An Unusual Orchid

Orchid Elizabeth Ann Buckleberry

This plant is one of the few orchids left in my collection. I always have a couple of phalaenopsis because of their wonderful long bloom time. And I have a lovely tiny green flowering one that I have probably had for 20 years. It is a reliable bloomer–at some point–and because it is in a wooden crate and not a pot I have never repotted it. Periodically I throw some new medium in and that’s all.

It’s just about the same for good old Liz, here. She goes out in the summer and if she’s unlucky, the chipmunks throw the bark out of her container so that I top it off when she comes back in. I remove dead bulblets but that’s about it. And I get rewarded with at least a single bloom, and occasionally a second later in the spring.

Flower close up

This is the bloom cluster close up. It’s so interesting and it’s even more interesting to try to imagine what would pollinate that!

Orchids are just so fascinating!

An Unusual Colored Zygocactus

Zygocactus Limelight Dancer

You may remember the full photo of this zygocactus from Wednesday. It is one of my favorites, if not my favorite in my collection (like all plant lovers, my favorite is the one that’s blooming at the time of course, but I really love the unusual colors of this one!)

I decided to do a little research because I decided that this couldn’t be the only one in this line. I thought that I recalled other “limelights,” but I was mistaken–it’s actually other “dancers.”

There are several zygocacti in the Dancer line and most seem to be bicolor of some sort, even if it is just, like Jolly Dancer, pink and lighter pink.

The provocatively named Exotic Dancer is dark pink, almost red, with lighter pink to almost white interior petals.

And Sunset Dancer is coral with white interior petals.

Interestingly enough, in text, I have seen Limelight Dancer described as yellow with purple reverse coloring. I am not sure if I would call it yellow, but perhaps it is as yellow as this plant can get. I think I might go with pale coral and fuchsia. Maybe I am being overly dramatic. But it’s my plant–I can call it whatever I want.

Problematic Plants

Marantas and calatheas

I really don’t ever learn, do I? And yes, that is a rhetorical question because of course I don’t!

Somehow I thought that by clustering these marantas and calatheas together I might be able to maximize the humidity they like and keep them healthy throughout our winter.

Astronomical and meteorological winter haven’t even begun yet and I am struggling with these plants. They may appear healthy, but because I grouped them, I am battling spider mites on most of them.

And what’s crazy about that is that it appears that there are at least 2 different kinds of mites–red ones without webs and smaller white ones that make webs. It’s as if the plants really are cursed.

So I am giving all the plants weekly “baths” in the kitchen sink. Honestly, I need my head examined!

Plants after “bathing”

You may think that these plants look pretty good. So do I. The damage is subtle and deceptive. On some plants, it manifests itself as the stippled leaves, where the insects suck the juices out.

Leaf with telltale stippling

On other plants, too many leaves may just start browning for no apparent reason. When I turn the undersides of those leaves over, that’s when I find the beginning of an infestation with the small white spiders and webs.

So it’s just weekly baths for everyone now. Heck, what else do I have to do?

Don’t Believe the Calendar–Winter is Here

Hyacinths in forcing jars

I don’t know about you, but there are certain things that I always do as the outdoor gardening season comes to a close and the dark, cold days of winter come upon us.

Hyacinths that I am forcing

One of those things is to force bulbs for winter. Now obviously this takes a little bit of planning–I have to get the bulbs while they are still on offer in the garden centers (although, depending on how quickly the weather cools down, sometimes that’s not a problem. This year we are in full on holiday mode in every place I have been, so if I hadn’t bought these in early September, I would have been out of luck, or perhaps hoping to find them by mail order).

By the way, for those of you who remember my post about this time last year about how nicely I had organized my potting shed–oh well. It’s certainly due for another overhaul.

I will also plant amaryllis and paperwhites, but not until later in the season.

None of these will be ready for the traditional winter holidays. That’s not why I do this. They will be ready in February, about the time I just can’t take anymore cold or snow or ice. It’s perfect.

And I will start the amaryllis and paperwhites to be ready after the new year as well. It seems to me that there is a letdown after the holidays. That’s when I want my plants to take over and cheer me up!

And maybe while I am snowed in, I will once again get this area reorganized and ready for spring!

Winter’s Coming–the Crows are Gathering

Once again it has been unseasonably warm this week. I certainly will never complain about that. Winter is too long for me to complain about an extra week of warmth (or two–or several–or maybe let it never begin, which would also be fine with me!)

But there are unmistakable signs in nature that it will indeed be coming once again. First, one of my favorite little birds, the juncos, have arrived. I have loved these little dark gray birds since childhood, when they were called “slate colored” juncos. Now I think they are called “dark-eyed” juncos, but don’t quote me. I haven’t checked in a year or two so it may have changed again. Bird names, like plant names, do seem to undergo a surprising number of revisions.

And then there are the crows. All summer, crows hang out in little groups of twos or threes. But this time of year they coalesce into much larger groups (technically called “a murder,” which is even odder, but you can’t make this up!) and form what is known as the winter roost.

In the last few years, the winter roost has been fairly near to my office so I have had the pleasure of seeing large groups of crows flying in, congregating from all over, and then beginning to settle down for the evening at the winter roost. It’s quite a sight.

It’s estimated that the Hartford winter roost, technically located in West Hartford, might have nearly 20,000 birds. Once you see that many crows–or even a small portion of them–coming together for the evening, it’s a sight that you don’t forget easily.

And then of course, there’s the sound! A couple of crows calling back and forth to one another can make quite a ruckus. Thousands of crows calling out is literally a cacophony!

Fortunately, most of this roost is off the street and not near to any cars or homes. The crows do make “intermediate” stops on their way. I have seen hundreds of them on the grass outside my office and in the nearby trees. They didn’t appear to be eating; they just seemed to be gathering and waiting. Some just perched in the trees; others walked on the grass–it was difficult to decide what they were doing. Waiting for more crows to arrive seemed to be as close as I could figure out–but what do I know?

Maybe they stopped by to tell me not to get too complacent–winter would be coming after all!

Holiday Cactus are Blooming

The first of my zygocacti to bloom every year

The above plant is always the first to bloom and it has bloomed as early as mid-October, causing me to question which holiday, exactly, it was named for. This year it’s closer to the winter holidays–I suppose I could call it the Veterans Day cactus since we are commemorating that holiday this week

Unnamed zygocacti

It has some company for earliest bloomer this year. I am not sure of this variety. Several of my zygocacti lost their “name tags” this summer. And of course, when I buy them locally, they are often unnamed, which I find unfortunate.

Even without cultivar names, I love them. I probably have almost 20 already–and I am quite sure that I will be adding to the collection. I still don’t have a pure white. I will keep trying for that.