in colonies in trees.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hellebores Blooming

Hellebores , sometimes called Lenten Rose,belong to the Ranunculus family, as their numerous stamens suggest. They are a great evergreen perennial that does well in the shade. They are tolerant of neglect after they are established, and will frequently reseed. I am very excited about mine as I have an extra plant now that I did not plant. deer do not seem to like them. Mine have only had an occasional leaf nipped off, but never a plant completely eaten.They are reportedly poison. I had never even heard of these plants til about 10 years ago. I bought my first one from Home Depot, and it has been relatively happy ever since I set it out under an oak tree. There are all shades and colors of hellebores and I would like to have one of the dark purple ones. They do not smell very good, which may be why deer don't like them, but for tough winter flowers, they can't be beaten.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Daffodils and Crocus are ready for Spring

A few bulbs are starting to bloom now. Many are up and getting ready to go. I think the crocus have been blooming several days. The one in the second picture is hiding inside a hydrangea. Get ready spring is coming, ready or not! I'm ready!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cephalanthus occidentalis (Sputnik)

This shrub, Cephalanthus occidentalis (isn't that a great sounding name!), is called by several names: buttonbush, button-willow, and honey-bells. The blooms do smell somewhat like honey, so I guess that's where that name comes from. Also bees and other insects are attracted to the flowers. I like it because of the unusual flowers which remind me of Sputnik. You gotta be pretty old to make that association! When the white flowers have faded, they leave the developing seeds behind in a round green ball.  The shrub starts blooming in early summer for me. I have it growing in mostly clay and it gets some afternoon sun. It is shaded by the house most of the time. I grew this from a semi- hardwood cutting I took from a plant growing in a wet area near a small creek. My shrub is about 7 feet tall, and is unremarkable till it flowers and the seed pods start developing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Obedient Plant

Obedient plant  (Physostegia virginiana) blooms from mid summer to fall, a period of about 6 weeks. It is a member of the mint family and has the characteristic square or angled stems that all mints have. However, unlike other mints I have grown, this one does not try to rule the earth. It does spread, but not enough to be a nuisance. But then, I relegate it to outlying areas of the flower bed, where the soil situation may not be the best. Last year I had a large colorful plant of it in an area I call the old garden, where soil is marginal at best.I suppose it arrived there from seed where I threw out old stalks I had cut down. It does best in well drained soil kept moist, but who can do that? I give it some water when the weather is dry to keep the bottom leaves from yellowing and grow it in mostly clay. It is called Obedient Plant because you can move the individual flowers in different directions on the stem and they stay where you move them. This is a good plant for cut arrangements, taking the place of snap dragons, which I have a hard time growing to any large size (I think it may be too hot here for the tall type). Most wildflower sites include this plant, noting that wild ones usually are white or at least lighter in color than the ones typically found in gardens. I got this one as a piece of rhizome from my mother's flower bed, altho it can spread from seed as well.

Richard Blanco's Inaugural Poem

One Today

Richard Blanco

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Titmouse Trapped in the Garage

A titmouse was trapped in the garage and could not get out although it was within 2 feet of the door. I'm sure the reason it let me get this close was because it was exhausted from trying to get out. Birds fly in the open door.Because their natural instinct is to fly up to get away, they miss the door and become trapped. Every time they fly up, they encounter the ceiling. Sometimes I try chasing them down, catching them and throwing them out, but the easiest thing is to wait for nightfall, turn on the outside lights,and then they can see to get out. If this one had only turned around to face the other way, it could have escaped. It did eventually escape without help from me.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sweetheart Rose

I originally got this Sweetheart Rose as a cutting from my mother, who perhaps got it from her mother.It is one of the floribunda roses, producing  a spray of blooms on each flowering stalk. It has a pleasant rose fragrance  as it was breed before the breeders got the idea of meddling with fragrance. It might be 'Cecile Brunner', (introduced in France  1881) but we will never know without genetic testing which I am not going to spring for. What I do know is that it is the hardiest,most carefree rose I have grown.While not exactly immune to black spot and other fungal rose diseases, it does not require a lot of spraying and carrying on like the hybrid teas. It is thankful for some fertilizer, especially likes banana peeling at it's feet, and please a little water when it is dry. However, if it does not get water, it will struggle on alone, without your help. Like all roses it does best with some clay in it's growing media, something we have in abundance in the south. It needs to be pruned into shape at least once, maybe twice a year, depending on how vigorously it grows (prune it like any other rose, with the top bud facing outward in the direction you want it to grow).
Given time, I'm quite confident that it can develop resistance to Japanese beetles, but til then, I help it out by tapping the beetles into a can of soapy water several times a day. If I don't get there soon enough, they love those tasty buds and new growth. But never mind, the rose will still be there and ready to re-bloom as soon as the season of beetles passes.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

White Orchids

These were in bloom for months during the summer (I have several plants of them) They are perhaps the easiest and most free flowing of any of my Cattleyas. They produce numerous flowers from each bud. I long ago forgot where this clone came from and have no name for it. maybe I'll call it Beautiful Reliable Snow in Summer. Or maybe not.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sinningia Ozark Waterfall

Sinningias are a group of house plants belonging to the Gesneriads  ( a plant grouping of African violets which also contains Florist Gloxinia, Achimenes, Chirita, and Episcia). All of these are loved houseplants, primarily because they are easily cared for and bloom in winter. Some bloom almost year round, but the blooms are especially welcome in winter.
I've had this particular mini Sinningia (Ozark Waterfall) for several years and find it to be a stunning addition to my table full of African violets (AV), Chiritias, and other Sinningias. I have the table situated near a north facing window, but also supplement  with florescent light for about 12 hours/day year round. Frankly, the florescent light is so far above the plants (standard height table lamp) that it is doubtful whether it benefits the plants that much. Even in the dark days of winter, the plants still turn toward the window indicating the relative brightness to the plants.
I pot many violets and relatives in AV pots , which is a pot within a pot. The pot the plant is in has a porous bottom section, and when the lower pot  has water or fertilizer solution, the plant receives water from below as is recommended for these plants. However, watering from the top also does fine. Just keep water off the leaves. Not letting the water stand in the catch pot is a good idea,too, as most plants do not do well when their roots are constantly wet. Rot may set in as water replaces all the air spaces in the soil and drowns the plants.I fertilizer with 1/4 strength solution each time I water, only occasionally flushing with pure water.
Many Sinningias hail from Brazil, and many are native to rocky places, which indicates that drainage is very important. If there is a question about whether to water or not, err on the side of dryness.
Ozark Waterfall grows from a tuber, and it often rests after a period of heavy blooming. Be patient and do not over water. The top growth may die back, or it may just remain in stasis till new growth sprouts from the tuber.
I recommend the miniature or micro-mini Sinningias as the regular size ones grow so tall they are often a problem to deal with as houseplants, rapidly outgrowing their space

Thursday, January 3, 2013

September Orchids

Here's a couple of my orchids that chose to bloom in September. I had several different ones that bloomed this fall.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Two Poems for the Beginning of the Year

A Prayer for the Twenty-first Century

John Marsden
May the road be free for the journey
May it lead where it promised it would
May the stars that gave ancient bearing
Be seen, still be understood.

May every aircraft fly safely,
May every traveler be found,
May sailors in crossing the ocean
Not hear the cries of the drowned.

May gardens be wild, like jungles,
May nature never be tamed,
May dangers create of us heroes,
May fears always have names.

May the mountains stand to remind us
Of what it means to be young,
May we be outlived by our daughters
May we be outlived by our sons.

May the bombs rust away in the bunkers,
And the doomsday clock not be rewound,
May the solitary scientists working,
Remember the holes in the ground.

May the knife remain in the holder,
May the bullet stay in the gun,
May those who live in the shadows 
Be seen by those in the sun.

And this one, by Minnie Louise Haskins (1908)

God Knows
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
So heart be still:What need our little lifeOur human life to know,If God hath comprehension?In all the dizzy strifeOf things both high and low,God hideth His intention.
God knows. His willIs best. The stretch of yearsWhich wind ahead, so dimTo our imperfect vision,Are clear to God. Our fearsAre premature; In Him,All time hath full provision.
Then rest: untilGod moves to lift the veilFrom our impatient eyes,When, as the sweeter featuresOf Life’s stern face we hail,Fair beyond all surmiseGod’s thought around His creaturesOur mind shall fill

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