Monday, December 23, 2013

New Plants!!!!

I headed to Swanson's Nursery in Seattle today to spend the holiday dollars I've been saving since this past summer.  This is always a bad idea because I always end up buying way more than the holiday dollars are good for.  I know, it's all part of their brilliant scheme to get me to drive from Normandy Park to their nursery in North Seattle several times a year.  It's working really well for them.

I was hoping Swanson's would have red bananas (Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii') because I saw a series of You Tube videos from a guy in Canada who turned one red banana into a hundred in a couple months and wanted to try it.  Here are links to the three videos:

Part 1 - October 28th - Preparing the red banana for propagation
Part 2 - December 30th - Rooting & offset formation
Part 3 - March 31st - Separating the new offsets

Sadly, they didn't have any red bananas but they did have some other great plants that could not resist going home with me:

Clockwise from back left:

Nolina microcarpa (Bear grass) - A yucca relative that forms a huge grass-like crown
Sciadopitys verticillata 'Sternschnuppe' - An umbrella pine with super duper thick needles
Yucca desmetiana 'Blue Boy' (aka Yucca aloifolia 'Purpurea') - Tall grower with fleshy, purple leaves
Phormium 'Taya' (New Zealand flax) - This has very rich purple leaves (see below)
Pachysandra axillaris 'Windcliff fragrant' - Don't get this confused with Pachysandra axillaris 'Windcliff'.  That one gets huge leaves but no fragrance; this one produces fragrant sarcococca-like flowers in early spring.

Here is Phormium 'Taya' compared with the standard, Home Depot bronze phormium.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Propagation Table

It's pretty amazing how you can cut off 10 parts of one plant and get 10 brand new plants.

A Begonia luxurians cutting sending out some new roots
That's what I did with this palm leaf begonia (Begonia luxurians).  What's the secret to getting them to root?  Well, there are a lot of secrets.  Here is the process I took:

1 - Cut off a non-flowering growing tip of about 4" at a node.
2 - Dip the cut end in rooting hormone.
3 - Place the cutting in a seed tray using a 50/50 peat/pearlite mix (or any sterilized potting mix).
4 - Create a humid environment for your rootless cuttings so they won't dry out.  In this case, I used a large zip-lock bag.
5 - Place the cuttings on a heat mat.  Yes, this step is necessary.
6 - Water them.
7 - Be patient and keep the cutting under an optimum amount of humidity (enough so they don't dry out but not so much that mold will easily grow).  You can see in the picture below, I opened the ziplock bag to let some moisture out.
8 - New plants need a lot of bright, indirect light, otherwise they will wither away and die.  I put them right under a giant fluorescent light and it works great.

Aeonium cuttings
These aeonium cuttings also started out as one plant.  The trick with these was to let them sit on a shelf for several days after cutting them off from the original plant.  These were actually on a shelf for eight days but that's probably a bit excessive.  The cut end needs to form a callus which will enable it to root.  I planted them in individual pots with a mixture of sand and seed starter mix.  Because they are succulents, they can just be left out in the open, no extra humidity needed.  They have bottom heat keeping them at about 65-70 degrees and have already started spreading out their thin, stringy roots into the sandy potting mix.

Below are four Beschorneria yuccoides seedlings (out of several hundred seeds that I tried germinating).  I took the seeds from a plant I've had growing since 2008.

Beschorneria yuccoides
I am insanely stoked about these Fatsia polycarpa cuttings that have rooted.  This is a pretty exclusive plant.  You have to be pretty important to own one.  I own three.

Fatsia polycarpa
These Lobelia tupa seeds germinated much more readily than the Beschorneria seeds.  These are going to feed a lot of hummingbirds!

Lobelia tupa
And finally....if the previous plants haven't been rare enough for you, below is perhaps the rarest of them all.  This is a Schefflera fengii I received as a gift from Kelly Dodson of Far Reaches Farm.  It resembles a Schefflera delavayi but with more serrated leaves.  It's reportedly hardy to 5 degrees F (-15C).  I'm growing it through the winter under a grow light in hopes of getting it big and strong enough to be able to take cuttings off of next spring.

Schefflera fengii

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Frozen, Part 3

All good things must come to an end, especially when they are not in your hardiness zone.  This final installment documents some of the more miserable-looking plants after a week of subfreezing temps with lows reaching down to 10 degrees F (-12C).

Just melt already!!!
Once again, the survival scale:

1 = Dead
2 = Severely damaged and may never fully recover
3 = Severely damaged but will probably fully recover eventually
4 = Severely damaged but will probably fully recover in less than a year
5 = Moderate cosmetic (e.g. leaf) damage but no known structural damage
6 = Minor leaf/flower damage
7 = No damage

Melianthus major (Honey bush) = 4 (But it will quickly regrow from the roots in the spring)
Hebe x andersonii 'Variegata' = 1 or 2 (It's not good when leaves turn lighter or darker after a frost - this plant did both)
Lavatera × clementii 'Rosea' (Tree mallow) = 5 (Normally evergreen.  Oh well)
Acanthus mollis (Bear's breeches) = 4 (Maybe the seaweed look will catch on)
Francoa sonchifolia = 5 (Normally this is perfectly and unsuspectingly evergreen)
Rubus lineatus = 5 (The leaves are dead but the stems seem to be undamaged)
Stauntonia leucantha = 7
Bignonia capreolata 'Tangerine Beauty' = 7 (Still fully evergreen...the tag says it can be semi-evergreen & hardy to -10F)
Musa basjoo (Hardy banana) = 3 (They have been frozen back too far to reach their max height this year)
Holboellia coriacea 'Cathedral Gem' = 6 (Bronzed foliage, otherwise looks ok)
Ceanothus 'Tuxedo' = 5 (Larger leaves were dessicated but smaller leaves look ok)
Cordyline australias = 1 or 2 (Dead or mostly dead)
Citrus ichangensis x C. reticulata = 7 (Leaves curled a little during the frost, but now looks perfectly happy)
Daphne bhoula = 3 (Time will reaveal how badly damaged it is)
And finally...

Pachyphytum hookeri = ??
So far this pachyphytum is still alive - much to the amazement of the neighbors walking by (and me).  It is in full sun, protected from rain overhead by a tree, and is in very well-draining soil.  I was never really expecting it to survive the entire winter, but if it looks this good after the frost we just had, I'm beginning to think it stands a chance!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Frozen, Part 2

Expecting the worst, I moved several hundred plants into the garage during the week leading up to last week's arctic outbreak.  Some of the more recent plantings, such as the Mexican blue palm (Brahea armata) in the lower right of the photo, were temporarily dug up.  Others are long-term pot residents that just needed the extra protection.

Of course, the plants in the garage aren't even a drop in the bucket compared to the plants that were stuck outside and exposed to the full force of arctic agony.  Once again, here are more observations of some borderline and/or new plants along with how dead or alive they are:

1 = Dead
2 = Severely damaged and may never fully recover
3 = Severely damaged but will probably fully recover eventually
4 = Severely damaged but will probably fully recover in less than a year
5 = Moderate cosmetic (e.g. leaf) damage but no known structural damage
6 = Minor leaf/flower damage
7 = No damage

Unprotected Lomatia myricoides = 7 (No apparent damage)
Unprotected Eriobotrya japonica = 7 (I have two of these - neither show any signs of damage)
Unprotected Daphne odora = 6 (Although the bronzed foliar "damage" makes it look more attractive)
Unprotected Metapanax delavayi = 7
Unprotected Magnolia laevifolia = 7
Unprotected Podocarpus matudae = 7
Protected Billbergia nutans = ?? (Covered with a blanket - it looks ok now, but bromeliads can definitely play alive when they are in fact dead)
Unprotected Sophora microphylla = 7 (Even the un-hardened-off new growth was virtually unscathed)

 I'll continue with a final installment tomorrow with plants featuring a little more frost damage....

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Frozen, Part 1

Everything is still unthawing from the huge arctic freeze last week but the good news is everything is looking mostly ok.  Temperatures stayed below freezing for most of the week, with nighttime lows plummeting down to a pipe-bursting 10 degrees F (-12C). 

The sign of a true arctic freeze is when I can walk on the pond - something that hasn't happened in three years.  The fish are as happy as clams under that thick layer of ice.

In the front, here is the progression of ice forming on the fountain:

This fountain has become a useful gauge in helping to determine the severity of an arctic outbreak.  By comparing how much ice forms on the fountain to previous years, I have a sort of quantifiable analytical insight into the severity of each outbreak that mere low temperatures fall short of providing.  Having said that, I now realize it's not perfect.  As you can see, more ice formed this time than Nov. 2010, yet Nov 2010 killed way more plants.  At the very least, I find the mental imagery it provides useful.

December 2013
January 2013
January 2012
November 2010
Ok, on to the plants.  The plants I mention here are, for the most part, in that questionable zone between hardy and not hardy.  For the sake of simplicity, I'll rate how they fared on a scale of 1-7:

1 = Dead
2 = Severely damaged and may never fully recover
3 = Severely damaged but will probably fully recover eventually
4 = Severely damaged but will probably fully recover in less than a year
5 = Moderate cosmetic (e.g. leaf) damage but no known structural damage
6 = Minor leaf/flower damage
7 = No damage

I also note whether I took any protective measures for each plant and if so, what they were specifically.

Unprotected Echium fastuosum = 1 (Dead)
Protected Jubaea chilensis = 7 (No damage, protected with Christmas lights and covered with a blanket)
Unprotected Camellia sasanqua 'Apple Blossom' = 6 (Flowers froze, foliage is ok)
Protected Hebe 'Turkish Delight' = 7 (No damage; covered with a blanket)
Unprotected Edgeworthia chrysantha = 7 (Flower buds still seem to be in-tact)
Unprotected Cornus capitata = 2 (This has mostly dead written all over it)
Unprotected Eucalyptus dalrympleana = 5
Unprotected Asplenium scolopendrium (left) = 6 & Aspidistra elatior (right) = 7
 To be continued very soon...