Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Miniature Phal, 'Zuma's Pixi"

Its only a guess as it came with no ID tags-- and pinpointing an exact name of a hybrid is near impossible based on just how many people hybridize these plants. However, I believe this plant is close to the Phal 'Zum's Pixi'. I especially like this phal because of the slight white picoteed edge.

Its spike bears a flush of inch or smaller blooms with a nice deep purple to light purple. This plant has been put into hydroponics already though I'm not certain it was totally ready. We'll see how it goes!

Dancing Queen-- A Full Court!

Dancing Queen is one of the best of the Hippeastrum family. And this season, my small clister (a group of attached bulbs) did not disappoint. Four scape for a total of over 16 flowers, nearly all at once!

Here is an example.

Dancing Queen, though not one of my first hydroponic experiments, is in hydroton now and was very quick to grow new roots in the new environment as seen below.

Phal 'Pauline'

I'm excited to say that I've managed to rebloom another one of my grocery store saves a few days ago with the blooming of Phal 'Pauline'. This, like many other phals, is a basic white but I like this one a lot because of the slight blushing that starts from the center and works itself outwards, fading to pure white. It also looks rather fake-- so much of the flower is delicate and has almost a milky/creme softness to it that, as my friend Ryan from Mesa said, it looks like someone painted it. The flowers grow rather close together, which gives it a sort of flush of color feel. However, the flowers are also rather large-- so unfortunately, you don't get to enjoy each flower on its own like you might with other phals but it is nonetheless one of the nicest blooms I have ever seen.

It is planted, like my other phals, in semi-hydroponics and has done very well. This particular plant was planted in a heavier soil-type medium when I bought it and I feared the roots would rot quickly. At the time is was showing new root growth so I planted it in s/h immediately upon taking it home. I believe because the roots were used to being so moist already that its transfer to s/h was no problem at all as it never lost its old roots, they even grew new branches of roots, and new ones grew as well. Over all, very lucky find and the plant did extremely well as it grew 3 or 4 new leaves during the short time I had it and before its current spike began to grow. Now onto the photos.

This first photo is of the flowers when I first bought the plant-- very nice flowers-- but the new ones look even better.

And here is the first bloom of the current spike-- by now, roughly 4 more have opened up.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Semi-Hydroponic Growing

Semi-hydroponics is a system developed by a man in Pennsylvania by the name of Ray. His website is here.

It is a passive form of hydroponics and is considered semi-hydro because the entire root mass is not submerged in water. It is a set up where you have a hydroponic material such as hydroton, which can be found in any hydroponic store, that is placed inside a container that has holes drilled roughly 1/4-1/3 of the pots height from the bottom so that it creates a reservoir. It is this reservoir that the roots will reach for and during this time, the hydroton "wicks" water from the reservoir upwards so that the roots higher up get the moisture they need, too.

It has been reported that just about any plant can grow in s/h. Even succulents and cacti have been reported to thrive in such a condition. How is this possible? It is because of the physiology of the roots that develop after you put the plant into the s/h set up. Some call them water roots, but the roots that grow in the s/h conditions are grown being use to that condition-- the higher moisture/humidity, the openness of the medium and the constant weak availability of fertilizer.

So, if you want to put a plant from soil into s/h, it is important to time it properly so that your plant does not suffer. Because its current roots are soil roots, they will likely die away once in s/h. Do not worry yourself over this as most plants have not only the ability to quickly replace those roots, but the mere act of repotting stimulates root growth. However, it is important to choose your plant carefully-- it must be vibrant and healthy and in some cases, such as orchids, must be actively growing new roots. This is very important! Plants like orchids will suffer the loss of their roots and if they're not in there cycle where they are growing roots, you may lose the plant. No new roots? Have patience and look for a different plant that is actively growing new roots.

How is this all done?

First, choose your plant. Have it ready and keep it well watered (not drowning) as this will make them acclimate a bit better to the switch. Several days before (3-7 days) get your hydroton or similar medium and soak it. Every day or even several times a day, wash out the old water and soak again. The water will likely be dark, reddish brown. This is the dust coming off the medium. It must be washed away as most roots simply don't like the muck it creates. By washing it several times with a good soak, you should have clean medium soon. Also, by soaking it, you make available more water for evaporation for the initial few days of your plant's new home.

Once you've noticed the water running clean with your hydroton, it is time to plant your plant. Bring the plant to a sink or hose or tub where you can freely wash off soil and organic matter. It is important to get rid of as much soil as possible. Many roots will cling to things such as perlite or charcoal. Don't pull this off if it doesn't come off with a gentle tug. This stuff isn't going to break down like organics will so if it doesn't come off, its ok to leave it on for now. But wash off as much as you possibly can.

For this tutorial, I've chosen a mini phalaenopsis that is currently in bloom (its ok to repot orchid in bloom!) that is pushing new root buds as well as bud on the existing roots. *Note about orchids, if the orchid was grown in heavy moss and kept moist, often the plant will acclimate well to s/h and may even retain its original roots* In the above photo, you can see my plant in its moss, its new pot and its already cleaned and soaked medium.

Next step is to drill two hole, roughly a 1/4 to 1/2 in apart from one another roughly 1/4th to 1/3rd of the height of the pot from the pots bottom. You are creating the space where the reservoir will be. I use a dremel to do this. Quick and easy. The drill bit is less than a 1/4 inch.

Next the drilling-- you can see how close the holes are. Hydroton and other similar mediums are roughly a uniform size. The reason for the two holes side-by-side? If one gets plugged, the hydroton that is blocking it will keep the other one from getting plugged, too.

Now the pot is ready for the hydroton.
I give the hydroton one final rinse before I use it in its new home. Be sure to really swish it around. This stuff has a way of releasing more dust as time goes by and giving it that last wash will give you peace of mind that it is in fact clean.

Next you prepare the plant. Here is my orchid in its moss.

*Note about keeping things clean* One of the best things about s/h is how clean you can keep things-- and certain plants, like orchids love to be clean! Most because of the potential for viruses and rot. So I have a mixture of water and Physan 20 on hand to spray down the plant, its roots, and all the things, including tools, that will touch it. Physan is also a good algaecide. I found mine on ebay for those who do not have it available in stores. Remove any and all organic matter from you plants roots and as you do, spray it down now and then with physan or similar disinfectants.

During this time, you must also inspect the roots and remove any dead or rotting/infected roots. Always use very sharp and clean tools for this. For orchids in particular, anything that is squishy, black, soft brown or that has lost its vellum (the fleshy outer part of the root) should be removed. The wire root on the inside of the vellum is useless without its fleshy outer part.

Once that is done, I give the roots a good wash again to get even more organics off the roots. Be careful with this-- many plants, including this phal, [i]do not like cold water[/i] or sudden changes in temps. Do be careful and test the water before you wash with it.
I then will spray it with physan again to completely drench the roots.
Here is my plant-- trimmed and cleaned and ready for its new home in s/h.
Fill up your new pot about half way up with hydroton.
Place the plant any way you'd like and spread the roots out so that they won't create dead spaces. Some dead space is ok but you want to fill in all areas as best as you can. I spread the roots out to the edges of the pot to give loads of room and so I can keep an eye on their health, as the pot is clear plastic.

Fill in the rest of the pot and tap the sides and bottom occasionally to get as much of the dead spaced as filled as possible.

Here are some of the roots that will give me an idea of the plants root system health.

And here is the plant in the end. But before it heads to the shelf, it needs its first good drink.

I use a weak fertilizer in my watering schedule because there are no organics in this system. Therefore you need to provide the food yourself. S/H can be messy because you must fill the pot to the top and let the excess run off. This is done so all the roots get a good drink and it refreshes the reservoir with fresh water, which can become problematic if weeks do by without new water. So when you do water, be prepared to catch the excess. Here's the new orchid doing its thing into the sink :lol:

And thats pretty much it. I'll edit this as I can with new/better/more concise info when i have time. But for now, the baby is awake and I gatta run!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Phalaenopsis Schilleriana Continued

It has been several days now since my phal Schill developed what I believed to be a spike formation. I've taken another photo and I'm very pleased that it does in fact look and act like a spike. The spike itself is still under an inch it length but its clearly growing upward and shows the tell tale signs. Also, another phal of mine surprised me with what I believe is the formation of a new spike as well. It looks to be about a week behind the phal schill as its about half the length. I cannot remember its name or lineage right now but it is a heavily, fine-spotted phal with dark pink to lavender spots. At this rate of growth, I could probably see blooms in March for both plants, though if I read correctly, it may be quite a long time before the species phal blooms.

Phal Schilleriana with spike

Friday, January 8, 2010

Gervase, Gervasius

Here is my latest blooms of the hippeastrum variety named, H. 'Gervase.' I looked up the name and it is a form of Gervasius, who was a Saint from Milan. It roughly means "the spear," which seems odd at first until you see the blooms of this bulb. They pierce the visual acuity for sure.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Phalaenopsis Schilleriana

Tonight I'm posting a picture of what I hope is the first spike (flowering stalk) of my phalaenopsis schilleriana. Phal. schill. is a species orchid that is unique in two ways. First, it has what is known as mottled foliage-- the striping of various colors of green and grey on the upper side of the leaves and underneath the leaves is a deep red/burgundy color. Second, it is also one of the few phals that bears a scent that I'm told is reminiscent of rose's scent. Other things that set it apart from the hybrid orchids is that is flowers are not quite as elegant or rounded as the ones you might find in a florist's shop or in your local grocery store. Also, it tends to have flattened, thin and rambling roots, which mine definitely has!

So the photo below is showing the base of the plant and near the center but offset to the left is a growth that developed about 4 days ago. It is still too early to be 100% sure, but this is likely this plants very first spike. I'm especially proud of this plant as it is not only a species phal in its first bloom but my first phal ever.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Cataloging of My Plants, Hippeastrums

The following is a simple catalog of my plants
Hippeastrum 'Elvas'
I love the color variation and the slight picoteed edging of this bloom.

H. 'Red Nymph'

H. 'Harlequin'

H. 'Dancing Queen' is easily one of my favorites. The blooms remind me of a fireworks exploding.

H. 'Russian Halo' I love the shape of this flower and that, to me, it looks to be a true red. Often with hippeastrums you can get very red-like colors but there almost always seems to be some orange tinge to many. This particular hybrid comes from Australia. Here are more shots of 'Russian Halo'

In this closer shot you can see the delicate white edging, which makes this, basically, the opposite of another one of my favorites, H. 'Picotee,' seen below.

H. 'Picotee' pictured with H. 'Blossom Peacock,' one of the few hippeastrums I know of that has a scent.

H. 'Blossom Peacock' is an interesting bulb and not just for its scented bloom. This particular bulb has a robust growing habit. In circumstances where another hippeastrum might suffer, this bulb will thrive. I figure it must have some weed genes in its heritage.

H. 'Party Pooper' has one of the better names in the hippeastrum world, but its effect is nothing to laugh at. It gets some of its looks and heritage from a species of hippeastrum called H. 'Papilio,' or the "Butterfly" hippeastrum. H. 'Papilio,' in this case, gave the petal shape and the unique striping in the flower. I imagine some of the cream color could be influenced by 'Papilio' as well, however, it seems most of the coloring came from the other parent that made up this wonderful hybrid. 'Party Pooper,' like 'Russian Halo,' comes from Australia.

Another Australian hybrid, H. 'Boysenberry Swirl' lives true to its name in this double bloom, with its raspberry-colored markings and picoteed edging. This bulb was what convinced me to buy several from an Australian farm and, with the help of a friend, import them into the USA.

Yet another Australian hybrid, H. 'Brendan's Flower,' is easily one of the most interesting blooms I have ever seen. The gentle pink hues laid over the light green background makes for a dramatic effect. The blooms are slightly smaller than those of the average hippeastrum, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in display.

H. 'Stanwick' is an Australian hybrid and is pictured here with the deep red of H. 'Royal Velvet.' I'm not usually into the crazy pink blooms but I have to admit, this one had a color about it that I found quite pleasing.

H. 'Royal Velvet' is another one of those bulbs that I believe has weed genes. When most bulbs will shrink a bit during blooming, this bulb grows. Where most bulbs would suffer from lack of light or too cold temps, this bulb grows even more. It repeatedly blooms through the year for me, roughly every 1.5 months. The flowers are enormous and it is one of the darkest reds I have ever seen in hippeastrums. For this, it is one of my favorites as when seen with its huge red blooms, it broad leaves and the enormous bulb sitting in the pot, it makes quite the scene.

In the Beginning...

These are my plants. Thats really all there is. I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction caring for them and this is my account of their lives.

My original love for plant life likely began on my family farm. I grew all sorts of plants back then but it wasn't until I was a bit older that I really began to appreciate the flora world. I suppose I had two real plant passions-- bonsai and hippeastrums. I've always enjoyed trees of any shape, size and kind and so it was natural to really take to this most ancient art. However, my lifestyle did not lend well to their keep. Long periods of time away from home and frequent moving meant I had to give up many trees along the way. However, it is the hippeastrums that were able to stick with me. I'm fascinated by the idea of a bulb. In essence, it is a mass or stored energy. A means of continuing its life well beyond dry spells, floods, cold, heat, the bulb is capable of lasting through some of Nature's most inhospitable conditions.

My first hippeastrum was the typical and very common 'Red Lion,' which is a very large red
(slightly orange) red flower. Then I got 'Apple Blossom' (pictured here) and 'Minerva,' which
are the other two most common hippeastrums you'll often findin big box stores. And it was when I made my final move to Colorado that I unfortunately lost all of my bulbs save one, which is yet to be identified. You see, during the move, my wife and I got caught driving through a winter storm and were forced to stop overnight in Wyoming. During the night, the temps bottomed out well below 0°F. I lost all of my plants except for a pineapple top (I know, weird!) and one lone, unidentified (NOID) hippeastrum. That bulb lost all of its leaves and much of its layers, but the center and the basal plate managed to survive. I have, for nearly 5 years now, been trying to get it to bloom with no luck. I call it my Minus Twenty Fahrenheit bulb. When I finally got settled into my new Colorado home, however, I bought a bag of mystery bulbs and haven't looked back since. And thus begins my journey with plants.