Friday, 29 April 2011

L. hallii (I think). Such a pretty pattern!

It finally got warm and sunny a few days ago, so I brought some of my plants out for the afternoon to really enjoy the sunshine (I grow my lithops and mesembs under lights due to a lack of south- and west-facing windows in the house).

Unknown lithops species - anyone have a guess?

L. pseudotruncatella, 7 months old.

They seemed to enjoy the sun and I made sure to bring them in before they could risk getting sunburned. I need to make a place for my houseplants on the back patio this summer - a place sheltered from the wind, bunnies and dogs, and rain protection for the lithops. This will be the first summer I've actually moved some houseplants outside, and I'm hoping it will cheer them up. Particularly my poor Adenium obesum:

Pathetic eh?

Enjoying the sun! Need to repot the Sago Palm.

Sigh, it was bright and sunny outside when I started writing the post, and now it's clouded over and the temperature has dropped. Why can't I get a day of work with gorgeous weather?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


During an Easter visit to out-of-town family THV and I managed to sneak off to a nearby nursery for a whirlwind visit to their houseplants section. I had called ahead and asked if they had any lithops, but my hopes dropped when the lady said she thought they did - covered in moss in the aquatic plants section. Riiiiiiiight. Since the nursery was only 10 minutes away we went anyway, and lucked out! I picked up these three guys from a tray of sad looking lithops. I would have liked to get more, but lithops are fickle plants prone to sudden death - I'm not confident in my ability to rehabilitate severely mistreated specimens, so restrained myself to the healthiest ones.

The top little guy has already gone to my mentor, and the other two are staying with me. I'm pretty sure the bottom is L. hallii, but have no idea about the right-most one. L. karasmontana maybe?

I also came home with this guy, a Ming aralia (Polyscios fruticoa), seduced by the delicate foligage, promise of liking lower-light locations (if the tag is right, need to google more), and the low, low price. Right now it is acclimatzing in a north-facing window while I try to tease out reliable information on care from the internet.

I love the leaves....hopefully I don't kill it!

Tiny, delicate new growth

Also picked up these on a whim:

Teeny, tiny pots!!!!! I have absolutely no idea if they have any practical use. Even lithops need larger pots than these. But they were just so adorable and so cheap I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Unexpected cheer-me-up

Mid way through a rotten week last week, THV surprised me by coming home with a bouquet of irises to cheer me up (my request had been doughnuts, but apparently the bakery was out). Beautiful, intensely blue-purple blooms that I can't photograph properly to save my life, from a local grower less than 5 km from our home! A happy-making surprise that comes along once every few years (THV not being known for his flower-giving tenancies). Every time I look at them I get warm fuzzies.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


Woot! My order from Rare Exotic Seeds came in. A nice pick-me-up in an otherwise cruddy day (aside from the surprise irises, which are the subject of another post). Gotta love $3 shipping, so nice to find a Canadian company to order from. Just wish their succulent seed selection was better.

Am particularly eager to try the, Elephant's Foot (Dioscorea elephantipes in the picture) thanks to EllieT's posts about them. And the Karoo Rose (Lapidaria margaretae) - super adorable and stone-like. Unfortunately they are going to have to wait until room frees up in my little propagators. Now if only the Buddha Belly and Rebutia rauschii I planted last week would germinate. They are supposed to be easy to get to grow...sigh.

UPDATE: Some Rebutia rauschii germinated last night. Whew.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Mealy bugs!

I'm having kinda a down day and am searching for a new project to distract me during non-thesis time. My lithops and other mesembs are as cared for as they can get without inflicting harm, I've sowed as many seeds as is sensible give space considerations and possible near-future acquisitions. I've just finished the most recent book in the Dresden Files series and am in that looking-for-an-awesome-new-series limbo. Even my laundry is done!

What to do? I want so very badly to sew, and with the basement all tidy and clean, I (theoretically) have the room, but really should wait until after Easter travel. I suppose I could do my taxes, but that's not fun (and will take all of 20  min to do anyway).

So while I bumble about searching for my next project, I'm going to post about mealy bugs. Aren't you guys lucky! <grin>

Found the little buggers on my Lithops aucampiae the other day during my daily gazing-at-my-adorable-plants session, panicked, sent out a few emails to local experts, had a cup of tea and then attacked the suckers with sharp, pointy tweezers. 

But a thorough plucking usually isn't a permanent solution to mealy bugs, so I manned up and followed the directions for de-mealy-ing lithops in Steven Hammer's The New Mastering the Art of Growing Mesembs.

Directions can be summarized as:

1. Depot plant (ack! don't tear the roots)
2. Inspect and remove any mealies you can see (c'mere tiny fucker...oh, wait, you are a grain of quartz)
3. Dip plant in water to protect roots (um, how long is a dip exactly? these things really hate being over watered, I can only imagine how they feel about going for a swim)
4. Dip plant in alcohol (again, how long is a dip? he mentions the roots can start to get dangerously dehydrated after a few minutes, is a dip really a prolonged dunk?)
5. Dip plant in water again (for how long !?!?! argh! where is the empiricism people!?!)
6. Breathe, sip tea, hope I didn't just kill 2/3 of my mature(-ish) lithops
7. Allow roots to dry a bit (air dry is ok, but alcohol dry isn't?)
8. Repot (um, I'm still tweaking my soil mix, I hope you like it little plants)
9. Place in windowsill
10. Pour self a stiff drink. Whats good for the lithops is good for me. 

L. aucampiae depotted, poor thing
Rubbing alcohol bath
Final dip in water
Drying out

But I found my horticultural cajones and got it done, and now the two afflicted lithops are recovering in a sunny window for the next few days before getting to join the rest of the collection. Assuming they don't die of shock and horror at the indignities visited upon them.

Recovering in isolation

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

My mimicry mesembs (say that 5 times fast!)

The original plan was to share some pictures of my various mesemb seedlings, but it has been overcast, dark and rainy all freaking day. Not good picture-taking light.

So instead I give you a tour of my older mimicry mesembs*. Gifts from my mesemb mentor, a wonderful individual who is so enthusiastic and willing to teach a noob like me...and brave enough to send me home with plants from his collection to hone my skills on. Poor things.

A whole, whopping, 6 plants.

Clockwise from the top right:
Lithops pseudo-truncatella, 7 months old
Lithops gracilidelineata, 1 year old
Lithops aucampiae, age unknown
Argyroderma species, 1.5 years old
Fenestraria rhopalophylla,7 years old (!?! according to the label anyway)
Gibbaeum heathii, 1 year old

Some closeups. Sorry the two smaller lithops are so washed out - need to practice my Tiny Plant Photography Skill.

Lithops pseudo-truncatella
Lithops gracilidelineata
Lithops aucampiae, currently shriveling up in preparation for moulting. I hope.
Argyroderma, looking nice and happy.
 Fenestraria rhopalophylla, also called "Baby's Toes", but as I'm not a (human) baby fan, and for personal reasons have a love of the word fenestrate (actually, defenestrate), I prefer the scientific name, or: "Neeb Plant"
Gibbaeum heathii, cute, green, central divide always clamped tightly together. In my twisted mind it is the virgin of the mimicry mesembs.

I'm hoping I'll luck out during my trip to Brampton later this month and score some adult lithops from a nearby nursery. Or even better, be able to make it down for the Toronto Cactus & Succulent Club's Annual Show and Sale in June...will be a long shot though. If not I'll just have to be patient for a few years and hope I can manage to not kill all of my seedlings.

* a rather loose term to describe a group of South African succulent plants in the family Aizoaceae which tend to mimic stones as a camouflage mechanism. If you are really craving more detail on the subject: A Layman's Guide to Mimicry Mesembryanthemums

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

a planting break

I took some time out of my thesis this morning (aka. procrastination) to plant these Jatropha podagrica seeds (also known as the Buddha Belly plant).

Seeds before being covered up with a bit of soil.

After all the lithop seeds I've been fiddling with lately, these suckers are positively huge, over 1 cm long! In theory they are easy to germinate, but like usual I'm worried I did something wrong. Hopefully in 1-2 weeks at least one of the 4 seeds will germinate. If not, I have 6 more saved for future attempts.

All tucked in under saran wrap, next to a pot of Lithops schwantesii seedlings.

I miss sewing and other crafty endeavors, but they are just too space- and time-consuming to be a wise undertaking while there is still my thesis to finish. But planting seeds of weird and wonderful plants? Quick, relaxing and gives me something to look forward to each day when I check the pots.

Still have some Pleiospilos nelii*and Rebutia rauschii seeds ready to plant when I need another thesis break, Lapidaria margaretae, Dioscorea elephantipes, and Adenium obesum seeds in the mail (and from a Canadian seller - $3 postage is refreshingly reasonable!). It will probably be a long time before I get the nerve to try the Adenium seeds - I have an Adenium already thats 12+ years old, traveled with me across the country for school and has never, ever, looked happy. The poor thing has essentially been dormant this entire time. My Adenium karma can't be good :(

* Links are just so you guys can get a quick peek at what the plants are supposed to look like. Tried to find sites that had decent pictures.

Monday, 11 April 2011

A surprise Cute

We were out walking the very wiggly woggles this morning, enjoying the unusually warm weather and that wonderful, damp, things-are-growing smell. And next thing I know THV is crouched on the path, looking at this guy, very very newly hatched:

The tiny white thing on his beak is his egg tooth. He must have hatched VERY recently.

He was making his way to a garbage-filled culvert that gets icky and stagnant in the summers. So we brought him home for a brief photo session

Warming up, feeling safer. Look at those tiny feets!

A wine cork for scale. I'm a science-y type. Scale is very, very important :)

And then it was off to the beaver pond, to a much more turtle-friendly place to grow up

Sigh, makes me wish I was camping.

Got him settled.

What a wonderful world we live in.

I love it when an unexpected Cute shows up, however briefly. We always stop for turtles crossing the roads around here, escorting them safely to the other side (yes, even snapping turtles). Makes for longer travel time, but seeing all the squashed ones is so very sad. They are having a hard enough time surviving habitat loss, pollution etc. getting squashed by careless or downright cruel drivers is just the icing on a very depressing cake.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


After my thesis meeting today, mom and I went on a little ramble around the valley before lunch. We ended up stopping at two nurseries, looking at seeds, seeing what is available now (not much) and what will be coming in the next few weeks. I exercised great restraint in the huge houseplant section (saving my money for possible future lithops), but couldn't resist these two small epiphytes (air plants).

Adorable little things, and after much poking about, I found them perfect little homes in Chessex dice containers with a bit of aquarium gravel weighting the bottoms. The dice are standard-sized, so that should give you some empirical types some idea of scale.

In the coming days I want to inventory all of my houseplants, and in a fit of anal retentiveness, make up a little spreadsheet with basic care information that I can carry around with myself when watering....that way I'm less likely to forget which plant likes misting and which hates it. And just wait until I show you my baby lithops!

(yes, I haven't forgotten about Part 2 of last week's post....all written, just need to hunt up some appropriate pictures for it!)

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Well that wasn't so bad....

Cookies turned out fantastic (helped that I used a tried and true recipe, and didn't go off on a creative tangent), and I thought the cream of roasted tomato soup tasted great. Then THV had to comment that it tasted a lot like my (famous, in his mind) tomato-basil pasta sauce. So I spent the rest of supper trying to think of it as soup and not pasta sauce and barely refrained from hopping up and putting some spaghetti on to boil. No basil in the soup either....I think he just gets orally confused because I'm pretty fanatical about using really good canned tomatoes in both my pasta sauce and tomato soup...and both recipes are very minimalist to let the tomato flavour shine through.

Sorry for not taking pictures, really would have livened up this drive-by-posting.

Instead here is a conciliatory tomato picture from summer - a small fraction of our garden bounty:

Friday, 1 April 2011

Wheres my mojo?

Ugh, two utter cooking disasters this week and one more "not a success but at least edible".

Oh cooking mojo why has thou doth forsaken me?

Wish me luck today in my attempts at chocolate chip cookies and homemade cream of roasted tomato soup!