Blooms in sub-zero temperatures

Thank goodness for my grow room… I think I’d go crazy if I couldn’t look at green growing things for months on end. It’s still very cold, and a fair bit of snow on the ground. I went outside at lunchtime, and when I returned my face was so red I looked like I had a sunburn. Ah well… there are blooms in my grow room, as well as on my cheeks.

The first spike on the Burr. Nelly Isler finished a while ago, and it since has put out another inflorescence and bloomed again.

The gigantic Phal. Orchid World ‘Joe’ that I bought from John Marcotte is starting to bloom on four old spikes and two new ones. It has a sweet fragrance and is a stunning plant.

And finally, a pretty pink Geranium that my friend Atilla gave me this summer has two long-lasting flowers. I have visions of propogating this plant and covering my deck with geraniums next summer.

I checked the worm bin the other night, and topped it up with damp paper (I regularly raid the shredders at work and lug bags of the stuff home on the subway) and plant clippings. Lotsa squiggly critters in there, so they must be happy. The bin is half full of worm compost already.

And aphids. Another healthy crop of aphids, unfortunately, on many of my orchid plants. I’ve been warned to be aggressive about terminating these pests, as they carry virus’ from one plant to another. Time to get the Neem oil and insecticidal soap out again… and maybe leave it out this time so I remember to spray again in a few days.

Doctor Optimara

I sprayed my African Violets with a mixture of Neem oil and insecticidal soap tonight, but I’m still not sure they’re going to recover to full health. They’re…ok. but not spectacular, and no flowers. I visited the Doctor Optimara Web site to try to diagnose the problem, but I got frustrated. When it came to choosing symtoms, there was no box for “all of the above”.

Bringing the outdoors in

I’m ready for winter — bring it on. I spent the entire day, from 9 in the morning until 11:30 tonight, putting my grow room together. I covered the walls and floor with heavy-duty plastic (to help keep the humidity up and the water out of the apartment downstairs). This was no simple job; I had to pull everything out, then work around the mess with huge sheets of plastic and a staple gun. I ran out of plastic twice and had to make extra trips to the hardware store. I put up racks for mounted orchids and my big staghorn fern to hang from, and re-hung the hanging plants. Then I brought 90% of my plants indoors, arranged them, purged them of bugs, repotted some, and watered all. The humidity was up nicely at 60% to 70%. If I can keep that going all winter, I’ll have lots of flowers and new growth on my orchids this year.

I did eat — Laird lured me out for a late lunch at an Irish pub on Bloor Street. On the way out, we waded through the Harvest Festival crowds one last time, and had a close encounter with an east Asian Elvis impersonator who was crooning ballads on a portable karaoke machine almost outside our front door.

Back home, I realized that moving things indoors meant everything on the deck needed to be re-arranged. So I put myself back to work and swung the corn broom around for a while. Though a bit less “dense”, the deck still looks nice — it’s just a little more roomy. I figure there’s at least another month to six-weeks of deck weather to enjoy.

I even paid “some” attention to my african violets tonight. I watered the droopy things, and spritzed them with Neem oil and insecticidal soap. They’re looking distinctly better…. maybe I won’t throw them away after all.
Yeah right.

Botanical Hypochondria

I’m getting frustrated with my african violets. Last fall, they woke up out of a lack-luster stretch and for no apparent reason decided to put on an incredible floral show for me. To my delight, every single violet I owned started blooming non-stop with massive posies of flowers that stayed fresh-looking for weeks. Convinced that I’d suddenly acquired the “touch”, I made a call to Doris Brownlee of ACA’s Violets in Mississauga. On a blustery and frozen winter night, I visited her home and went on a wild and abandoned spending spree. Well, I spent $40, but that’s a lot of baby African Violets, believe me. I came home with a box-load in all shapes and colours, as well as a huge bage of soil specially-mixed for violets and a bottle of the magic potion all good indoor gardeners use, Superthrive.

All went well for six weeks or so — more than well. I started having daydreams about posing for pictures in the winner’s circle with a spectacular specimen and a giant blue ribbon. Then, almost overnight, the flowers and buds started wilting. I started seeing grayish streaks on the backs of the blooms, and what looked like black speckles of dust. EEK!! A quick trip to Dr. Optimara and a frantic email to Doris revealed that my plants had a wretched dose of powdery mildew. The black spots were the spores, which I didn’t know at the time, and probably spread all over the rest of my collection with my hand. I sprayed with fungicide, and a Neem oil concoction for good luck. They perked up a bit, then slid rapidly downhill with brown mushy spots on the underside of leaves. Botrytis!!! But no, wait, the leaves were starting to twist and get smaller and smaller, and the bud stems getting shorter and shorter…Cyclamen Mites!!!

Geez, I’m a botanical hypochondriac.

I got fed up with them, and let them go a little too long without water. This morning I looked at them again, and felt guilty. I gave them water, and cut off every single bloom, bud, or blip that could become a bud, that I could find. I was being contrary… if the flowers are going to crap out on me, I don’t want ’em at all.

Tonight….is it my imagination?? They look….perkier. Who said flowers are stupid? They probably know I’m one step away from tossing the lot of them. Maybe if I move the garbage pail closer they’ll be more motivated.

Queen of the Night update:

Queen of the Night update: Four days after our first look at it, the bud has doubled in length to about 2 inches long. When I got right up close I noticed some tiny webs criss-crossing the bud — spider mite! Crap. Time to pull out the spritzer and cook up a concotion of Neem oil and organic insecticidal soap. Personally, I kind of like the smell of Neem, though it makes Laird gag. However, it is organic, which makes the odour worth putting up with. The only early deaths I want to contribute to are the bugs’.

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