Missed the show

I’m back! This visit to Montreal was mostly work, very little play. Though I did get a chance to walk around my old haunts in St. Lambert, on the south shore. What a lovely little town – it just works, somehow. The trees are mature and reproducing like mad, to the extent that yardwork involves beating back strong saplings on a regular basis. It’s almost as though nature and habitation* have shaken hands and decided they’re comfortable living together. When I was a kid, I used to collect rocks along an abandoned railway line by the golf course. I remember it as a very industrial environment, all steel and gravel and creosote ties. 30 years later (ok, maybe a little more….), nature has moved in and it’s a footpath through a young forest. Amazing. And hopeful.

I arrived home tonight to find that as expected, the Queen of the Night (night-blooming cereus) had finished blooming – a flower for each night that I was away. Sigh. The evidence was four long limp dead flower things hanging off the side of the leaves. Oh well….

My labours in tacking up clear plastic on the walls and floors of the “grow” room (back porch) have paid off. When I walked in to check on my charges, the air was soft and smelled of growing things. With the humidity at 75% tonight, it’s a tropical jungle in there. The orchids, and all the other plants, are loving it. Lots of new growth and a couple of spikes.

Great weather – it’s Indian Summer. I sat in an outdoor cafe in Old Montreal this afternoon, and had a tourtierre (traditional pork pie) and a beer. These warm days are precious — the cold weather will settle in soon. It’s supposed to be nice right through until Sunday.

*“Habitation” is apt in many ways. The town got it’s start in the 1640’s as part of the Longueuil seigneurie. The old and elegant stone “habitant” homes still dot Riverside Drive along the St. Lawrence river.

Action in the grow room

There’s lotsa action in the grow room tonight. One of the four big buds on the Queen of the Night has bloomed — sadly, the other three will bloom tomorrow night while I’m in Montreal, missing it. I made Laird promise that he’d invite his friends over tomorrow and stare at it and make all the impressed noises this occasion deserves. Plus, I bought a new orchid today, at a little flower shop in Bloor West Village. It’s Blc. Alma Kee, a gorgeous yellow with a deep burgundy lip that is lined with gold. It’s a real beauty.

Here’s something else that’s interesting. Remember I wrote a while ago that the Hibisicus Moscheutos blooms became white as the weather got colder outdoors? Well, I brought the giant plant indoors, and in the warmer conditions the blooms are dusted with deep pink. Odd. I’ve read that this plant is hardy to zone 5, which I find very hard to believe — it looks so exotic. I’m afraid to leave the pot outdoors all winter and risk losing it.

To the right is a close-up of the Queen of the Night plant. The blooms open at night and are dead by morning. The scent is intoxicating — a very heavy perfume. To the left is a close-up of the Hibiscus Moscheutos bloom.

Balcony Garden Update

The eggplant and green peppers are doing well in their planters. Now that the serious summer heat and humidity is here, they’re growing quickly. I’m sure they have doubled in size in the last two weeks.

The Queen of the Night plant (epiphyllum oxypetallum) is a weird looking thing. I keep chopping it back whenever it sends up a stick that never seems to stop growing.
Notice the maidenhair fern that is also growing in the pot. They’re volunteers, and testament to the fact that there’s some kind of symbiotic relationship with plants and soil fungus. I have had no luck keeping maidenhair fern alive in pots with ordinary potting soil; the mother plant has died despite all my efforts. The aged bark mixture that the Queen of the Night is growing in seems to provide exactly the right conditions for the spores of the fern to germinate and grow. I found the babies in the pot this past winter, and decided to leave them alone.

Another inhabitant of this plant is some Spanish Moss. It loves the humidity and is continuing to grow just hanging there on one of the “branches” of the plant.

Here’s a pic of one of the two flower buds on the Queen of the Night (the location is shown with a yellow arrow in the larger picture). It’s about an inch long. In the next 4 to 5 weeks it will continue to lengthen, curve up, and then one night in the wee hours, a spectacular fragant flower will pop open. It’s quite an event.

For anyone who’s ever wondered what sweet potatos (or yams — I can’t tell the difference) look like, here you go. I had no idea what to expect. A couple of months ago I had a tuber on the counter that started to bud, so I thought “what the heck”, cut out the eyes, and threw them in one of my big containers. It seems to be a vine. It’ll be interested to watch as it grows — I’ve never seen a sweet potato plant before. I wonder if it’s growing more yummy yams for me underground.