Sunday, February 22, 2015

Re-potting With Proper Soil, I Hope

This post is going to be one that is more of a personal plant journal for future me, and presumably less useful for a worldwide web audience. But we'll see, sometimes I find it useful to dig through others' garden journals for bits of information on what does (and doesn't) work.



So it turns out the potting soil Chris brought me, left over from a school project, was about 2 years old. That might explain the fungus that started growing on the surface, and why the soil barely absorbs any water - it's very hydrophobic, when I water my succulents the water beads on the surface. So these probably aren't hallmarks of great soil!

plants in windowsill
I consolidated some of my windowsill plants with fewer succulent ramekins, a larger pot for my Jade [Crassula argentea], and much larger pot for my bamboo [Fargesia rufa 'Green Panda'] - which hopefully grows quickly so I can transplant it outside this Spring.


I went to the store and got some actual succulent soil, and some fresh potting soil. I picked up a larger black plastic pot for my bamboo to give its roots room to grow before the Spring. I could have bought another for my Jade, but I found a glass jar we used to keep a candle in.

potting soilcactus mix

I took the quartz chips from the bonsai tray and repurposed them as a top dressing for my succulents. I used river rocks we had from a candle tray to fill in the drip tray, and also in the bottom of the Jade plant's new glass jar.

bamboo in potting soil
Bamboo re-potted with layer of quartz chips on bottom, 1 inch of succulent mix, and the rest regular potting soil. The original root ball is in peat moss. Hopefully this mix works out!

quartz chips on top of soil
Cryptanthus bivittatus in succulent potting soil with quartz chips on top

quartz chips on top of soil
Baby Kalanchoe thyrsiflora growing on a plucked naked stem, also in succulent mix topped with quartz chips


I put some quartz chips in the bottom of the bamboo pot, and filled the bottom 1 inch or so with succulent mix. I read that bamboo loves loamy organic soil, so I put normal rich potting soil in the top part, but I figured the slightly sandy ratio of the succulent mix toward the bottom might help with drainage - but I kinda just pulled that idea out of my rear end. The soil that came with the bamboo certainly is loamy, and looks like it has a lot of peat moss... hopefully the fresh regular mix is fine for now.

succulent mix on top of bonsai soil
Golden Gate Ficus [Ficus microcarpa]. River rocks from an old candle display now in the bonsai tray, and a thin layer of succulent mix over the top of the bonsai soil. Hopefully this wasn't a major mistake! It looks a lot more attractive because before the perlite exposed on top of the bonsai soil looked like a tray of gravel.

So keeping in mind that the succulent soil is 'fast draining' I put a very thin layer of it just over the top of the bonsai soil because it cleans up the look a great deal. The bonsai pot had an entire layer of perlite on top that looked like gravel. It looked like they had been watering it and maybe all the top soil washed away over time. I'll keep an eye on it and hopefully succulent soil won't hold too much water to make it rot - these things are supposed to love damp soil after all. Instructions say to soak it every third day or so.

succulent leaves arranged in radial pattern
I also gave my succulent propagation babies some proper succulent soil and consolidated them into one ramekin. When I uprooted one of them, I noticed that in addition to little pink roots it had a fairly long white root growing down into the soil as well. I don't know how that compares with where they should be after 7 weeks, but hey!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bamboo by Mail, Fargesia rufa 'Green Panda'

I was looking for a partial shade plant tall enough to hide my air conditioning unit, and I kept hearing great things about 'Green Panda' bamboo [Fargesia rufa 'Green Panda']. In fact, some websites go as far to say this is the ONLY clumping bamboo that is hardy and appropriate in Indiana. Well ok then!

Doing some research, it looks like 'Green Panda' is actually an individual specimen of Fargesia rufa. Not a genetic variety, but a specific plant that is being propagated and sold worldwide for its "exceptional vigor and beauty." So I'm not sure if the one I got is actually the same one trademarked by Jan Oprins of Bamboo Select in Belgium - nevertheless the name 'Green Panda' is being used to market it.



This 'Green Panda' I got on Amazon, sold by Hirt's Gardens. This is my second time getting a plant by mail (See also: Bonsai by Mail, Golden Gate Ficus), and I like to learn about how the plants are packaged and photograph the unboxing.

live plants sticker on package
My bamboo arrived in the mailbox, and unfortunately had to sit outside in 5°F temps until I got home from work!
mail order bamboo in a box
It arrived kinda scrunched over completely packed in foam peanuts

hand warmer for plants
Very clever! It looks like they included a heating pack to try to keep it warm during shipping. Unfortunately when I opened the box the heat pack was frozen solid. Oh well, the bamboo SHOULD be hardy to -15°F so fingers crossed!

Fargesia rufa 'Green Panda'
If it's not really 'Green Panda' they are definitely using the marketing. Who knows, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

green panda bamboo in sink
The soil was frozen solid so I ran it under cold water to thaw. Then I read on Dave's Garden that brown tips means it's over-watered so they must have soaked it right before shipping or had it growing damp the whole time.

young bamboo culms
Bamboo stems are called 'culms' and emerge at their full diameter unlike tree trunks that get wider over time. These currently range in size from thick mechanical pencil lead up to about the size of pen ink cartridges.

bamboo in windowsill
My Green Panda will get bright sun in the morning and ambient light all day. Hopefully I'll be able to stick it in the ground in a few months! If this thing gets 8 feet tall it'll be nice to have baby photos like this since it is currently only 13 inches haha!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Aeonium haworthii or Echeveria pulidonis?

I was in Lowe's just now and saw a succulent that looked just like one of mine that came in a 'various' mixed potting. After hours of scouring the internet for photos trying to identify the succulents, nothing beats seeing another one in the store with a name tag!



This one has little baby shoots coming up the sides even though it is so small, but the leaf shape and texture is unmistakable. Not to mention that it's probably from the same supplier in the same location, my chances of having a match are much better than just surfing the net looking for Google images that look similar. 

Echeveria pulidonis
A name tag really helps when I'm trying to be as pedantic as possible

Ok, so what I thought was Aeonium haworthii all along looks like was really Echeveria pulidonis - a completely different genus. Oh geez, I was way off!

Aeonium haworthii or Echeveria pulidonis
Comparing side by side it's easy to see how I could have been mistaken. Both have bluish green long succulent leaves with pink reddish tips. Photo on the left is mine, photo on the right from GreenMeadowGrowers.com used for comparison.


Echeveria is a genus originating from Central America and Mexico - which makes a lot of sense since the mixed succulent pot I got was made in Mexico. Aeonium, on the other hand, is a genus originating in East Africa.

Now I have to go back and re-label all the posts I had incorrect, luckily there are only 4 of them so far. Ugh!

Baby Succulents with iPhone Macro Lens

Check out these macro photos of my baby succulents. I got up close and personal for super detailed shots using just my iPhone 6 and these inexpensive clip on lenses. The kit comes with a macro lens and two fish eye lenses. They're surprisingly good quality considering how cheap they are!



My Aeonium haworthii Echeveria pulidonis after 6 weeks are still very tiny, but with many more leaves and roots than before. Flashback to Week 3 and Week 4.They're growing quite slow, but filling in a little more and more each day. Most of the roots are pointing toward the soil and might be growing more underneath.

succulent iphone macro lens
A tiny Aeonium haworthii Echeveria pulidonis - 6 weeks old

succulent iphone macro lens
This Aeonium haworthii Echeveria pulidonis baby already has pink tips on the leaves just like the parent plant

jade close up macro iphone photo
A detail I didn't notice before, the tiny red tip to the emerging root on this Crassula argentea

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What ZZ Plant New Growth Looks Like

I gotta say, this ZZ Plant [Zamioculcas zamiifolia] has been a complete joy since I bought it on sale at Lowe's. It looks lush and glossy, and thrives on neglect. The one in my bathroom has already sent up a shoot of new growth, a tiny spear of leaves that unfurls into a new long stem of lighter green leaves.



It starts with a tiny spear head that peaks out of the succulent bulby base. One of these spear heads has been there for a while - it's as if they get set and ready to go but wait for optimal conditions to shoot off, and then once then do there's no going back.

zz plant new stem tip Zamioculcas zamiifolia
Little spear tips wrapped in brown sheaths ready to take off. Once they do it's sort of all or nothing.

zz plant new stem
A new shoot starts, and once it does it really takes off quickly! It explodes with new lighter green growth.

zz plant new growth
This new stem shot straight up in the bathroom with weekly watering and humidity from the shower.
This new stem has 13 leaves compared to 8 on the next longest stem. I bet each new stem gets more and more leaves until before you know it you have a monster house plant.

Crassula argentea 10 Day Propagation Progress

I got this 'Baby Jade' [Crassula argentea] back in January, but it wasn't until 10 days ago that I decided to try making Jade babies through leaf propagation. I pulled off a couple tiny leaves that wouldn't be missed.



Crassula argentea leaves in dirt
Jade succulent plant [Crassula argentea] leaf babies after zero days, February 5, 2015
Crassula argentea 1 week propagation
10 days later, one of my Jade leaves is sprouting a little white root

I have high hopes for the larger Jade leaf that I plucked off, because I used a very careful wiggle method - rocking it back and forth slowly - to make sure I got the entire base of the leaf. Some websites even suggest cutting with a knife a tiny portion of the stem in addition to the leaf to make sure you get the entire regenerative tissue at the base of the leaf.

jade plant exotic angel tagjade plant in coffee mug

The parent plant is doing fine as well, I didn't re-pot it yet but I did hide the brown plastic pot it came in inside a coffee mug I don't use anymore. Of course I'd like to have a nice set of matching white ceramic succulent pots on my windowsill, but for now it's coffee mugs and ramekins.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bonsai by Mail, Golden Gate Ficus

golden gate ficus bonsai
Golden Gate Ficus bonsai tree, mail order from one of those flower gift websites

I got Chris a bonsai tree for Valentine's Day instead of flowers, and it was my first time buying a live plant by mail. I got it from one of those flower gift websites because they are really good about guaranteed delivery on a specific date - but then I actually found this same tree cheaper on Amazon.



It came in a sturdy box and was completely covered in packing peanuts. I guess they were all helping to keep the tree snug during shipping, but wow 2 garbage bags of foam peanuts!


bonsai by mail

packing peanuts on the floor

I'm pleased with the new addition the house (admittedly, it was sort of a gift for both of us). The Golden Gate Ficus [Ficus microcarpa] is known for its gray textured trunk that looks like tiger stripes - it's also known as the Tigerbark Fig. I hear it is great for bonsai beginners because it tolerates being indoors and grows quickly. We'll see! I know how to water but that's about it.

golden gate ficus bonsai trunk
Spotted tiger bark!
tiger bark close up
Spotted tiger bark with a very ancient look. I think this tree is about 6 years old.
golden gate ficus leaves


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Rock Addiction and The One That (Almost) Got Away

One of the benefits of living in a new development surrounded by muddy lots and construction sites is that you get to pick through the "garbage" left behind by builders - including free landscaping boulders and scraps of sod. In fact, I sodded about 2/3 of my backyard with reclaimed scraps from waste piles by the curb - but that's another story.



Today I wanted to close the book on my addiction to landscaping rocks: Huntin', gatherin', rustlin', haulin', and collectin' way more rocks than I need - and the story of my last* rock haul.

collection of landscaping rocks
These are my leftover landscaping boulders, just my 'extra' ones - aka my horde!
 When we moved in the yard was completely bare, it was a dusting of top soil on top of clay with a pear tree in the back (yuck) and no landscaping at all. Looking down the street, the other lots were either empty fields, dirt patches, or homes at various stages of construction. Boulders dotted the side of the road, pushed aside from the construction. That's when it started...

rock in yard through screen
My first rock from the lot next door... it's so cute! I want more!
Not only did I like looking for rocks, I liked collecting them, hauling them in buckets and hording them in my garage. I figured I would get enough to use in my landscaping - free boulders for a feature in the backyard. Did I have enough? I could always use more. I put them in the front yard too.

front walkway with rocksrock accent in landscaping

My collection in the garage was growing, and soon I had enough to build two little retaining walls in the back.

rock collection in garage
Growing collection in my garage. That big one in the middle is now my moss rock in the front! I had to get more... more!

landscaping rockslandscaping rocks

Next I guess you could say I went ALL IN with a truck load of large cobble stones to make a dry riverbed. I can hear the future realtor now... "why did they decide to put a rock pile in the back?" I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, but for now it's my dry riverbed (and it's a hit with my nephews who like to play in the rocks).

backyard rock landscapingbackyard rock landscaping

My peanut shape feature in the back is so big you can see it on Google Earth. It's my own personal wilderness!

rock on dolly
My favorite rock rustlin' tool, the two wheeled dolly. This is the biggest rock I got using this method, and this one now sits in the bottom corner of my yard next to my hardy pampas grass.


So you would think I had enough rocks, right? Well, there was this ONE rock that I hadn't gotten yet. I noticed a kidney bean shape of pink and orange granite poking through the mud. I kept eyeing it every time I drove past. I walked the dog near it on purpose just to go case the scene. I wanted that rock, I had to have it.

rock in mud
Granite peaking through the mud... taunting me, I had to have it!
I took advantage of the 50°F weather and went to check it out at about 12:30am. The ground was pure slop and the rock was about 6 feet off the road, just out of reach to stand on the solid curb. I went home to plan my strategy. I put grocery bags over my shoes planning to sink into the ground when I went for it. I brought a shovel and made my way to the rock.

I felt like a HUGE creep walking around the new section of the development with a spade and a head lamp in the middle of the night. I was hoping that no cars would pass while I was doing the deed, but unfortunately 2 cars went by, probably wondering what the heck I was doing digging away in the middle of the night. The sloppy clay kept sucking the rock back into the ground. I could tell it was a manageable size, but it was suctioned in place. I went for it with both hands and rolled the rock toward the curb. Like a snowball, it gathered a layer of clay all around it as I rolled it.

I went home and got a blanket and my trusty rock rustlin' plastic tub. I wrapped the rock in the blanket and put it in the tub. I had about 100 yards to carry it home, and had to stop 3 times on the way. My guess would be the rock weighed about 100-120 lbs. I put it down on the sidewalk a few houses and and ran back for my dolly to get it home the last bit.

muddy 2 wheel dolly
My trusty rock rustlin' dolly

muddy ring
My wedding ring looks like the one ring from lord of the rings completely covered in a ball of clay. My spade fared worse, completely coated in about 10 lbs of clay from handle to head.

I felt so bizarre, like I had a severed head in a box. Creepiness aside, I was also excited to be in possession of THE rock that I had been eying for literally months.

hauling large rock in tub with blanket
My prize, is it a severed head or a landscaping boulder? I'll have to wait until morning to find out
I woke up like a kid on Christmas morning, excited to clean my rock and see if it was a gem or a lump. The clay was unfathomable!

thick clay on rockthick clay on rock

I used a kitchen spatula to help scrape the clay off the rock, tried running it under water, and ended up using a kitchen scrub brush to help get the clay off under a constant stream of water. Unreal!

cleaning clay off rockcleaning landscaping rock

And what was the result? Did I get a beautiful granite rock like I was hoping for, or a lumpy 'dinosaur egg' as my dad calls the boring rocks. It looks like a winner to me! Great color, interesting shape! I'll take it!

granite with scrub brush
My clean and colorful rock

granite close up
Great color and detail, a lovely pink orange granite

granite landscaping rock
A rather interesting shape, not just another lump of gray. I think I'll turn the dark part down and leave the pink sticking out of the bed I'm putting against the back of my house. I think this rock is more of a feature rock and I'll leave the boring ones for structure. Win!
Are you addicted to landscaping rocks? Does your husband or wife hate them as much as mine (lol)? Do you think I'll be able to call it quits after getting this "one that almost got away?" Leave your comments below and let me know.

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