Yes, There Will Be Lemons

I talked last Friday about lecturing on house plants and how I always talk about the importance of interesting leaves in a house plant collection.

Another thing I mention–although it’s not as important as colorful leaves–and it’s much more elusive–is fragrance.

Fragrance can be tricky. The classic example of this is paperwhite narcissus. I’ve mentioned that I like the smell of those, but many people don’t. In fact, many people find the scent downright objectionable.

Jasmine is another one (Jasminum officinale). In small doses, it’s a heavenly scent. But once the whole plant starts blooming, it can be so overwhelming, it can actually give me a headache.

There’s a whole science to what goes on behind scent–I won’t get into it because I am not qualified and would make a muddle of it. I’ll simply repeat what I said at the beginning–scent is probably our most visceral sense. We know immediately what we like and what we don’t.

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One of these small flowers–a lemon blossom, but it’s true for other blossoms in the citrus family as well–perfumes a whole room in my home. I need only to walk into a room and I can tell when this plant–or my other citrus–is in bloom.

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This plant has bloomed quite a bit this winter–winter is the normal bloom time for many citrus–and already you can see small lemons beginning to form at the end of the branches. So long as I transition this plant gently outside in the spring–and gently back inside this fall–by next winder I should have edible lemons.

All of this is accomplished with no additional pollination from me. I have heard of folks who hand-pollinate their citrus with paintbrushes and I have seen small mechanized devices sold for such purpose.

As I have repeated many a time, in my house, it’s every plant for itself–and clearly this lemon is doing just fine. Bring on the lemonade.

A Lazarus Plant?

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This, supposedly, is a yellow clivia miniata. It’s definitely a clivia. It’s the “yellow ” part that I am questioning. I just acquired the plant last year and while it is very healthy, it hasn’t yet bloomed for me.

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Here’s my orange clivia. It’s probably 5 years old and it probably blooms every other year. Clivia questions are one of my biggest house plant questions–to the extent folks know what they are. But with house plants coming back into “fashion,” it’s only a matter of time before this long lived, attractive plant becomes popular.

Why is my post called the Lazarus Plant? Because I haven’t watered either of these plants since mid-October. That, supposedly, is the protocol for blooming.

The actual instructions are to stop watering in mid October. Chill the plant to 40 degrees and hold it there (now I have really cold places in my house, but none are that cold!). Resume watering January 21, after bringing the plant to a warmer (and by warmer, they mean low 60s, which is about where I have it now) place.

If you can manage to achieve that, bloom should follow in February. Since even I can’t, I will often get blooms in May or so. That’s fine. Blooming is blooming, so far as I am concerned.

And the plants did look pretty with the Christmas wreaths around them. I finally have a good use for those!

Monarch Musings, Part 2

Okay, if we’ve gotten through the tropical versus native asclepias issue without killing one another, here’s another issue that seems to be dividing folks: the home rearing or raising indoors or monarch chrysalises for later outdoor release.

At first glance, you think, how could anything about this be controversial? And indeed, one of Connecticut’s oldest and most respected organic nurseries not only does this but encourages others to do this.

But very recently–in the last week or so–it has come to light that monarchs that are hand-raised or home raised have difficulty migrating. There was a long article in the Atlantic that discussed various problems with the home raised butterfiles.

Here’s an article from late last year that both thoughtfully summarized the debate, the issues (including the tropical versus native milkweed issue from last Friday’s post) and even has some comments attached that shows how heated the discussion can get.

I don’t raise monarchs indoors. I have had them in my outdoor garden where I grow my native milkweed, asclepias incarnata (which goes by the lovely common name swamp milkweed. Is it a wonder more folks don’t grow this stuff?) I’ve watched the caterpillars crawl around on it–I even did a post last summer on it where I compared watching them to a form of “garden bathing” (like “forest bathing.”)

But I do have friends who raise monarchs. They love the hobby–and yes, they have lost some to disease. It’s been heartbreaking for them. Amazing how fast you get attached to little crawling caterpillars, I guess, particularly ones that you have watched hatch.

What’s the takeaway? I am not sure. I wish I thought we were helping nature. Perhaps someday we’ll learn how to get better at it. Until then, does that mean we shouldn’t try?

Who Knew Plants Could Be Helpful?

Happy Spring! From here on out, were are in the 3 months most likely to be “spring-like,” hence this day, March 1, begins meteorological spring. It’s all going to get better–or warmer–from here, no groundhog required.

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Gardeners know that plants can be helpful in many different ways so the title of my post is kind of silly, really. But this particular plant, a tropical pitcher plant called nepenthes ventricosa is helpful in ways that aren’t immediately obvious.

First, I want to say that it’s looking a little wimpy right now. I just cut the last of the big red pitchers that it had from last summer off. That’s really what led me to this post. The pitcher was full of liquid so I dumped the liquid into the sink and out came a dead hornet. Aha! I thought. That’s where that hornet that was bumbling around in here about a month or so ago went.

These tiny green pitchers have all formed since I brought the plant in for the winter. Any hornets who find their way in now are on their own until the plant goes back outside for spring.

There was a vendor at our Flower and Garden Show offering these for sale. I suspect folks who bought these might have been given the instruction to collect rainwater or some such thing. I know every time I acquire a carnivorous plant, that’s what I am told.

That’s nice to do if you’re not in the middle of February in the freezing north. What I do instead is I fill a watering can with tap water and let it sit overnight at least. Longer is better. Many of the harmful “stuff” in the water evaporates out that way.

Something must be working–this plant is 2 years old. Maybe it likes its diet of scavenged hornets.