Friday, February 4, 2011

Winter Carnival

Looks like some type of Miltassia.
I went! And wouldn't you know, the forecast was for snow. Mom came with, and we out-drove the storm. We stayed at my uncle's house and got to sample various foods from various restaurants. We picked up dinner on Friday from a little Italian deli called Brianno's. Delicious, but $47 to feed the three of us! Anyway, I was up half the night, excited like the little orchid freak I am, and woke up pretty early. We got to the festival at 10:00, just as it was starting, and I was in my element. We walked through the conservatory, which was ridiculously humid, and saw the results of the judging. However, there were a couple of hoity-toity photographers who parked their carcasses in front of each display and took 3,987,394,859,038,479 photographs before moving on. Honestly, some people. I took photos, but they really don't do much justice. I had seen pictures of all sorts of lovely orchids on the Internet and in my orchid books, but the real thing was a million times better. All my photos are from the contest areas. I wish I could give credit, but I focused on the flowers. A wonderful display for sure.

Miniature Phalaenopsis in a 2-in pot!

I had made sure to do my research well beforehand. As a novice in the world of orchids, I knew I should shy away from bright, flashy plants that I knew nothing about, as appealing as they might be. My own mother picked up a plant and said "Oh, how beautiful! It's only $25!" And it was gorgeous. I had no idea how to take care of Miltonia, however, and we decided to put it back based on that.

I read my orchid books thoroughly and chose 4 varieties that seemed suited not only to me as a beginner but to my available growing conditions (mainly light requirements). I singled out Cattleya -of course, what a beauty. Oncidium was another - those little dancing ladies had always appealed to me. Brassia was the third, because it was so unique. Last, but certainly not least, was Paphiopedilum. I especially wanted to own a lady's slipper orchid because it's the Minnesota state flower. However, the MN state flower is a Cypripedium; it's also illegal to pick the flower or uproot the plant. I figured a paph (also a lady's slipper) would do just fine.   

A prize-winning Doritaenopsis.

But I digress. I had intended to purchase only two or three plants based on preference, but once I got inside the vendor's area, I was riding on some sort of orchid high. To see all those people a-twitter and all those gorgeous plants, I practically lost my mind. I hadn't seen any of the genera -besides Phalaenopsis- in person before and was struck by just how beautiful these plants are. After the show, I was undeniably hooked for life on orchids.

I walked on up to Orchid Inn's table, run by an extremely nice Asian couple. They had a great many lady's slippers -in fact, they specialize in them ( I scouted around the waxy-looking blooms, some 4-5 inches across! I didn't know how large some of the slippers could bloom. I picked out a rather small one, which was in bud. I had already decided to pick not-so-expensive plants since I'd be traveling 200+ miles home in cold weather. If they died, my loss wouldn't be so great. Plus I could get more for my money. :) "I give you the age special," said the lady, and boom: $18 plant down to $15. Guess they don't get too many young people coming through. My variety is Paph. Supersuk 'Eureka' x Paph Raisin Pie 'Hsinying'.
Amazing lady's slippers!

I looked at an Oncidium - Sharry Baby, to be exact- which had a great chocolatey fragrance, but decided upon a more traditional looking Oncidium -Gower Ramsey, with yellow and burgundy flowers. This plant cost me $15 as well.

I wandered on over to some other booths, stopping at Orchids Limited, a grower located in Plymouth, MN ( They seemed to carry mainly Phalaenopsis/Doritaenopsis/Cattleya types, so I thought I'd take a look. And wow, were those flowers gorgeous. I was drawn, of course, to the beautiful phals. They never lose their appeal. I picked up what I thought was a phal, looked at the tag, and saw it was abbreviated Dtps. What? I'd never heard of Doritaenopsis. Turns out, it's a cross between Phalaenopsis and Doritis. However, it looked just like a phal, so I thought the care shouldn't be much different. I inquired, and I was right. I purchased an almost-miniature Dtps. in bud for $15.
A colorful Oncidium variety.
Not sure what this one was, but it was gorgeous.

 I explored further and set my sights on the Oak Hill Gardens booth. ( I purchased a Miltassia (Miltonia crossed with Brassia) and another Doritaenopsis (couldn't resist the flowers!), each $20. I bought a tiny Cattleya for $15 as well, and decided it was time to head out before all my money was spent. I ended up with 6 plants for $100; not a bad haul considering the prices that are usually tacked onto these plants. An Oncidium like the one I got would cost $35 on any other day. Being so close together in the same room forces vendors to be competetive, which drives prices down.

 I regret to inform you that after I purchased plants, I left. There was much more to see and learn, but I felt satisfied. Next year, I'll definitely take my time. An "orchid hotel" was provided, though, designed with the intention of having a place to store all your new plants while you saw the rest of the show; we were disallowed to bring our plants out of the room unless we were leaving.

Mom and I headed back to my uncle's house to drop off the plants - Our arms were full! Being in Minnesota, the vendors had set the plants either in a brown paper bag or in a cardboard box and then covered the plants with bags. I was still concerned about bud blast, however, and took great care that my orchids were as undisturbed as possible.

After the plants had been dropped off, the three of us headed out to Byerly's for lunch. Like the hillbilly I am, I had never been there before. For my fellow hillbillies information, it's a ritzy grocery store. However, at the Eagan location, you can choose a meal and go eat in a restaurant. A restaurant in a grocery store! Who would have thought? I got the Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and broccoli for about $9. It was excellent. I know this is a digression, but I seriously wanted to recommend it. It was awesome.

We headed back home after lunch, making sure to keep the plants warm the whole time, even when we missed our exit and ended up 45 minutes out of the way in Duluth. :) We got home eventually, and I unpacked my orchids. I planned to have a space cleared out for them, but I was just so tired that I wanted to sleep. I decided to just leave them on the table until morning. However, I failed to notice that my cat, Holly, seemed overly interested in the plants. I ignored the little voice in my head saying "the cat will get up on the table, knock over your lady's slipper, and break its bud off." So I just went to bed. I woke up at seven the next morning and came out to check on my plants. I stopped dead in my tracks. What do you suppose happened? The cat had jumped up on the table, knocked over the paph., and broke its bud off. I'm a little ashamed of my reaction: My eyes went wide. I shuddered, and I ran away down the hall, too horrified to speak. I cried! Oh, it was such a disappointment. I had so looked forward to seeing that lovely flower open. To top it off, paphs only bloom about once per year... so I'll have to wait for that.

Anyway, enough of my anecdotes. Here are some more pictures from the show. I'll post pictures of my plants in a separate post.

We weren't allowed inside, but they offered a glimpse of these orchids in spike.

A classic Vanda, receiving second place.
Another lovely slipper.
A gorgeous Phrag. Wouldn't have minded walking away with one of those, but they were fairly expensive.


This slipper was huge! Cup your hands, and you'll get an idea of just how large it was.

A display of many different genera. I can see Masdevallia, Cattleya, Oncidium, Phalaenopsis, and others.

A grand display of Doritaenopsis.

Look at all those lady's slippers on one plant!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Amaryllis Blooms

What an easy grow, and what a great experience. I fed it about three nights ago along with all my other plants, and the growth sped up even more. It measures about 30 inches from the soil to the flowers. The first bloom opened three days ago, and the second bloom opened yesterday. There are two more which I expect to open either tomorrow or the day after.

It adds a great splash of color in this crappy Minnesota winter and really brightens up the whole house, along with the orchids. It's so desolate and tundra-like outside that I'd nearly forgotten how beautiful flowers are. Can't wait to have this beauty out in the garden next summer, even if it's not flowering. It can store up energy for next winter, and perhaps I'll have even more blooms. :) Well worth $6.

My mother gains much enjoyment from it as well; when I come home from college each day, she remarks on how much it's grown and how beautiful it is. She acts like she doesn't like having my plants around the house, but I know she secretly loves them... :) I just can't figure out how I'm going to move my plant family down to Minneapolis when the time comes...

Anyway, the care for this plant was extremely simple, and that's probably why it's so popular. As long as it has enough light and water, it'll do just fine. I did discover, however, that the flower stalk needed to be staked after it grew to about 20". I had to loosely tie up the leaves as well, since they had grown so long they were tipping over. Overall a very rewarding and beautiful grow.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Iresine - It's looking pretty poorly after its pruning, but I have faith. I mist spray it every day. The leaves have wilted tremendously, but the stalks have remained firm and healthy-looking. However... I may have killed it, despite taking great care to avoid that.

Amaryllis - It grew almost EIGHT INCHES in roughly 36 hours. It was 18 inches around noon yesterday and was 25.5 when I measured it an hour ago. The buds are now coming up and out, and I can see that there are four of them! I expect a bloom tomorrow or the next day.

Orchid Show - I better get to go because I have a lot I want to buy! A a bloom booster, more orchids, and a keiki growth supplement. Those supplements (Keikigrow or Keikipro) help orchids (Phalaenopsis especially) grow little babies from the nodes of flower stalks or from their bases. I'm eager to try it; reviews claim it works almost immediately and with great results. Unfortunately, I've seen 1/2 ounce bottle sell on the Internet for $25! A bottle the size of a typical water bottle sold for $325. What??? Silly as it seems, perhaps it would be wise to invest in a small bottle. I wouldn't need much of it, after all. The more I think about it, the more excited I become.... :)

More on Orchids - I traveled on over to Duluth today, the only mildly large city in many miles, and got a look-see at their wares. I visited Gordy's Gift and Garden, which is actually in Hermantown, and was very satisfied. I'd only been there once before. They're a locally owned business which has been going strong for almost 35 years. Even in the winter, they had an EXCELLENT selection of gardening supplies, sans plants, of course. I bought some balanced fertilizer; the other things I was looking for were far too orchid-specific for me to expect them to carry. I also inquired from the friendly employee if they sold orchids at any time. She said they were due to get a new shipment of phals in sometime soon... Hmm... :)

Anyway, I also stopped at the Home Depot there, which had pretty much nothing. They had a cart of nice phals with lots of blooms for $12.99, just like the other Home Depot. They were also trying to sell smallish out-of-bloom phals for $7, begging customers to "test your green thumb." With the state those poor plants were in, "test" may have been an understatement. I refused to spend my money on any orchid, even those cute phals with unique green blooms, and chose to save for the orchid show. :)

I headed on over to Old Country Buffet (cue salivation) and then to Barnes and Noble, where I spent a good ten minutes skimming over a $20 Miracle-Gro book: Complete Guide to Orchids. It seemed very thorough, and I bought it. I may recommend it if it proves itself to be of good use.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum?...)

I picked this one up at (where else?) Lowe's a couple days before Christmas when their Christmas merchandise was just going on sale. I chose the traditional red (I'm a traditional girl, what can I say?). It was $6 and well worth it already. I followed the directions for planting on the package, but growth was slow for about two or three weeks despite adequate watering. Then, all of a sudden, it started growing like crazy! Here's what happened in the span of 12 days, from January 3rd to January 15th.

 The thing grows 2 inches each day! I've been measuring it. It went from 15.5 to 16.5 to 18 and now to almost 20! I had to stake it yesterday, as it was falling over. I've never grown an Amaryllis before and am so far very satisfied.

Wait just a minute. I went to trusty old Wikipedia for a little info on Amaryllis and read that "It should not be confused with Hippeastrum, a flowering bulb commonly sold in the winter months for its ability to bloom indoors." What is this about??? Apparently, I have a plant from the Hippeastrum genus. Here's the link, if you're interested in reading more:

Alright, then. Hey, apparently the two plants are pretty similar. I think I'll just go on calling this Amaryllis. No one will be the wiser. Okay, moving on.

This kit came with a nice pot, "compressed planting disk," and of course, the bulb. I'll share the info it came with. I'd like to give credit to the specific brand, but I only kept the portion of the package that had directions on it. I tried to find it on Lowe's website, but apparently everybody in charge there has suffered some sort of brain injury that has incapacitated them all. They have no "Amaryllis" information whatsoever. Anyway...

"1.) Place compressed planting disk in the pot provided and add 2 cups of warm water.
2.) Fluff up mix with a fork.
3.) Place your bulb into mix, pointed end up, so the top of the bulb is 1-2 inches above the planting mix.
4.) Put the pot in a warm place.
5.) Water once a week.
6.) As soon as the bud is visable, water twice a week until flowers have faded.
7.) Blooms in 8-10 weeks.

After Care: Plant the Amaryllis bulb in the garden in May and give it some fertilizer. Take out of the garden in September and cut off the leaves. Store the bulb in a cool dry place for two months. Then pot the bulb again. This plant will grow for many years."

Just for the sake of accuracy, I read up and checked on websites and read in all my garden books as well. One of my books, The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual (hardy har) gives pretty much the same information, just with more detail and with slight variation. This book uses Hippeastrum Hortorum as the scientific name, but Amaryllis as the common name. Eh, it works. It also says to fertilize it every 10 days, and I will when I water my plants tomorrow.

Update sure to come when it blooms. :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Just Add Ice Orchids Giveaway

One of my JAI orchids.

They're giving away 2 free orchids each week, supposedly one for you and one for someone "nice." That's their new kick: "Just Add 'Nice.'" Alright, then. But anyway, I registered and decided to share. The first link is for their official site, and the second is their Facebook page. I don't have space for another two, but what the heck - just two more wouldn't take up that much space, would they?... And perhaps another two or three from the Winter Carnival at the end of the month. :) Anyway, this drawing is going on every week until Valentine's Day, and on V Day they're giving away enough orchids to last the year - one for each season. Not a bad deal!

Baby Tears (Helxine Soleirolii)

Isn't it great? My mom calls it the Afro Plant.

What a plant. If you're looking for immediate gratification, buy some Baby Tears. Last July, at the greenhouse where I plan to work this spring and summer, I drove out for their annual garage and plant sale. I picked up little else beside this plant; I had seen it before at this particular greenhouse and had always wanted one. They had one for sale in a 4 inch pot for $2, which I purchased on the spot. At home, I took it out of its plastic 4 inch pot and put it into a ceramic 4 inch, which it almost immediately outgrew. I then decided that because it was growing so fast, I would go ahead and put it in an 8 inch pot. By October or November, it had outgrown that as well and was moved into a 12 inch pot. Right now, it occupies that pot fully. I later read that Baby Tears will stay miniature if you keep it in a small pot... but too late now. I love to see it grow larger and larger, but this summer I think I'll divide it. Maybe give some away, maybe plant some in my garden. It has a great "moss" look to it, and I surmise it'll look great there, but may overtake the garden...
 However, as you can see, this plant will grow very straggly when allowed to. Some trimming with sterilized scissors will do the trick. If you want to, you can take those clippings and push them down slightly into the dirt of a new pot. It's extremely likely that they'll root, like these did:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pruning Iresine

¡EscĂșchame, por favor! I finally did it: I pruned that unsightly Iresine... If it dies, I'm gonna be pissed.

  1. I laid down some newspaper on the floor and retrieved standard potting mix, a large spoon, hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls, scissors, a medium-sized plastic bag, four small stakes, and some paper towels.
  2. I sterilized my scissors with a hydrogen peroxide soaked cotton ball; Cleanliness is of the essence when it comes to tip cuttings. An infection or fungus will be the downfall of any tip cuttings. It's like skinning your knee and rubbing dirt in it. You'd keep a bodily wound as clean as possible, wouldn't you? Do the same for your plants. Moving on.
  3. Iresine has plenty of nodes just below where the leaves appear. My instructions (from The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual) told me that the nodes hold cells which are capable of producing roots, and to cut just below them.
  4. I proceeded in this fashion until all that was left were the bases of the stems... it was not a promising sight.
    4. I then poked holes in the soil with one of the stakes and slid one tip cutting into each hole.
5. Lastly, I put in four stakes to support the plastic bag and slid said bag onto the plant after giving the plant a quick mist. It's sitting next to my African Violet babies near the heater and away from direct sunlight. Update hopefully soon, and yes... I'll admit if I've killed it. :/

Lastly, I noticed today that I've been getting a few views on my blog. I'd like to thank anyone out there who's read, and I'd especially like some feedback. :) Thanks again.