Succulent Ramblings

I like to ramble on about my plants... and other things! My hope is to log the progress of plants and talk about my frustrations with others. So, tune in, turn on, or drop out (if you find it boring!)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Hoya kerrii is one you'll need plenty of room to grow. The thick, stiff stems go where they want and there's really no training them. The heart shaped leaves allude to it's common name - Sweetheart Hoya. The leaves very succulent and can get pretty large - 5" long or even more. I keep mine up high in the greenhouse so it gets lots of sun and it seems to love it up there. Flowers are waxy and cream colored with deep red corollas. I can detect only the faintest scent and it's not anything I find extraordinary. The most important thing to know about H. kerrii is it should not be grown over carpeting as the flowers weep a staining, red sap after a few days. It can be quite messy! I have also recently aquired two other varieties of H. kerrii - one that's a fuzzy variety and one that's a veined variety. They're both rooted cuttings, so I guess we'll see how they do after the winter...

One of my favorite Hoyas, probably because it closely resembles the old H. carnosa, is H. pubicalyx. It has silvery leaves that range from a few flecks of silver on green to more silvery than green. Here's a good example of the beautiful leaves...
I had mine for quite a few years and it was huge when I got my greenhouse. It had never flowered, although it had grown profusely over the years. Within 6 months of putting it in my greenhouse, I got my first bloom. I have no idea if it was the greenhouse or the age of the plant or a combination of both. But I have to say that the flowers were well worth the wait! The fragrance absolutely knocked my socks off! In the evening after the sun sets, the aroma hangs thick
in the air. It's a sweet, musky smell and you can expect to smell it for three or four nights before it starts to fade. The entire flower cluster is about 5" across with 20-30 individual flowers making up a cluster. It's not exactly a generous bloomer for me - the most "in progress" blooms I've ever had at one time are three. This one is a real climber and is trainable, but be prepared to put up with the "wild look" if you're not persistent. I find it an outstanding Hoya for ease and beauty.

Well, more next time...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

It was a Hoya that got me "hooked" on growing. Back in high school, I was dating my ex who's mom was growing a lot of really cool plants, which I later came to know as succulents. She grew things like Aloe vera, Mother-of-Thousands Kalanchoe, Bird's Nest Sanseveria - common stuff for the most part. She gave me starts to grow myself. One day, my then-boyfriend brought me a Hoya - the common variegated carnosa. I was enthralled at the pretty leaves and I was careful to take very good care of it. It was such a thrill to watch it grow and "ooo" and "awww" over the attractive new growth! A year or so later, I had subscribed to a magazine called Houseplants & Porch Gardens and they had an article about Hoyas and I discovered, to my delight, that there are lots of varieties of Hoya! But other than a couple of very common ones, I never found any others locally. When I finally got a computer and got hooked to the web, my first search was for Hoyas and a whole new world opened up! Since then, I've collected quite a few more and look forward to continuing to expand my collection...

This is Hoya tsangsii and I chose to ramble about this Hoya because it's the one in bloom for me right now. And - wow! - is it blooming up a storm! Hoya tsangsii is one of the little Hoyas with leaves only about 1" long with a leathery texture. The edges of the leaves take on a dark, bronzy tone when they get good light. It's not one of the climbers, but a trailer. I got this one about two years ago at - of all places - Home Depot. It was an Exotic Angel plant, so I repotted it right away into a more "home friendly" mix. (I've found EA plants are in a mix that is WAY too easy to both under and over water!) I use the same mix for all of my plants - coir and an additive like perlite for good drainage. While some plants go into a temporary dormancy when they're repotted, I don't think this tsangsii missed a beat and seemed to, in fact, charge forward with new growth. Within a year, I had my first buds and blooms and, about 6 months ago, it started to explode with new peduncles. A few days ago, I counted 11 peduncles in varying stages of blooming! That's a LOT for a small Hoya! I detect no scent at all, which is the only disappointment I have with this Hoya. (I read on Christina Burton's website that she thinks they smell like carmel, but I can detect no scent whatsoever...) Each bloom cluster is about 1" across with 12-20 individual flowers. It's a great little Hoya that I recommend highly. I would categorize it as "easy" for both growing and blooming. It can take quite a bit of sun, but I suggest morning sun is best. I had mine in a south window for awhile and it started to get some yellow leaves, which don't hurt anything but just don't look particularly attractive. With all my Hoyas, I water them when they start to dry out and feed with Eleanor's VF-11, both in the water and through foliar feeding.

Tomorrow: more Hoya pics.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Today is my husband, Mark's, birthday. Mark is a union sheet metal worker and there hasn't been a lot of work in Omaha in the last two years. The first part of September, he went back to work after nearly a year, but the job is in Spirit Lake, Iowa, which is a little over 200 miles away. So he leaves on Sundays, late in the afternoon, works 40 hours in 4 days and comes back on Thursday nights. It's less than ideal, but it's better than no job at all. My point is, though, that he's up there all by himself on his birthday - what a bummer. I talked to him last night and he sounded a little down. I guess I can understand that, with being away on his birthday, Christmas a few days away, and his mom passed away the day after his birthday in '98, which I'm sure he's thinking about, too. (Wow, I can't believe that's 7 years ago already...)

Yesterday was an adventurous day - if you like a good mouse hunt! We've lived in this house since '87 and the only year (until now) that we ever had a mouse was 2001, the year we put my greenhouse up. (It's actually one of those Four Seasons rooms right off my kitchen, with a slider into it...) There was apparently a litle crack between the house and the greenhouse floor, under the threshold of the door where a little guy came in. I caught-and-released him after a week or so, stuffed some weather stripping down in there and didnt' have another problem. Well, looks like the weather stripping has worn out because I've been chasing another one around for the last couple of weeks. I finally caught him yesterday after he got particularly brazen and was down in a jar of popcorn I left open. Took him outside and let him scurry under the tool shed (and left the popcorn for the critters to eat...) Well, a couple of hours later, I caught another one in my wastebasket in the greenhouse!! This was a fat little sucker - maybe momma... Put her out by the shed. So I went to Home Depot and got some of those (what I thought were...) totally useless little live-catch traps and loaded them with some peanut butter and put them strategically about. Just got up to let Remo out (it's 4 a.m...) and - viola! - one had a mouse in it!! I must have a whole colonly in here!! Either that or they're turning right around and coming right back in (are mice really that smart??) Mark says "Just kill 'em!" But they're just so darned cute, I can't do that. They're just trying to survive like the rest of us... Well, I got some caulk and as soon as mark gets home Thurs. night, I'll have him caulk the heck out of it. I suppose I could, but he's the "master caulker" and I don't want to look at a sloppy caulk job (which it probably would be since I'm an amateur!)

Enough rambling about mice and caulking! I'm going back to bed now that my adrenaline (from catching another critter) has settled down. More later...

It's now 8 a.m. and the plant I want to talk about is this Haworthia retusa geraldii. This is one of the first Haworthias I ever got and I can't even remember where I got it. It's very prolific, so I've given away dozens of pups over the years. I grow it under many different conditions, because when you have a lot of one particular kind of plant, you can experiment. The one in the pic started in a pot with an Aloe, out in south sun, which is really kind of a "no-no" for a Haworthia. But because the Aloe provided some shade for the Haworthia, it didn't sunburn. But boy did it get big and fat and pretty! So after a year or so in with the Aloe, I potted it up by itself in a 4x6 bonsai pot. It has literally turned into a mountain of a plant! It's hard to tell from the photo, but this little expanding Haw has mounded up to the point that it's as close to being a sphere as it can be and still maintain roots! Very cool! It now grows in the greenhouse with dappled light in the winter months, and lots of strong morning sun in the summer, and it still seems very happy. I have lots of pups that I've planted in under other plants - they seem to like growing that way, probably because they often grow that way in habitat.

Well, off to start my day!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

This is my first blog post. I don't know very much about blogs except the concept, which I kind of like. I've always enjoyed writing, and it's good to have a place to express one's self and talk about the things that excite us...

I've titled my blog "Succulent Ramblings" because this is my main interest. I plan to log changes I see in my succulents, my new aquisitions and those I surrender to others with a bit of melancholy. I once thought that one who collects merely adds to their collection, but what I have concluded is that a collection (of anything) is a constantly evolving, constantly changing thing. Although I usually feel a certain amount of sadness at giving up on growing a certain plant, I also usually feel a sense of relief, mostly because I usually decide to part with plants that don't necessarily thrive in the climate I live in and conditions I can provide in winter. I often still adore the plant in its most ideal state - I just can't maintain it in that state. So I part with the plant, and then the anticipation of replacing it with a new plant that I think I will have greater success with set in!

And on this note, I will close my first blog. Tomorrow, I will peruse my greenhouse and find a plant or two and I want to ramble about. And perhaps some other un-plant-related topics will be foremost in my mind - who knows! I have no idea if or how anyone else can view this, and I will likely bore anyone else to tears, but I find the prospect of having a place to ramble on kind of exciting!