Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Houseplant Update: Another Coleus

Here is another coleus cutting (Solenostemon scutellarioides) that I recently potted up and which so far has been growing quite well:

Interestingly enough, instead of opposing pairs of leaves, this variety has whirls of three leaves each, which gives it a fuller, sturdier overall appearance.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Article Worth a Look

Here is a new article from The New York Times that I found interesting; it reports on efforts by New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation to use locally sourced seeds, especially of native plants, as well as seed collection and seed-related biodiversity preservation efforts more generally:

Seeds for New York: The Lawn Guy

I, for my part, find that there is something very satisfying about collecting seeds. It is a bit like a treasure hunt, really, and holds such promise of future growth...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Wonderful Surprise

A few days ago I got an unexpected package in the mail which turned out to be a belated birthday present from our family friend Maggie. She had ordered me an assortment of six different Tillandsias or air plants from the California-based Tillandsia nursery Rainforest Flora, Inc.; according to the labels attached to each plantlet I am now the owner of the following species:

Tillandsia aeranthos

Tillandsia bulbosa

Tillandsia ionantha

Tillandsia juncea

Tillandsia stricta

Tillandsia tenuifolia

I did not really know how to best install these rootless epiphytes in my window but eventually I ended up tying them to a long wooden dowel bought at the hardwood store which I stuck in between my various potted plants. Hopefully this way they will get plenty of light while also benefiting from the higher humidity caused by the evaporation from the plants below.

My new Tillandsia arrangement

I have never grown any Tillandsias before, so we will see how things go...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Urban Wilderness - Part 3

Here is another instance of visually pleasing wild growth from my daily route to campus, this one spotted in a parking lot at the side of the street.

A climber, this delicate blue-flowered plant is weaving its way through the shrubs at the edge of the parking lot

A close-up of the leaves and flowers

Apparently this is bird vetch (Vicia cracca), a plant originally native to Europe and Asia. It has become an invasive weed in some parts of the country, yet on the other hand it enriches soil by fixing nitrogen - like other leguminous plants - and apparently also makes a good forage crop and can be used to curb erosion.

Sources: Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast by Peter Del Tredici,

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cool Campus Landscaping

Roughly a week ago when work crews began cutting down and ripping up the straggly hawthorns and yew hedges in front of one of the main science buildings on campus I was rather annoyed, assuming that they would be replaced with even more hardscaping or more drab, shoddily planted shrubbery. I was pleasantly surprised, then, when a truckload of large bamboo plants was delivered along with some rather futuristic-looking planters. Installation was completed yesterday and I think the result is quite cool:

A partial view

The new planting and seating area stretch along much of the front of the building

A close-up of one of the planters

I am not sure I like the design of the individual planters but the overall effect I find very appealing. Using raised planters is also a good solution to the problem of containing large, spreading species of bamboo, though I am a bit surprised that they do not seem to be worried about winter hardiness with the bamboo growing in containers rather than in the ground.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

More Coleus

In a post I wrote a few days ago about my new coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) I mentioned that a surviving specimen from my first sowing of coleus over two years ago still grows on a windowsill in my room back home in Michigan. My mom, being the awesome blog-reading and ever-supportive mother that she is, promptly emailed me a current picture of the plant in question:

The little plant with leaves patterned in pink, cream, and green at the bottom must be a chance seedling from a no longer existant neighboring plant. I really love those colors so hopefully it will grow up strong and maybe my new sowing here will yield some more plants within that color range.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Article on Refugee Farming

Here is yet another interesting article from The New York Times, this one not about ornamental gardening but about the growth and positive impact of refugee farming and market gardening in various parts of the US:

When the Uprooted Put Down Roots

Here in this area there are a number of refugee farming programs, some of which even deliver their produce to a farmers' market held on campus on Tuesdays.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Garden Images in the Media - Part 1: Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

One of the things I have recently become quite fascinated with is the portrayal of gardens - and man-made landscapes more generally - in various forms of modern media. Many films, for instance, make conspicuous use of garden settings. Sometimes these are relevant to the film's plot or at least its overall mood, while at other times they seem more coincidental, a mere pretty backdrop that could be exchanged for some other setting without fundamentally altering the work. Actual gardens or cultivated landscapes are often used as locations for shooting scenes but at least as frequent are the artificial creations of set designers. The latter can rarely conceal their artificiality from someone familiar with plants and gardens, yet even so they can occasionally be inspiring, even if they just as often come across as tacky and fake. Since I find this variety very intriguing and would like to gain a better understanding of what media portrayals of gardens might have to say about their larger social and cultural roles - and because winter will all too soon deprive me of interesting "outdoor" material for posts - I am starting a series on garden images from films, music videos, and the like. First up is the Indian historical epic Mughal-e-Azam from 1960, directed by K. Asif and starring Madhubala, Prithviraj Kapoor, and Dilip Kumar. One of the most successful Hindi-language films of all times, it tells the tragic love story between the Mughal prince Salim - the future emperor Jahangir - and the dancing girl Anarkali or "pomegranate blossom." There are a number of garden scenes in the film, most of which accompany romantic musical sequences, the "gardens" in question being exuberant studio recreations of elements taken from Mughal and Rajput gardens and garden images.

I would love input on this - What do you think of these garden images? What movie or other media depictions of gardens, if any, have a struck a chord with you? Do you pay attention to garden or landscapes as they appear in films and other media? Any thoughts are welcome... :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Houseplant Developments

I am growing increasingly fond of coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides), though so far more as a houseplant than for use in garden beds. Up until now I had twice grown batches of these plants from seed. One plant from the first sowing, now almost three years ago, is actually still alive and growing in the window of my room back in Michigan. About two weeks ago I started a new set from seed and the little seedlings are just beginning to form their first true leaves. I used a seed mixture from a different brand this time, so hopefully I will get some different leaf colors that I have not had before; I am really hoping for a pattern with a predominance of clear pink. However, today I also potted up my first coleus specimen grown from a cutting. The cutting in question I found on the street on my way to campus a little over a week ago. It had broken off a specimen that was part of large container planting in front of a bar and was lying on the pavement wilting. I left it there but when the little branch was still there on my return in the evening I decided to take it home and give rooting it a try. After trimming it a bit I put it in a small tea glass filled with water. It took a little over a day to recover from the day it had spent wilting on the sidewalk and then nothing seemed to happen for about a week. Then all of a sudden roots began too develop rapidly and the tips also began to show new growth.

The cutting in its glass

Lots of roots!

All potted up and in its new spot

Apart from the coleus, I am also starting some impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) from seed, and they are about as far as the coleus seedlings, though their germination rate was much lower.

 The seedlings in the upper pot are impatiens, those in the lower coleus

Now I just have to hope that all these young plants will be able to develop properly under the conditions of this new place...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011