Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chirita (Primulina)

On a recent trip to Southern Homes in Wetumpka, I spied this plant. I called it a Chirita, and I had never seen one for sale in a store before. I have since found out that the new name for these plants is Primulina and they hail from Vietnam and China. They are new plants having been in cultivation less than 20 years. They are classified with the gesnerids that hold such tried and true favorites as African violets,Columneas, Episcias, and  Streptocarpus. They are much more tolerant of less than perfect growing conditions than African Violets are. They can tolerate less warmth, more light, and are really a joy. I have one blooming now and a couple more growing a bit before they bloom. The added bonus of this one is that it has beautiful variegated leaves also.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A comparison of Flower Drying Media

While the weather and bronchitis have kept me from my regular wrecking ball rounds the last week or so, I decided to try out some new media I had purchased for drying flowers. You can see the results below. Out of the 6 pansies, 2 of them looked pretty good. the others might be used in some project, but they look sort of over dried. This was the second batch I dried with this media. The first time I followed the instructions and put it in the microwave. The flowers came out looking cooked (brown). All the color was lost although the shape was retained. Using time instead of heat definitely worked better. This was after about 5 days in the drying media.
 The pansies dried in pure sand from the Gulf of Mexico worked better than any of the other media. The pansies retained their shape and color.
 For some time I have been saving the little DO NOT EAT packets that come in everything from decorative boxes to medicine bottles. I was surprised to find that there were several different kinds of substances in these packets. One was silica gel balls, one was something that resembled ground charcoal, one resembled clay bits (kitty litter?), and some of the packets seemed to be a mixture of these. At any rate, I don't recommend these for making dried flowers.

 This last picture shows some pansies dried in some 40 year old silica gel  balls that have been shuffling around in the attic for most of it's life. It had turned pink, indicating it needed to be heated to drive off the water and it readily turned blue. You can see after drying the flowers and sitting exposed to the air it has picked up moisture again and is somewhat pink. This media did a pretty good job, but the clear winner to me was just regular old free beach sand (silica), free for the taking. Of course the trip to the beach cost something, but then I was going anyway. regular play sand might do as well. I didn't test that.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bird Feeders

 I received this bird feeder as a gift several years ago, but had stopped using it because squirrels had taken to terrorizing the birds around the feeder and chewing up the feeders. The only feeder they could not steal from was one made of linked metal, and they bent the metal in places. Since the terracotta feeder had a plastic middle, I was pretty sure they would chew it up. I have not had as much squirrel trouble this year as I have in the past, although I wonder why. They are running thick all over the yard and trees. At any rate I brought this feeder back into service and positioned it so I could see it out my kitchen window. Within minutes I was rewarded with several sparrows and cardinals visiting. One day there was a red bellied wood pecker hopping about on the ground near the feeder. What was he doing there? I thought they just ate bugs and worms. the next day I spotted him in a nearby tree. I have often heard the hammering in the summer. I couldn't get his picture, but you can see what he looks like here.
If squirrels  are not a problem, or if plenty of money is available to keep the feeder filled for the greedy squirrels, a feeder can easily and quickly be made from a can with a plastic lid. Cut an entry hole in the plastic lid, cut a hole for a stick for a perch (glue this a bit to stabilize it), make some holes in the side to attach a hanger, fill with seed, and get outta the way-birds are coming.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Dendrobium 'Old Timer'

This Dendrobium should be called 'Easter Beauty' or something that establishes its very springy look. I have no idea what the cultivar name is, only that I have had it about 30 years. I am christening it 'Old timer'. It's been with me so long that I forgot it's origin. Perhaps it came from a southern Living Show in Charlotte when I used to live in North Carolina. That does not seem to be as important as the longevity, sturdiness, and reliability of this orchid. I have not transplanted this plant in all the years I had it . Well, I did put it in this original pot. but its been in the same pot all these years, if it can even be said to be in a pot, because clearly, it's roots are not potted but hanging out everywhere. This is probably why it's lived so long; the roots are very sensitive to being too wet, and if there is no medium surrounding the root, it's not likely to stay too wet. a couple years ago I accidentally broke off some pieces. They separate easily from the mother plant after a certain size. I laid the pieces in a clay pot , and right now they are in just as full bloom as the picture above. Since this Dendrobium is not in a potting medium, I water it nearly ever day in summer, and at other times of the year, every time I am in the greenhouse- except I give it NO water from October till I begin to see the buds emerging from the stems in January, usually. Everyone I ever told that fact to looked at me like I was lying, but this plant needs that dry time to set buds. If you can get one of these and make it happy, it will be with you for a lifetime.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Maroon Miniature Cymbidium

March is certainly giving me a nice display of  orchids. This is a lovely maroon miniature Cymbidium that started blooming a couple weeks ago and is almost fully open now. I received it as a Christmas gift a couple years ago. Just so you know I am not an orchid elitist, this one came from Kroger. If it bloomed last year I don't remember it. Sometimes if I forget to put out slug poison when I see the buds, they get ravaged by those slimy creatures. This one is whole and perfect- and I think it's big enough to divide this year!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Cymbidium 'Crystal Spring'

I had not watered in the greenhouse for several days. There had been no need. During cold overcast days, plants in the greenhouse don't use much water. Yesterday with the sun bright I checked and then began my watering routine. That's when I saw a flash of white deep under the mounds of miniature Cymbidium foliage. This is definitely NOT a miniature. In fact, the blooms are as large as many medium sized Cattleyas. I flung my watering wand down and  rescued it before any cold water could touch the flowers (water makes dark spots of the bloom). This plant was given to me as a Christmas present in 2011. If it bloomed last year, I don't have a record of it. What a surprise, and what a delight! There are only four flowers on the stalk, but the joy I felt at seeing it could not have been greater if there had been 20!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Some timber land was being burned off

and this old house got in the way.It was located just south of where Al Hwy 147 ends at US 431. I had taken pictures of this old house before. The trees had grown right up next to the walls.

The Plainview Fire department was supervising the burn.
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