Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What Lives Beneath - and what does not.

My first season of 'growing things' is nearly complete. One of my goals (hopes, dreams?) is to grow cacti and less common plants for enjoyment, as a hobby and as a potential business to propagate hybrids and specific species for sale. But of course, this takes time and I end up getting attacjed to the plants. So far, I have had mixed success, but there have been lessons learned.

I wish there was a way to further my education in this field as well as finding the 'where' 'what' and a low cost way of dealing with the 'how much' in a botany program. Anyone know of entry level jobs in this field. I have had no success so far in applying at local greehouses and flower shops. Most don't even respond when there is an opening and I wow them with my enthusiasm.

So here is the tally:

January - I planted a 'mixed variety' cactus seed packet, one from Walmart and the other from Home Depot. Same company, same seed packet. I had 37 sprouts at one point, but lost the majority due to giving them 'air' to early, which made them dry out. I used a take out salad container from the Hard Rock Cafe at the Mohegan Sun. The Chef salad was one of the most colorful and delicious I've ever had. I still use the container as it has a clear lid and it makes a good terrarium for sprouting seed. I have another from Quiznos, which is shaped like a triangle.

I've had my best success with these. Although I lost the majority to moisture depletion, the survivors were transplanted into their own pot on April 1. I had 10 at the time. I think I lost a few more as a result of the Great Heatwave. But this is my est success story to date, I have a large Opuntia type cactus (the packet says 'Santa Rita' and 'Card'n' which is about 4 inches tall and will be transplanted into its own pot come Oct. 1. I fed them 'lite' nitrogen food in April and May; 'high octane' (12%) in July and August and will cut back to the lite stuff in Sept and October before they go dormant. In addition, I have two smaller Opuntia like plants and one I judge to be a Saguaro. They lived happily on a table outside during the summer, but next year, I will shelter them when the temperature goes above 95.

At about the same time, I ate a pomergranate with the hope of growing a funky plant. I planted moist seeds with pulp in soil and they never sprouted. Don't know if it was the wrong time of year, not warm enough or too much water, but they developed mold.

In February, I purchased seeds from Seedrack.com. Seedrack specialises in unique plants and what I wanted was an Epiphyllum or Orchid Cactus, which were backordered as well as a mixed variety of cacti seed. I ordered Kona Coffee, Tea, (Camilla Senensis) Coast Redwood, Black Dragon Coleus (Solenostemon), Assorted Lithops and Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea Pungens Glauca).

The Kona Coffee was expected to take the longest, depending on the heat, anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months. I gave up after 2. I attempted to grow Tea once before in Las Vegas and I thought it was because it was too hot. I tried again, and, even after I learned that you need to 'scarify' the seed, it still didn't sprout after 3 weeks, so I gave up. I've always wanted to grow tea, and I might try again still.

I did get 3 coast redwoods to sprout, 2 died for whatever cause and the 3rd died as the result of being out in the heat, but I kept a few seeds just in case, despite the fact there is a poor ratio of sprouts to seed. I replanted the remainder yesterday in the Quiznos container. I tried Venus Fly Trap and they failed to sprout.

The best result has been the Colorado Blue Spruce. I have about 10 'mini trees' which looks like a tiny ski resort and these will be replanted into a larger pot for wintering on the porch. They are supposed to be hardy down to -40 and it certainly doesn't get that cold here.

I got the back-ordered cacti seed from Seedrack and they provide lots of seed for the money (about 200). The CSSA gives 20 seeds typically and less for popular species. I planted them in the salad container and again had about 38 sprouts and I only used about half the allotment. I gave the other half to a couple whose wedding I attended as a wedding present. That lot was sprouted in June and I lost all but 4 unknown variety cacti due to putting them out in the blazing sun (figured they'd like that) when I went away to New York.

I joined the Cactus and Succulent Society of America (CSSA) in the spring and I can get seeds
cheaply, plus you can specific varieties for collectors. The only draw back is the turnaround time to get your seeds can be slow because it is a non-profit organization. At the same time, I joined GardenWeb, where they have tons of forums, of which the one I spend my time in, is the Cacti and Succulent Forum. It is a fantastic way to meet hobbyists, novices and expert alike, from all over the world, and they have a wealth of knowledge to offer. Despite that, I still have been unsuccessful about growing Lithops (Living Stones). I have no idea what happened to the seeds I got from Seedrack.

I really enjoy the periodicals that the CSSA puts out, the Cactus and Succulent Journal (CSJ) and To The Point, the newsletter. The CSJ has great color photographs from which I find my favorites. Add to this, I have bought books from places like Kennedy's Nursery and, well, you get the picture.

I also checked out Mesa Garden. They have tons, but still no Orchid Cacti. And I don't need ulk seed, although at times I wished I did. So I get my seed from the CSSA. Not as many varieties as Mesa Garden, but PLENTY nonetheless.

So, at the end of May, I piicked up Lithops Aucampiae, Dinteri, Fulviceps and Karasmontana. This was my second attempt. My first attempt from Seedrack probably got buried and my guess is that's the reason they never sprouted. The above varieties did sprout, I kept them indoors, watered them before going to the Pemi Bluegrass Festival and when I got back they had simply vanished. DOn't know if they got overwatered, dried up or what. The Pemi Bliegrass Festival was where I had hoped to sell some Black Dragon Coleus, which I didn't plant until July 1, which turned out to be too late, as they had just begun to sprout and were tiny by the time Pemi came upon me.

So, in May, I picked up seeds for Echinopsis Pachanoi (San Pedro Cactus) and Stetsonia Coryne which I placed in their own pot, with a surviving Lithops, (which didn't) and I am happy to report that I now have a few 'babies' of both. Tiny little things.

In June, I sent away for Astrophytum Asterias and a few varieties of Pachypodium (Madagascar Palm) since that was what I was into from the CSJ. They sprouted, but died when I put them out in the sun in late July which they weren't ready. The Asterias survived, but yesterday, my stupid neighbor disturbed the tray and now they are gone. Fortunately, I had some Asteria seed that I didn't plant, so that went in with Coast Redwood and the 4 'unknowns' in the Quznos container.

My 'replacements' came in yesterday, planted today and I freed up the original container for some Adenium Obesum, more San Pedros (not planted), replacement Pacypodium Horombense and Pacypodium Sofiense. I really hope these survive.

When i was in Maine two weeks ago, I decided to try my hand at disgorging seed from a pine cone and they are now in a pot of their own. I am trying to decide if they should spend the winter indoors or out and they haven't even sprouted yet, but we still have two more months of 'growing time'.

I also purchased a Haagiocereus Thurberi, an 11 incher which sits in the garden.

Any new seedlings will end up in the house where they will be monitored. You can plant seed at any time of year, but I'm not sure at what point a 'seedling' turns into an 'adult' that begins to follow normal dormancy cycles.

Livin and Learnin...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Call for good sight seeing stops

Bruce has asked me to accompany him to the Winfield Bluegrass Festival in Winfield, Kansas in early September. We will be driving down. The dates are Sept. 8 to Sept. 20.

What we are looking for is a few good places to stop and sight-see. We tend to like the 'out of the ordinary', like the 'World's Largest Frying Pan' as well as craft fairs and I happen to like things with a ghostly bent.

Our route down will probably be after leaving New England and New York, we will head through Southern Pennsylvania. (We want to hit as many states that we haven't been to before). Then into extreme Western Maryland, West Virginia into Kentucky (we both want to see Kentucky) and head toward Nashville. We will hook up with others there, then head through Arkansas into Kansas.

Not sure of the return trip yet, but probably (we'll have less time) will travel northeast-bound through Ohio and back into Pennsylvania.

Anyone having good sites to stop, prefereably not to far from the main roads would be VERY MUCH appreciated.

The numbers for July:

AZ, DC, FL, GA, IN, IL, MD, MI, NH, (first time, I think) NY, NC, OR, PA, RI, TX and VA.

MA - Arlington, Quincy and Weston
CA - Atascadero, Carlsad, Riverside, San Diego, Seal Beach and Sunnyvale

Foreign: - Hong Kong (2), France (2), Ireland, India (2), Philippines and Portugal.

Welcome ALL.