Striking inflorescence of Bromelia balansae

Striking inflorescence of Bromelia balansae

It just dawned on me that I hadn’t made a blog post lately.  I am sorry about that!   Life sure has a funny way of getting in the way of my best made plans….a whole BUNCH of LIFE going down!   *sigh*

Besides all that–My plants have been entertaining me regularly with unexpected blooms, offshoots/pups emerging & the odd stress-color change happening here and there.  I had been taking pictures, all the while, with both my Nikon camera and my phone.  Still, I didn’t think to transfer any onto my computer.  Maybe because every time I sit down at my computer, I get stuck doing tedious revisions to work projects, answering lengthy e-mails to friends & family, or getting stuck on an always ill-timed Skype call.  Modern life & Technology really ticks me off most days!  Can you tell?

I do recall I promised to share more pics of my fave Bromeliad, Bromelia balansae, as it progressed through its blooming cycle.  I am glad I took pics at the time, because TODAY, it is looking pretty damn sad. 😦  It is at the point where the flowers have all bloomed out, dried up and dropped off.  All it’s scarlet color is gone and it is back to plain ol’ green, and the leaf tips are all drying up.  Soon, the berries will form and color up to a golden-yellow (see Intro page of this blog to see a picture of the fruiting habit of B. balansae).  Well, that is just how it goes.  I’ve got plenty more in the backyard to replace it with, though I will probably just allow the pups to overtake the gradually dying mother plant (as it is a terminal blooming species).

Bromelia balansae in bloom.

Bromelia balansae in bloom.

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I’ve still been having trouble finding local or online sources for other Bromelia species.  When I contact by e-mail or call many nurseries, they think I am asking about BROMELIADS and are like, “Oh YES!  We have many different Bromeliads.”  I am glad at that point they can’t see me make my “Close my eyes, furrow my brow, lift my glasses up on my forehead & rub the bridge of my nose with my thumb and forefinger” gesture!  Usually, this is when I hear the SAME QUESTION asked by over 30 different “Bromeliad Specialty” Nurseries: “Have you tried growing Androlepis, Dyckias, Deuterocohnias, Hechtias, or Puyas?  They are usually much easier to find and MUCH easier to HANDLE—Bromelia species have VERY vicious barbs and because of this, aren’t found very often in cultivation!”  Yeah, Got that—Don’t care.  Please carry more Bromelia species before I go INSANE!!  I MUST HAVE MOOOOOOOORE!  Despite the difficulty in finding them, I was able to obtain a few more species.  Bromelia flemingii (a VERY SMALL offset).  B. macedoi (also on the small side) & B. sp. French Guiana Holst (large offset, but it suffered some shipping stress–I hope it snaps out of it!) These two last plants I was able to buy from Tropiflora Nursery in Sarasota, FL.  I think I actually bought the last 2 offsets they had available.  I’ll take more pix when they have had a chance to grow a bit and settle in.

Clockwise from top to bottom (7 o'clock spot): Neoglaziova variegata & Neoglaziova burle-marxii, Bromelia sp. Fr. Guiana Holst, Agave bracteosa var. "Monterey Frost", Bromelia flemingii pup, & xEnchotia "Ruby"

Clockwise from top to bottom (7 o’clock spot): Neoglaziova variegata & Neoglaziova burle-marxii (temporarily both in same pot) Bromelia sp. Fr. Guiana Holst, Agave bracteosa var. “Monterey Frost”, Bromelia flemingii pup, & xEnchotia “Ruby”

Detail of Neoglaziova variegata (white horizontal banding) & Neoglaziova burle-marxii

Detail of Neoglaziova variegata (white horizontal banding) & Neoglaziova burle-marxii. Purchased from Liz Butler.

Neoglaziova are an odd and small genus of Terrestrial Bromeliad.  I believe there are only 3 identified species of Neoglaziova:  N. variegata, N. concolor & N. burle-marxii.  All have very attractive forms, but are armed with backward facing barbs to help protect them in their native habitat from being eaten by ravenous grazing animals. They are an important part of localized markets in South America where the plants tough leaf fibers are woven into fabrics, used to manufacture fishing nets and rope, as well as coarse woven goods.  These species can be found in various arid regions in north-eastern Brazil.  They form large clumps and at maturity, tall scarlet inflorescences with red petals rise from the center of the tall strap-like olive-drab leaves.

Acanthostachys is another small genus of Terrestrial Broms–Only 2 species!  (Acanthostachys pitcairnioides & Acanthostachys stobilacea).  See now. THESE are the types of plants I want to hear about!  I bought a pup of each and before I knew it, BAM!  I’ve got thriving colonies (or clumps) of the entire genera of Acanthostachys.  🙂  lol   Most Bromeliad genera have HUNDREDS of different species, and a hundred more cultivars and hybrids.  As an addicted collector, it becomes a very unrealistic goal to think I’ll ever have them all in my possession.   Then again–if I win the lottery….  OK, Back to THESE plants:  The leaves are slender & long, dull green to reddish-brown depending on light intensity and are whip-like in appearance, with serrated edges.  These plants are very easy to handle and repot, as the serrated points don’t hurt–unless you slide your hand along its edge…So, don’t do that!  An attractive long-lasting inflorescence develops at maturity (halfway up the leaf-stem in A. strobilacea.  Between the leaf bases in A. pitcairnioides).  These resemble tiny pineapples with orange-red bracts and yellow petals.  The species are self-fertile and when ripe the berries that develop after blooming can be planted for propagation.  Because of its form, Acanthostachys strobilacea is very attractive for hanging pot/basket culture, grown in bright, filtered light.

Acanthostachys strobilicea inflorescence & flower

Acanthostachys strobilicea inflorescence & flower

I am now realizing—if I try to write a paragraph or two for each plant I want to share in this post, I will be up till AT LEAST 3:30AM—it is now 10:30PM!!).  I think what I will do is go ahead & post the photos with captions then add info on them later as I have more time.  See what happens when I wait too long between posts?  Shame on me!!  (More info to come  😉  )

Tillandsia pruniosa in bloom

Tillandsia pruniosa in bloom

Tillandsias are really cool plants—what they don’t have in spines they make up for with their “scales” or trichomes.  Some species are so jam-packed with these tiny scales that they appear to be coated with X-mas time “snow spray”.  Many other bromeliads species have this visible scurf, as well.  Whether growing on rocks, tree hosts, or in the soil, a large majority of bromeliad species live in habitats characterized by at least one, but more commonly by a combination of physical restraints—sunlight is frequently excessive, whereas water and nutrients are in short supply for at least part of the year.  Trichomes are a characteristic universal to all bromeliads equipping them to deal effectively with one or more physical restraints.  Many are just too small on some species to be viewed with the naked eye.  These scales are epidermal appendages, usually hairlike in other plant families, common to many plants, but here on bromeliads are a modified, strange kind of shield-like trichome observed on all bromeliads that despite the differences found among various genera, they can be considered closely enough related to be placed into a single family.

The function of the trichome on the Tillandsias leaf shoots has become more modified as compared to more primitive members of the Bromeliad family with more specialized ones.  In terrestrial bromeliads, water and nutrients are taken into the plants via their root system, so their trichome structures are simple and are mainly located on the underside of leaves around the leaf pores as a protective device against water loss.  In bromelioids (or tank-type water catching tillandsioids) trichomes have become more complex in structural arrangement and they can now absorb water and nutrients.  Atmospheric Tillandsias are even further advanced, or evolved, as to absorb water and nutrients from the air and water vapor such as fog, rainfall and dew.

My Tillandsia pruniosa bloomed for me and I was very excited to have the chance to snap some pics indoors (where he lives) and “posed” outside in a Queen Palm.  T. pruniosa is an epiphyte that grows on trees at elevations from near sea-level to 1,200 meters in Florida, southern Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean islands & in South America from Ecuador into Brazil making it a VERY widely distributed species.  It has come to be known as an “ant plant”, or pseudobulbous myrmecophyte.  Its leaf-sheathes grow curved in such a way as to give the plant an outward appearance of a root-bulb, like a turnip.  It isn’t solid or heavy—and its many-compartmented structure is very attractive to tiny ants as it gives them a ready-made shelter in which to move into!  Ant Condos 😉

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Close-up detail of T. pruniosa flower

Close-up detail of T. pruniosa flower

New Hechtia addition to my collection:  Obtained from Andy Siekkinen, it is a "hybrid from the bees"--a botanical garden seedling labelled Hechtia "Q"

New Hechtia addition to my collection: Obtained from Andy Siekkinen, it is a “hybrid from the bees”–a botanical garden seedling labelled Hechtia “Q”

Lophophora Williamsii ssp Williamsii in bloom

Lophophora Williamsii ssp Williamsii in bloom

Lophophora williamsii (aka: Peyote), has been called The Divine Cactus, Tracks of the Little Deer and Medicine of God by indigenous peoples of the Americas (and called “Dry whiskey” & “Devil’s root” by angry religious leaders.)  It is a small, spineless, dome-shaped cactus with clusters of soft wooly hair that has been used by tribes for thousands of years in curing wide varieties of ailments, as well as ceremoniously celebrated and revered as a sacred herb.  Many have reported that using this cactus lets you hear colors and see sounds.  For many Native Americans, it brings an ability to reach out of their physical lives , to communicate with the Spirits, and to “become complete”.  Lophophora williamsii ssp williamsii is the most potent of all mescaline containing cacti, containing upwards of sixty different alkaloids.  Largely because of its special ability to alter the human state of consciousness, its use was demonized by the Roman Catholic Church when the Inquisition was introduced into Mexico in 1571, and by 1620 it was officially declared that the use of Peyote was the work of the devil (The Spaniards perceived that miraculous powers and communication with God as coming only from the observance of the Mass and from the miracles performed by the saints).  So it became a major goal of Spanish religious leaders to stamp out the use of this “satanic gift”.

Hmm…..its no wonder I believe in Creationism.  It just makes makes more sense.  I do believe in God—I just don’t think that He/She is as much of a buzz-kill as organized religion would have you believe… 

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Lophophora Williamsii var. caespitosa in bloom

Lophophora Williamsii var. caespitosa in bloom

Origin: From South Texas, USA to San Luis Potosi, Saltillo, Huizahe, Coahuila and Tamaulipas, MX.

L. williamsii has many variations in growth pattern and flower color, most likely due to the extreme range in altitude and is further divided typically into two different forms—northern and southern.  The “Southern form” is found from Entronque – Huizache, MX, and L. williamsii “Northern type”, is centered around Saltillo, Coahuila, MX.

They are quite easy to keep growing healthy here in the Desert.  I was advised by my LW source to place them where they will get direct AM sunlight for at least a few hours, then bright indirect light for the remainder of the day.  I was also advised to keep them elevated well above the ground since garden slugs find Peyote irresistible—What is the telltale evidence that they have feasted on the “buttons”?  Fat, passed out slugs on the ground, surrounding your plant!!!   One issue that will kill these arid-loving cacti is overwatering.  I only water them every 15 days. They MUST be protected from rainfall and sprinkler over-spray.  When cooler temps arrive (November, here), Peyote will enter a semi-dormant state, so they need to be wintered indoors near a bright window or be outfitted with overhead florescent bulbs on a timer so they get 6 to 8 hours of light.  By April (here in CA Desert) they can be moved back outside, where they will soon bloom again, announcing that they are “back amongst the living!!”.

I’ve grown quite fond of these curious little plants and because I found a fantastic honest & dependable source for them, I felt compelled to start a mini-collection.  Due to the prohibitive cost of these cacti and legal issues surrounding these guys (which I don’t want to start ranting about!), I will most likely not be purchasing more–at least, not for awhile.  I just wanted to share their images with other plant-loving individuals, so you may see how interesting, beautiful (and rare) they are.

My collection of Lophophora Williamsii plants (also called: Peyote)

My collection of Lophophora Williamsii plants (also called: Peyote)

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In my last blog entry, I posted some pictures & a bit of writing on Cereus Peruvianus (an ornamental NON-mescaline containing night-blooming Cactus).  The two plants pictured below are “The Real Thing”, so to speak.  These are 2 of 3 different Trichocereus species that I am currently growing.  Trichocereus pachanoi (San Pedro) is a very hardy species. It is grows to a height of 5m and will branch at the base froming a small tree, it has up to four small yellow to brown spines on each areole.  Trichocereus peruvianus (Peruvian Torch) has a similar range and habitat to T. pachanoi, although it is also cultivated on the coast of Peru. Unlike T. pachanoi, it has massive vicious brown spines, up to 10cm in length.

San Pedro is commonly used as an ornamental cactus which is still widely available for landscaping from local nurseries, particularly in desert states.  Known to the natives as the sacred Cactus of the four winds. This plant is native to the western slopes of the Andes of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador were it can grow to over 5 meters.  An extremely hardy cactus, it does well in colder climates as it grows in the wild at altitudes of up to 3000 meters.  The alkaloids present, including the majority of mescaline, reside in the first 1 cm of skin. The green chlorophyl containing tissue under the skin appears to be where the majority of the alkaloids accumulate. Old specimens can have beautiful night-blooming flowers to 22 cm across that have a lovely smell, said to smell of ” beach-nut gum “.  This Cactus grows best in mineral rich, well-drained soil containing some organic matter. Enjoys bright, but not full Sun and can tolerate abundant watering, does well indoors in pots. Natural habitat is in soil rich in humus and minerals, adequate rainfall, and maximal exposure to sun and wind. This species is also popular as grafting stock for smaller, slower growing cacti, such as Lophophora williamsii.  I will have to give this a try down the road!

Used traditionally in divination, diagnosis of disease, finding lost or stolen property, and to possess another persons soul.  A form of the original San Pedro religion still survives to this day, around Huacananda, Peru.

Trichocerei are not illegal to grow for horticultral purposes in any state in the US.   However, laws regarding Peyote cactus are VERY confusing and I’ve already stated I’m not going to “go there” in this posting!!  I am growing mine strictly for horticultural purposes, though I am a member of the NAC and am a card-carrying local tribal member—-Just Sayin’…

Note:  THESE plants I DO NOT have growing by the street where Stoners might easily steal them…. 

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"Desert Museum" Palo Verde hybrid in bloom over day-glow Bouganvillea

“Desert Museum” Palo Verde hybrid over our neighbors day-glow Bouganvillea

Taking a minute to post more pics with some words about some of my favorite (and one, NOT so favorite) plants.  Above is a tree that my Partner and I planted 2 years ago (Hmm, could be 3!).  It is a Cercidium x’Desert Museum’, aka: ‘Desert Museum’ Hybrid Palo Verde.  Much easier to prune than the wild Palo Verdes one sees growing roadside here in the Coachella Valley–since it is virtually thornless.  Good news for me, because this fast growing tree needs quite a bit of constant clipping and shaping to keep it from blocking my way into the driveway!  This semi-evergreen, Palo Verde hybrid exhibits qualities found in several other Palo Verde varieties.  It provides ample filtered shade, distinctive rich green trunks and branches that, similar to Palo Brea, stay smooth as they get older.  Crazy abundant brilliant yellow flowers that resemble tiny orchid blooms that appear in spring and intermittently during the summer months.  If you are interested in obtaining one of these beauties to adorn your own yard and you happen to be allergic to bee stings—Beware!  Whilst the tree is in bloom, walking past it to get to our mailbox can be an unnerving  experience, as the entire canopy emits a sub-bass vibrating hum from literally thousands of bees that swarm these trees for pollen. I had a long series of allergy shots (over 3 years worth) for many allergens, including bee venom–I don’t go into anaphylactic shock from 1 or 2 stings, but more than 10 might take me out!!  Yet and still, I love this tree.  I give the bees some space and move slowly near it without making noise when collecting the mail–just in case!

The Bougainvillea in the photo is our neighbors. Bougainvillea are woody, thorny vines that bloom with an explosion of colorful flowerlike bracts nearly all year here in the Desert.  They are South American natives.  Although I think they are very pretty, and I like seeing them jazz up the landscapes around town, when we bought this house we pulled out all of the Bougainvilla on the property (If any of you readers happen to have a swimming pool, you will understand why!)  Not only do they make a HUGE mess in the yard and swimming pool, when we have our front door open with the swamp-cooler on, our neighbors bushes drop tissue-paper-like fallen leaves which blow right into our house under the security screen door.  It breaks apart and disintegrates on contact and stains our light ceramic tile when trying to clean it up.  I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if we had a pool-boy, gardener and housekeeper to deal with all this mess—but we don’t.  WE do all this work, so it is not my favorite plant…Not by a long shot!

Bloom cycle of my Bromelia balansae, thus far...

Bloom cycle of my Bromelia balansae, thus far…

The plant in the multi-photo collage above is my Bromelia balansae offset that I transplanted from a hedge-colony I have growing in the backyard just a few months ago.  This illustrates the start of the bloom cycle for this attractive, yet scary Terrestrial Bromeliad.  This species resembles B. pinguin. However, it does not grow as large and so it is cultivated more often.  This plant was originally given to me by plant nursery owner, Gary Guarino.  He had a nursery on Hyperion in Silverlake, Los Angeles for many years.  I was buying other plants and he asked if I wanted the two pots of it that he had there.  I’ll never forget how he got me to take them home with me: “You want ’em? They’re YOURS—PLEASE get them out of here!!” He exclaimed, “I am so f**king sick of these bastards BITING ME!!” He didn’t recall the name of the plant.  Someone had ordered them years before and never came to claim them.  It wasn’t till a clone of it first bloomed for me at my house in Palm Springs, that I realized the prize that I had.  B. balansae is by far the hardiest, most prolific and regular bloomer of any of my plants.  It is also my favorite Bromeliad.  Probably because it is hard to handle, but it’s wicked-beauty eventually shines through!!  It was Charles Plumier, a French botanist, that named this genus in honor of the Swedish physician & botanist Olf Bromelius (1639-1705).  This fine name rolled off the tongue nicely and also gave rise to the name of the family.  BROMELIACEAE, or in plain English: the bromeliads.  The genus Bromelia consists of approximately 50 species.  With a few exceptions, they are large plants with heavily spined leaves, that grow from 1 or 2 meters long.  In rural areas, some of these species are grown as living fences, since their barbed spines create an impenetrable barrier for humans & even cattle.  Because of this species of Bromelia are not considered suitable for cultivation in the home or even greenhouses.  But, I love them!  So far, I have B. balansae, B. serra and a small pup of B. karatas (He is supposed to eventually get as big as 8 feet tall, ten feet wide!).  I am DESPERATE to find a good clone of Bromelia irwinii.  So, if anyone knows where I can buy one, PLEASE leave me a comment!!!  I’d be forever grateful!!!  🙂 The distribution of Bromelia ranges from throughout Mexico, Central America, South America and the West Indies.

I will follow up with a post once this plants flowers have emerged, as well as when the plum sized yellow edible fruit develop (once the flowers have all bloomed out).

A clone of Bromelia serra Variegata which I purchased from SeaBreeze Nursery in Fort Myers, FL.

A clone of Bromelia serra Variegata which I purchased from SeaBreeze Nursery in Fort Myers, FL.

NIXWICKEDGARDEN....After Dark!!!

NIXWICKEDGARDEN….After Dark!!!

Cereus Peruvianus: Night Blooming Cactus

Cereus Peruvianus: Night Blooming Cactus

Apparently, there is some controversy surrounding the plant pictured above.  Not only does it closely resemble a narcotic drug chemical producing species named Trichocereus Pachanoi.  It also looks like many other cacti species, leading to misidentification and a lot of confusion.  The name printed on the label when I bought the first column of it 9 years ago was Cereus Peruvianus.  It has been called “The Least & Best Known Cactus” as well as Mexican Fence post Cactus (which it isn’t–I have some of those and that one has whitish defined margin edges and it is a “fatter”, greener plant.  Mine is very blue which is the same color as the Trichocereus (which would explain why Stoners keep stealing the plants I have planted by the street!  News Flash, dummies: YOU AREN’T GOING TO GET HIGH SMOKING MY CACTUS!  This is the more common, garden center ornamental plant that grows well, produces big lovely, night-blooming flowers (pollinated by bats) and gives every garden that Touch-of-Southwest flair.  I really love this plant!

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Now, I’d like to introduce a couple of Aloes that aren’t supposed to do well here in the Desert–but I got them anyway!  Aloe plicatilis & Aloe polyphylla.  Both these plants I have wanted for a VERY long time.  I kept getting scared away from buying either one because of the “picky nature” of these particular Aloes.  If it is too hot & humid, they implode.  One is very sensitive to frost.  Both need protection from all day direct sun (most Aloes appreciate at least partial half-day shade—but, these guys are temperamental!)  Both are very expensive to buy as mature specimens.  And, hey! Why shell out a ton of cash if they aren’t going to make it through either the summer or winter?  I decided to experiment and see if I can keep them alive…

My young Aloe plicatilis

My young Aloe plicatilis

Aloe plicatilis is a unique and striking plant, that given time—(lots and lots of time!) grows into a multi-branched tree aloe.  Large  specimens grow up to 5 meters high in advanced maturity. It is considered one of the botanical treasures of South Africa.  The strap-shaped leaves grow in 2 opposing rows, each cluster resembling an open fan (hence the common name: Fan Aloe).  It’s habitat and distribution are  very limited.  A. plicatilis is found only in the western Cape mountains of South Africa.  They grow on steep rocky slopes in well-drained, acid sandy soils.  It grows in high rainfall areas at an altitude from 500-2300 feet.  Although I took the photo of my plant outside, I grow him the bright window of my studio/office–At least for the hot spring/summer.  Maybe in the fall he can spend some time out on the covered patio.  But for now we are already experiencing highs of 109-111°!!   I special ordered this one from Moller’s Garden Center in Palm Desert, CA a few months ago.  I was warned by the manager there that it might not survive here in our extreme heat.  The plant was brought up from a grower in San Diego (a much more mild climate!)  This plant will tolerate light frost only.  Prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures will cause the leaves to blacken and drop off. Although it comes from a area with high rainfall, it doesn’t like to be watered too much in the summer or winter.  Protection from high summer rainfall is very important.  The monsoon humidity coupled with extreme heat we get here in the summer (late July to early Oct.) can also destroy the plants water circulation & storage systems and cause the plicatilis cellular structures to collapse.  These are some reasons for keeping this little guy as a houseplant where it is a comfortable 72-79° inside with the evaporative cooler running!

Aloe polyphylla placed at angle in ceramic bowl

My juvenile Aloe polyphylla placed at angle in ceramic bowl

Aloe polyphylla, aka: Spiral Aloe is another “sensitive-type” succulent.  This high altitude species from Lesotho is one of the most spectacular plants of southern Africa.  You can’t really tell yet because of how young this little guy is.  Look up Spiral Aloe with your search engine and look at some mature plant examples to see what I mean.  It doesn’t seem that this plant is real when you see how cool the spiral structure is!  The plant has to grow to certain size before it begins to spiral clockwise or counter clockwise.  This is so the plant can optimize leaf surface area for sun-exposure.  This plants habitat and distribution is restricted to steep basaltic mountain slopes in Lesotho, at altitudes above 6600 feet.  Moisture from clouds and mist adds to the annual rainfall there which can be over 40 inches!  The plants are often covered under snow in winter.  These plants are very sensitive to warming of their roots.  In their natural habitat during the warmer months their roots are usually bathed in a constant stream of ice-cold water with very little soil to speak of.  I was instructed to plant this Aloe in a shallow ceramic container to prevent saturation at the bottom of a deep pot.  Also, to place the container at at an angle to aid in water drainage.  This polyphylla is planted in a mixture of crushed volcanic rock, perlite, orchid bark, sand and a bit of peat moss & cactus mix. As long as the plant isn’t in humid hot weather, it should be alright.  If it gets too muggy, I will bring him inside.  If he makes it till winter, he can remain outdoors for bright light, but little water.  If it starts raining, I will have to move the plant under the covered patio.  Whew!  It is a lot to try and remember, but I will endeavor to keep this cool, endangered plant alive!

This little plant I have was seed grown in northern California and is approximately 10 years old.  Despite being protected by law, numbers in the wild have declined rapidly in recent years because of unscrupulous collectors who sell the plants to local people and tourists.  Despite the fact that plants dug up from their natural habitat almost never transplant successfully.  They take a very long time to repopulate their numbers.  They don’t flower very often and usually do not offshoot new pups.  The protected status of the plant unfortunately only seems to make it more desirable.  Here’s hoping I can keep one of these groovy plants thriving!  🙂

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Vriesea hybrid flower emmerging.

Vriesea hybrid ‘Christiane’ flower emerging–FINALLY!
Vriesea Cultivar hybrid
Vriesea Cultivar hybrid of V. ‘Viminalis-Rex’ & V. carinata

I have found over the years that some die-hard Bromeliad Enthusiasts are against collecting hybridized plants.  I am not one of those people!  I’ll admit, when I started purchasing Broms, I didn’t even KNOW that quite a few of the plants that caught my eye were actually hybrids.  Even without obtaining these cross-pollinated beauties, it would take DECADES for the average collector to even  come close to owning all of just ONE genera of identified and named Bromeliads.  Not to mention, new species are being discovered and introduced constantly–many don’t even haven’t have proper names yet.  So, obviously, I have no chance of ever being able to purchase all of the Bromeliads I would LIKE to own.  Plus, some collectors I have gotten cool looking plants from haven’t kept detailed information about the origin of some of their hybrid plants lineage & so identifying them correctly is almost impossible.  This, I am coming to realize is OK.  Because many of these plants are for my own growing enjoyment.  So, my new rule for adding a plant to my collection is:  If I REALLY, TRULY dig it—Try to get it!  That goes for any plant–Agave, Aloe, Bromeliad, Cactus,Yucca and so on…

 My Partner has really warmed up to Agaves even though, as a rule, he can’t stand my vicious plants.  He occasionally gets skewered by the larger Agaves in the garden doing yard-work.  Even so, he has been bringing home pups for me of different species lately.  And that is fine by me!  Sadly, he hasn’t really taken a shine to any of my Terrestrial Broms–save for when they start to bloom and the hummingbirds begin swarming around them like gnats!  Even then, he says they are just “OK”.  He won’t go near ANY of them after tangling with my thicket of Bromelia balansae that is growing in a rock garden near our pool.  I will soon be posting some pics of a mature offset from this group that I replanted in our front yard.  The center of the plant started flushing bright scarlet a few days ago–the tell-tale sign that it’s blooming cycle has begun. It is sure to put on a great color show!!  🙂

Dyckia x'Precious Metal' in bloom

Dyckia x’Precious Metal’ throwing up flower stalks

D. x'Precious Metal'

D. x’Precious Metal’ in bloom

The plant pictured above is Dyckia x’Precious Metal’ In mid to late spring unbranched tall wands of dark orange stalks emerge with bright orange flowers. San Marcos Growers received this plant with a group of unnamed Dyckia forsteriana hybrids that were growing in the Santa Barbara garden of the late Jim Prine. They gave the plant the name ‘Precious Metal’ to distinguish it from other D. fosteriana hybrids that they were growing.  I bought this clump of ‘Precious Metal’ from Sunset Nursery in Silverlake, CA (Los Angeles).  I need to start separating some pups from this clump as the plastic pot is starting to split from overcrowding.  One of the benefits of hybridization, is that in many cases the offspring plant ends up being very hardy and also “pups” prolifically (providing many offsets).  Which is good because, in the case of some Bi-generic hybrids, the resulting plants are “mules”—meaning they don’t produce viable seeds to grow new plants from.

Another one of my Dyckia clumps that is currently flowering is this Dyckia Platyphylla (pictured below).  This is a plant I have had for many years.  I have taken pups from this clump over the years and used them in landscaping several properties I have owned.  They spread into large colonies about 4.0 x 6.0 feet across!  I always thought that D. Platyphylla was a species discovered in nature.  I have read that it is the resulting cross of Dyckia marnier-lapostollei and Dyckia brevifolia.  I have always had trouble growing clones of Dyckia marnier-lapostollei as well as D. brevifolia.  But, Dyckia Platyphylla has always been one of my strongest growing Bromeliads.  Another example of a strong hybrid plant!

Dyckia Platyphylla in full bloom

Dyckia Platyphylla in full bloom

Dyckia Platyphylla

Dyckia Platyphylla

I’m planning on posting again soon–more plants are coming into bloom and I’ll snap more pics of them as I see ’em!  I have been quite busy with a new project I’ve got going but I really enjoy sharing posts here.     Happy June, everyone!

Agave americana var. americana

Agave americana var. americana

The Desert is not for everyone.  The same can be said for many of the plants I choose to grow.  This valley is dry, seemingly barren, and hot–very, very HOT!  Not a drop of water falls for months & the wind seems to never tire of tearing through here!   Yet, many people here wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world.  I am among them.  I have many allergies (one of the worst being allergies to molds). Living in this dry climate has helped me tremendously.  Something else I like about living in Desert Hot Springs is the total lack of pretentiousness.  Palm Springs, Palm Desert & Indian Wells are another story entirely!

Bromeliads, back in the day, used to be unkindly referred to as “The Poor Mans Orchids”.   Succulents like Agaves & Aloes were considered bothersome weeds.  Times have changed and with more exposure to these rugged looking plants, comes a better understanding of how beneficial they are and how desirable they can be, given a chance!

Agave attenuata, aka: Foxtail Agave is a spineless variety of "Century Plant"

Agave attenuata, aka: Foxtail Agave is a spineless variety of “Century Plant”

Agaves have been used for centuries by Native Americans. The agave plant, which is the same plant tequila comes from, has many purposes–the flowers can be eaten in salads and the stalks are delicious when roasted. However, it is the sap, or nectar, of the agave that has become popular due its holistic medicinal value.  Aztecs, Anasazi, Hohokam, and the Tohono O’odham, have used the agave for fiber, food, medicine, adult beverages, and building materials for thousands of years. The earliest known use was in the Techuacán Valley of Mexico 10,000 years ago. Agaves have been used by people in southern Arizona for at least 4,000 years both as a wild plant and a cultivated plant.  A Hohokam agave field located in the South Mountain bajada at Awatukee, near Phoenix, has been dated at 700 A.D.!!

Opuntia lasiacanta (aka Prickly Pear Cactus/Nopal Cactus) in bloom

Opuntia lasiacanta (aka Prickly Pear Cactus/Nopal Cactus) in bloom

Opuntia lasiacanta, aka: Prickly Pear Cactus, or as my Grandmother referred to as “Nopales” (Nopal Cactus), is native to the U.S., Mexico & South America.  But it also grows well in many areas of the world including Africa, Australia and in the Mediterranean. In some areas of South Africa & Australia, it has become a notorious weed choking out indigenous vegetation!   The flowering plant pictured above has grown from paddles that my Mother originally obtained from my Grandmothers house when I was a but a small child.  My Mom kept a few paddles from each property she moved to, sometimes just growing slowly in a 12″ clay pot.  When I bought a Duplex in Silverlake (Los Angeles) I took these potted Nopal pads and put them in the ground where, over the years, they grew into large hedges of cactus.  Planted several years ago here in the Desert, they are now large trees, almost 20 feet tall.

Cactus garden in a corner of our yard.  Prickly Pear Cactus on far left towering over all!

Cactus garden in a corner of our yard. Prickly Pear Cactus on far left towering over all!

Detail of Opuntia lasiacanta flower

Detail of Opuntia lasiacanta flower

My Grandma (God rest her soul) got me hooked on a dish she made that she referred to simply as “Nopales”.  It consisted of young paddles of cactus cut into little squares (de-needled & skinned, of course), onions, pan-fried pork, green peppers and Ortega chile peppers.  WOW!  My mouth is watering just recalling the flavors—Who knew you could eat cactus?  A ton of folks, apparently! Many people enjoy eating the prickly pear fruit that form after the plant has flowered and the pears are also juiced into a beneficial drink that has anti-inflammatory & pain relieving properties.  I’ve never tried it…Yet.  The sap from the cactus pads can also be used in First Aid, similar to the Aloe Vera plant, for burns and cuts.  Ground or pureed young pads are used as a laxative & also as a remedy for Diabetes.

Echinocactus grusonii, commonly called Golden Barrel Cactus

Echinocactus grusonii, commonly called Golden Barrel Cactus

Echinocactus grusonii is a well known species of cactus native to central Mexico from San Luis Potosi to Hidalgo. It is popularly known as the Golden Barrel Cactus, Golden Ball or, amusingly, Mother-in-Law’s Cushion. It belongs to the small genus Echinocactus, which together with the related genus Ferocactus, are commonly referred to as barrel cacti.

Despite being one of the most popular cacti in cultivation, it is rare and critically endangered in the wild.

Close-up Detail of Hechtia scariosa

Close-up Detail of Hechtia scariosa

Hechtia scariosa, synonym H. texensis is the only terrestrial bromeliad native to the US, namely Texas, and also into Mexico. It has narrow leaves with nasty spines. The leaves are usually green with a silver overlay but can turn red in full sun. Grows rosettes to about 18″ in diameter and clusters into large thickets when planted in the ground.

Hechtia scariosa in bloom

Hechtia scariosa in bloom

Fouquieria splendens, aka: Ocotillo

Fouquieria splendens, aka: Ocotillo

Fouquieria splendens (commonly known as ocotillo, but also referred to as coachwhip, candlewood, desert coral, or Jacob’s Staff) is a plant indigenous to the Sonoran Desert in Southwestern United States and northern Mexico

Ocotillo is not a true cactus but is in the family called Fouquieriaceae.  It blooms usually from early Spring through late Summer.  Although, here in Desert Hot Springs it may bloom in the Winter months during warm spells or after heavy rainfall if the weather is mild enough.

Ocotillo in full springtime bloom

Ocotillo in full springtime bloom

I’ll be back with more posts, soon.  I am having some trouble keeping my connection to the server—Will try again in the next few days.  Have a GREAT WEEK!!!  😉

A colorful corner of the garden: Succulents, Aloes, Bromeliads & Mexican petunias

A colorful corner of the garden: Succulents, Aloes, Bromeliads & Mexican petunia

I meant to post some more pix sooner, but as soon as I had a couple of photos to post—BAM!!!  Some other unassuming little plant would erupt with color & cause me to get all snap-happy with my camera.  I was contemplating the comments from some of you folks from the UK and other cooler regions regarding my last posted pictures.  I envy YOU good people, living in climates where you can grow MANY beautiful perennial flowers and colorful foliage plants!  I guess the brutal, sweltering Summer heat we have here, takes the place of the harsh, sub-zero frozen months you experience there.  So, I lost a handful of plants this last winter.  But that was the worst of it.  By May, we will be well into the Hundreds and flirting with 120° by the middle of June.  Unless we have another wet, monsoon summer like we did last Summer, it will be very dry—Making life for my Tropical Bromeliads very tough.  The Terrestrials Broms, however, will be in HEAVEN!  The few exceptions are some of my Puyas from higher elevations in Peru & Bolivia and some of the fussier Dyckias from Brazil.  The Cacti take the heat in stride since most of the species I have are native to this area.  Some of the Aloes and Agaves will need a little more water that usual during May-August.

Succulent flowers--not sure of the species!

Succulent flowers–not sure of the species! Sorry…

I have been asked “Why Bromeliads?–Why aren’t you more into Cacti?”  First off:  I ADORE CACTI!!  Anyone who grows them in any number knows they aren’t the “friendliest” plants around!  The easiest way to grow these prickly fellows is to plant them & LEAVE them alone!!  I can’t tell you how many gardening gloves I have ruined by getting tiny spines imbedded into the leather making it absolute torture trying to use them ever again.  When I have some more land I can spread out in, I would love to have an entire Cacti/Rock garden path.  The few I have collected are either from my Grandmothers old house, or brought originally from my old property in Los Angeles (Silverlake).  My BF also gave me a few.  As harsh looking as some of my Terrestrial Bromeliads look, they are still easier to handle and move around than Cacti!

"Beavertail Cactus"  Opuntia basilaris in bloom

“Beavertail Cactus” Opuntia basilaris in bloom

This little Cactus pictured above, is local to this part of the Desert.  I found one little “Paddle” on a walking path at the base of San Jacinto on a hike above Palm Springs.  Either the wind or another hiker had knocked it off of the main plant.  I knew the little piece of Cactus would be trampled if I didn’t move it—well, by the time I tried to pick it up I had already imbedded spines into my hand, so I figured I would just stick it in a sandwich baggy in my Camelback pack and take it home and pot it (since I had always admired this cool little plant).  It took FOREVER before it looked like it was growing any.  This is the first time it has flowered for me!  I’ve had it for almost 7 years now.  I guess it likes living in Desert Hot Springs. 😉

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Succulents:  I don’t know many of their names.  I like them a lot, but haven’t had much luck with them in the past.  There are a few that were at my property in LA that seemed pretty hardy.  I have been able to keep little colonies of them growing for almost 15 years now.  I also just started buying books on Succulents so I can learn more about their requirements and culture.  One type I have had HORRIBLE LUCK with are the “Hen & Chicks” varieties.  Every time I buy one it gets burnt, rots or dries up.  Any pointers anyone can give me about these plants would be VERY WELCOMED!  Perhaps this is just the wrong kind of climate for them?  Who knows…

Hechtia glomerata showing off it's "Stress Colors"

Hechtia glomerata showing off its “Stress Colors”

So, for now, “I Go With What I Know!”  Growing the plants I have had the best luck with.  Terrestrial Bromeliads, Agaves & Aloes.  I really appreciate all the great comments from visitors.  If you would like to suggest some plants you think I would enjoy growing, Please let me know their names & I will try to pick them up!


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Mammillaria Cactus blooming

Mammillaria Cactus blooming

So the last cold snap that came through this area a couple of weeks ago, is now a distant memory.  At least for those of us here in the So Cal Desert.  Unfortunately, much of the East Coast and Northern Mid-west is still dealing with frigid winter weather—My heart goes out to you folks.  Spring has sprung here in Desert Hot Springs.  The sun has lifted my spirits and gotten me out of my funk & out in the yard to enjoy the warmer temps and see blooms popping out on just about everything!  My Partner has built planter boxes and put in new irrigation and planted vegetables, herbs, watermelon & strawberries.  He also bought a bunch of colorful flowers and put them in terra cotta bowls and big pots lining the stairs in the backyard.  We also got all the dead overgrowth under palms and shrubs pulled out and put out new gravel to clean up the overall look of the yard.  I hope we will at least have a few weeks of these ideal temperatures before we are hit will full-force Desert Summer heat!!!  As much as I love the high & dry heat here, it is nice to have an “ease-in” period before the swamp cooler has to be run all day and night and the sidewalk sizzles like a greasy-spoon diner griddle.  This warmer weather has also signaled the return of house-guests that want to come out here to visit us from Los Angeles (The temps in LA are right around 62-70° right now, while it is around 86° here).  I sent our last guest home with an Agave and an Aloe vera.  Last time he was here I gave him an Agave bracteosa, a variegated Century plant as well as a Albo-marginated Agave.  We have SO MANY to spare, it is kind of ridiculous.  I am glad I can share my plant-passion with some of my friends.  This time of year brings me out of my shell and encourages me to be social, generous and more loving.  It always amuses me come Springtime how grumpy and “Scroogy” I was at Christmas-time for all the parties and gatherings going on—That all happens AT THE WRONG TIME OF YEAR!!!  Who wants to drive 3 hours in the pouring rain, fog or sit miserable overnight in some crowded, dank Air Terminal when your flight to Grandmas house is cancelled??!!  I guess that is why I always enjoyed Christmas much more when I lived in Hawaii.  Nothing is better than hanging lights on your palm trees when it is 85° out and you are waiting for Santa to show up on his 11 foot Long-board!!!

Warm, nurturing and shining bright!  That is how I feel this afternoon.  It is 87° right now with Humidity at 6%—I wish the same for all of you!  🙂

Aloe hybrids in bloom

Aloe hybrids in bloom

Inflorescence of Hechtia lyman-smithii

Inflorescence of Hechtia lyman-smithii

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Aechmea that my BF brought home for me from Home Depot!

Everything outdoors is blooming, the birds are singing and everything is just lovely.  Then my Partner had a sit-down discussion with me about how my plant collecting is bordering on madness.  I reluctantly agreed to slow way down on buying new plants online.  Then, what does he go & do?  He brings home some more plants for me that he saw at Home Depot!  Hmmmm…..How EXACTLY does this help my Plant-problem any?  It doesn’t, frankly, but I don’t care because I LOVES ME SOME BROMELIADS!    The Aechmea hybrid ‘Del Mar’ is a plant that I have admired for quite some time.  It is a patented hybrid by Bullis Bromeliads.  It is supposed to be a dwarf variant of their much larger Aechmea hybrid, “Blue Tango”.  Now, I have seen ‘Del Mar’s before and they are supposed to be small plants.  This is NOT a small plant!  This is quite large for an indoor houseplant, so after it blooms out I will be moving it outdoors under the Queen palms with my other tank-type Broms to produce hopefully a few pups.  The other plant he got for me was a little Vriesea hybrid that he was tripping out on since he had only seen paddle-type inflorescences coming out of Tillandsias (such as Tillandsia cyanea).  So he brought it home to show me.  I had one of these a few years back.  The paddle is so bright and glabrous that it looks artificial or lacquered.  After it blooms out, though, it is a really plain little plant.  I will endeavor to keep it alive with my other houseplants, though!

Vriesea hybrid from Home Depot

Vriesea hybrid from Home Depot

I took many pictures this week and I want to get some of them posted here in a few more posts.  I don’t like to go too long between posting here to my Blog because then I tend to over think and second guess myself as far as topics, titles and subjects.  Bottom line is:  I like to share my plants with folks!   More to come….   😉

A variegated & spineless cultivar of Ananas comosus called 'Ivory Coast' (Ornamental Pineapple plant)

A variegated & spineless cultivar of Ananas comosus called ‘Ivory Coast’ (Ornamental Pineapple plant)

Tillandsia prodigiosa

Tillandsia prodigiosa

Tillandsia parryi & mini-Neoregelias

Tillandsia parryi & mini-Neoregelias

Neoregelia x'Hannibal Lector'

Neoregelia x’Hannibal Lector’

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Hummingbird resting on Aloe Dichtoma (Quiver Tree)

OK, Yes, the blog title is a Yazoo reference (I’m a huge Vince Clark/Alison Moyet fan!)  I kept thinking about this song because of the crazy cold winter we are having (NOTHING compared to the rest of the country, but yet & still, cold for US).  It has been awhile since I last made an entry.  For the most part this is because I was doing damage control after freezing temps jacked up some of my fave Broms.  I’ve been removing them from their planting media and pots, washing them well. letting them dry out a bit, then treating with SuperThrive & repotting them.  A few seem to be perking up.  Sadly, I lost 5 plants to the cores freezing and rotting out.  An Aechmea ‘Greg’ was among them.  I’m bummed!  A. Greg is a Aechmea chantinii hybrid that has amazing leaf coloring & the inflorescence when blooming is one of the most showy of the Aechmea hybrids, in my opinion.  I guess it is the yellow & salmon emerging from the purple/burgundy & olive green that really does it for me…

Aechmea mother plant of my offset that perished

Aechmea ‘Greg’ mother plant of my offset that perished

If I had more suitable plant-space in the house, I would have brought all the plants indoors.  I did put most of the frost sensitive plants under our back covered patio for protection.  The cold wind was something I didn’t factor into the equation.  Everything just got chill-blasted from what seemed like every direction!  I was afraid some of the “Tank-Broms” were going to have problems in the winter months—One reason I haven’t obtained more of these species.  They are so attractive and that makes me want to buy them, but when I lose even one of them, it fills me with sadness & regret.  The way our house was designed and constructed for energy efficiency here in the Desert, there aren’t many windows to provide bright sunlight for these sun-loving Bromeliads.  What few windows we have, are already home to species I keep inside year-round.  (The next house we get, I am going to insist on a conservatory or a sunroom!<LOL>)  The climate in our house is much more hospitable to tropical Bromeliads, unfortunately, space is limited.

Ananas comosus 'Variegatus' in its spot by my living-room French doors

Ananas comosus ‘Variegatus’ in its spot by my living-room French doors

In my last post (My Birthday in the Rainforest)  I stated I would post pictures of the plants I purchased at RFI.  Here are photos of them below…

T. straminea sitting on a piece of driftwood I found in the garage

T. straminea sitting on a piece of driftwood I found in the garage

Tillandsia straminea in his spot in my bathroom among his cousins

Tillandsia straminea in his spot in my bathroom among his cousins

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Vriesea philippo-coburgii

Example of Vriesea philippo-coburgii bloom-stalk

Example of Vriesea philippo-coburgii bloom-stalk

V. philippo-coburgii and Neoregelia hybrid in front window

V. philippo-coburgii and Neoregelia in front window

Tillandsia x'Creation': hybrid of T. Cyanea & T. platyrhachis. Bought from RFI

Tillandsia x’Creation’: hybrid of T. Cyanea & T. platyrhachis

Tillandsia 'Creation'

Maroon foliage detail of Tillandsia ‘Creation’

T. 'Creation' in bloom

T. ‘Creation’ in bloom

As sad as it is to lose plants to bad weather….Life does go on—and so I keep collecting plants like a Mad Man!  As much grief as my Partner gives me about being a plant hoarder,  He hasn’t really helped my addiction any.  Here’s a plant that he picked up for me at a garden center for me for Valentines Day!!  I tried to identify it with a name (could not)—Best as I can tell, it is some form of spineless Neoregelia hybrid.  It sure it pretty though!

Neoregelia hybrid that my Partner gave me for Valentines Day!

Neoregelia hybrid that my Partner gave me for Valentines Day!

He also brought home an Orchid which is really beautiful.  I cautioned him that HE is to be responsible for it as I have a ‘black thumb’ when it comes to growing Orchids (which is really unfortunate, because I meet so many Orchid collectors who want to trade plants with me!  There is usually zero humidity here in the Desert which makes it oh-so-difficult for me to successfully keep them happy.  Excuses, excuses…I know, because SOME HOW folks manage to grow them in Palm Springs quite well!  *sigh*….)

Of course, I’ve got some new editions out in the backyard as well.  Most are Hechtias with the odd Dyckia & Puya here and there.  I have (just) A FEW more en route as I am writing this.  I will endeavor to show them after they have arrived—along with the others I haven’t posted in this thread.  Some that I bought from an online retailer look a bit stressed from their shipping journey.  I wanted to treat them with Superthrive and see if they pretty up.  This isn’t growth season for Bromeliads and I hesitate to fertilize ANY Terrestrial Brom in February for fear of burning.  Perhaps, some of these guys just need some time to acclimate.

The majority of the new spiny fellows pictured below I have obtained from Andy Siekkinen (Seller sda128 on ebay) & Liz Butler (Seller redfinkelstein on ebay).  They are both located in the San Diego area & the growing climate there is milder in summer as well as winter than here in the Desert.  Plants I buy from both sellers always arrive healthy and in great shape after shipping.  I can’t say enough good things about either and highly recommend them both as terrific sources for Terrestrial Bromeliads.  I know Andy was President of The San Diego Bromeliad Society for quite a few terms and is owner of Eagle Eye Adventures: Botanically themed tours & Botanical education & exploration (www.eagle-eye-adventures.com).  Liz Butler is proprietor of Cycad Mania and has been collecting for quite some time.  If you are interested in finding out more detailed information about the Terrestrial Bromeliads pictured below, I recommend checking out XericWorld.com.  It’s a forum site dedicated to growers, collectors, enthusiasts and admirers alike of Succulents, Cacti, Agave, Aloe as well as Bromeliads.  I checked out threads there long before actually becoming a member.  I’ve been finding some really useful information there as well as meeting cool like-minded gardeners.  I would like to become more knowledgeable about other succulent plant species, Cacti, palms & Cycads.  Xeric World Forums is a GREAT place to start learning & interacting!! 😉

Hechtia 'X1' Andy Siekkinen hybrid (H. texensis x H. stenopetala)

Hechtia ‘X1’ Andy Siekkinen hybrid (H. texensis x H. stenopetala)

Hechtia argentea

Hechtia argentea

Hechtia 'Bakers Beauty'

Hechtia ‘Bakers Beauty’

Hechtia glomerata RA clone

Hechtia glomerata RA clone

Hechtia scariosa (left) and Hechtia sp. collected by Dorothy Byer (aka: "H. NOT-arentea")

Hechtia scariosa (left) and Hechtia sp. collected by Dorothy Byer (aka: “H. NOT-argentea”)

Hechtia marnier-lapostollet

Hechtia marnier-lapostollei

Hechtia lyman-smithii starting to bloom

Hechtia lyman-smithii starting to bloom

Puya collected in north Huaraz, Peru by Kelly Griffin

Puya collected in north Huaraz, Peru by Kelly Griffin

Orthophytum sp. purchased from redfinkelstein

Orthophytum sp. purchased from redfinkelstein

Bromeliads for sale in RFI's greenhouse

Bromeliads for sale in RFI’s greenhouse

So, I had a choice of going anywhere I wanted for my birthday (which was this last Wednesday). “What would you like to do/Where would you like to go to celebrate your B-Day?”, my Partner asked.  A few years ago I probably would have said Magic Mountain or Disneyland.  This year, all I wanted was to visit Rainforest Flora Inc. Nursery in Torrance, CA.  Last summer I purchased a book, Tillandsia II by Paul T. Isley III (the founder of RFI).  Paul served on the Board of Directors for the Bromeliad Society International for seven years and formed Rainforest Flora Inc. in 1976.  He really knows his Tillandsias and the passion he has for these plants is evident in the detailed descriptions and wonderful plant portraits in his book.  I had visited the nursery  around 11 years ago and was very excited to go back, see how much had changed, pick out a few plants to buy as birthday gifts & to ask Paul to sign my copy of Tillandsia II (which he was kind enough to do!).  🙂   Another thing that was really nice:  We called ahead to see if we could bring along our little dog, Sweetie (a Chi-Spaniel mix).  They said, “No problem!”  She enjoyed looking at the fish…

Super-sized Koi in the greenhouse water feature

Super-sized Koi in the greenhouse water feature

Rainforest Flora Inc. signage

Rainforest Flora Inc.'s pond in parking area

Rainforest Flora Inc.’s pond in parking area

Besides being the largest grower and distributor of Tillandsia, RFI is also the only nursery of any size that produces 100% of its inventory.  This is a good practice because so many natural habitats of these plants are being wiped out by Collectors and Retailers alike.  Of course, many Tillandsia in the wild are threatened by deforestation, encroachment of farming, road construction as well as ritual religious practices in Mexico, Central America and South America.  Many mature plants are ripped out of trees and off of cliff faces just to have their colorful inflorescences removed to be woven into elaborate decorative offerings in Nativities as well as arches placed in front of churches and shrines.  These unfortunate stripped plants are then simply thrown away or burned as trash, given no chance to further propagate themselves.  Some species are so threatened it is nearly impossible to find them in areas where they had thrived for centuries.  It’s just a shame!  Anyways.…I’ll get off my soap-box now!  Besides Tillandsias, RFI also sells other Bromeliad genera, Staghorn ferns, Palms & Cycads and Aloes of all kinds.  They have also introduced many beautiful Tillandsia hybrids to the marketplace.

Pond area inside Rainforest Flora Inc.'s greenhouse

Pond area inside Rainforest Flora Inc.’s greenhouse

Huge Tree Aloe in RFI parking area

Huge Tree Aloe in RFI parking area

WOW!  Gotta love these COLORS!

WOW! Gotta love these COLORS!

Alcantera imperialis in bloom
Alcantera imperialis in bloom

Retail area of RFI greenhouse

Retail area of RFI greenhouse 

Tillandsia colonies overhead in greenhouse

Tillandsia colonies overhead in greenhouse

"Mega-Cycad"!!!

“Mega-Cycad”!!!

I wish I could LIVE HERE!

I wish I could LIVE HERE!

Tillandsia straminea GALORE!!!

Tillandsia straminea GALORE!!!

It took what seemed like forever to drive to Torrance from Desert Hot Springs. But, for me, it was TOTALLY worth it!  I bought 4 plants I have been wanting for a really long time: Tillandsia ‘Creation’ (a fantastic hybrid of T. cyanea & T. platyrhachis), Tillandsia duratii, Tillandsia straminea, and Vriesea philippo-coburgii. I’ll post some pics of the plants I got here in a later post.

I see that my pictures don’t do this place justice.  It is just so mind-boggling looking up at the various clump colonies of Tillandsia and the huge Staghorn Ferns on the walls. I have no idea how old some of these plants must be.  So Cool…   I wish there was a place like RFI closer to the Palm Springs area. It is my dream to someday have a nursery of my own out here that specializes in Terrestrial Bromeliads and possibly the drought-tolerant arid species of Tillandsia and Landscape size tank Broms.  There are Succulent and Cacti nurseries, but no one is doing the Broms.  My Partner and I are currently looking into purchasing at least a 5 acre plot in the Sky Valley area.  Gotta start somewhere, right?!

Well, it was a GREAT BIRTHDAY and I hope you readers enjoy the post.  PEACE!

A very unusual Cycad

A very unusual Cycad

I could have stayed here all day.....*sigh*

I could have stayed here all day…..*sigh*

Wrap them all up--I'LL TAKE 'EM!!!

Wrap them all up–I’LL TAKE ‘EM!!!

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First off: HAPPY NEW YEAR!  I meant to post a blog entry sooner, but I have actually been down with some-kind-of-sickness FOR DAYS–weeks, really!  I got a Flu-shot my doctor’s office on November 2nd…That is what started it off, I think.  I was sick most of November, was OK for a couple of weeks–then sick again a week or so before X-Mas, fine for X-Mas, then SICK AS A DYING DOG the day after. Needless to say, New Year’s Eve was spent bundled up in bed coughing and sneezing. Barely feeling better today—My birthday is tomorrow (YAY!) Not really, yay—No merry-making for me! I can’t afford to get sick again!!! 😦

I was browsing through plant-forums today and read some very saddening news.  Dutch Vandervort passed away in December.  He was a very nice man and a major Plant Aficinado.  I bought many Terrestrial Bromeliads from him when he had his Greenhouses near Ventura, Ca.  I had just gotten an e-mail from him November 7th about a plant I bought from him many years ago that I was trying to I.D.  We had last spoken about trading some pups from our plants with each other…. What a bummer!  He was always so helpful and would help anyone he could especially with questions about Bromeliads.  At least I have many beautiful plant colonies from him that continue to amaze me everyday with their unique characteristics and wicked allure.  Rest In Peace, Dutch! You will be greatly missed…

Well, this great “Plant Guru”, Dutch, introduced me to Deuterocohnia.  Currently recognized in the subfamily Pitcairnioideae. Named in honor of German botanist and bacteriologist Ferdinand Julius Cohn (1828-1898). There was already a genus Cohnia, so the Greek prefix deuterios, second, was placed in front to form a new generic name.

I don’t have many of these beauties, mostly because they are rather hard to find (& hard to find AFFORDABLY!)  If I remember correctly, there are just 18 species of Deuterocohnia and just a few recognized hybrid Cultivars.  I try to pick them up whenever I find one online that I don’t have.  If they are priced very well—I’ll even purchase doubles. They grow fairly slowly and since I would like to have plants available to trade with other collectors in the future, it doesn’t hurt to have many healthy clones.  I would like to eventually have all the different species of Deuterocohnia.  Heck, by THAT time there will probably be a whole slew of newly discovered species.  Like I mentioned before: Trying to get them all gives me a reason to get up in the morning!<LOL>

My favorite Deuterocohnia that I own is Deuterocohnia meziana.  A medium-sized rosette plant but has a very tall yellow, orange or red inflorescence when blooming.  One unique and unusual characteristic of this plant, is the lofty inflorescence keeps flowering from the same stem for a period of 5-7 YEARS!!! (That is a welcomed trait considering so many Bromeliads die off after they bloom and one has to re-pot the mother-plants pups to continue to propagate the plant).  Deuterocohnia meziana is native to Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, where it grows in the deserts, steep talus, crevices, barren lands or over huge rocks, heated by the torrid tropical sun.DSCN1984

Another Deuterocohnia that looks very similar to D. meziana is, Deuterocohnia longipetala.  This plant widely distributed from Peru, Chile and Argentina.  It is also a drought-resistant plant, growing in the lonely deserts on bluff escarpments, in rocky briery spots or barren lands.  It’s blooming period is of “long duration” but not nearly as extreme as D. meziana!   Another stunning desert Bromeliad is Deuterocohnia chrysantha. This plant is native to northern Chile, where it grows in extremely dry areas and in some places obtains much of its water from coastal fog.  It forms clusters of rosettes usually among rocks. The leave margins are heavily armed and can turn a bright pinkish red when stressed.

Deuterocohnia chrysantha

Deuterocohnia chrysantha

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Deuterocohnia lorentziana

Deuterocohnia lorentziana

Deuterocohnia lorentziana is from Cuesta de la Chilca, Catamarca, Argentina.  It’s been called Abromeitiella for years but is actually a dwarf Deuterocohnia with short spikey armed leaves that forms tall trunks as it grows.  I’ve had this little guy for quite a few years and it blooms tiny single greenish-yellow flowers.  Another dwarf Deuterocohnia that I have is Deuterocohnia lotteae.  This one is from Southern Bolivia. it grows into little mound-like colonies that look not unlike large green pin-cushions.  This one has dark-orange red flowers with lime green petal tips.  This plant was hard to find and I was lucky enough to acquire it from Andy Siekkinen (President of the Bromeliad Society San Diego).  He listed several plants on eBay and I may have also bought one or two—ALL RIGHT, MORE THAN A COUPLE, OKAY!!!   I know, I know…I have a PROBLEM!! 😦

Deuterocohnia lotteae

Deuterocohnia lotteae

The last plant I wanted to add here is a Bigeneric hybrid of seed parent: Dyckia macedoi and pollen parent: Deuterocohnia meziana.  The registered name of the plant is xDyckcohnia ‘Conrad Morton’.  Hybridized by Paul Hutchinson.  One of the cool things about this plant is that it has the blooming characteristic of Deuterocohnia meziana, in that once the plant enters its bloom cycle, it continues to grow new inflorescence bracts off the side of the first dried bract on the same bloom stalk!!  I have heard this going on for 3-5 cycles.  Amazing!  As someone who loves when my Dyckia and Aloes bloom, but all-to-soon am disappointed when the bloom cycle is over—the anticipation of seeing this guy bloom for months on end is just WAY too exciting an idea. Especially since we have so many varieties of Hummingbirds here in the Desert!  What a treat—I’ll try to get some pics of them feeding from it when it starts blooming!  😉

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Realizing this post is WAAAAAAAAY off topic of my usual blog posts, I wanted to share with folks our Christmas lights and decorations (I should say my Partners handywork—he put up all the trees and lights!  Luckily, I get to enjoy it & thought I should post pics as well as some memories that this decor drudged up in me, here.)  I must confess, I saw another WordPress bloggers holiday post and that inspired me to share all the hard work my Ol’ Man did this year!<LOL>

“Mele Kalikimaka Ia ‘Oe” was my favorite Christmas song when I was a little kid growing up on the Island of Oahu.  To this day, listening to this song on vinyl (Hawaiian Christmas, published by Tradewinds-Records. Noelani Kanoho Mahoe w/ the Leo Nahenahe Singers) brings back magical memories of a carefree childhood in paradise.  My Mom always made Christmas so special & wondrous for me! (My Dad had been married 3 times before marrying my Mom, and had 3 sons from his previous wives.)  But parenthood was new for my Mama and she decked the halls every year for us and always made Christmas, New Years & my birthday (which followed a week after January 1st) very special events to remember forever!  Plus, it was the early 1970’s, a simpler time–which now seems like several lifetimes ago!  Filled with joyous, monumental moments that seemed then, would last forever.  Sadly, they could not.  We moved to the Mainland, innocence fell away and all too soon things became terribly frightening living anew in territory so unfamiliar to me.  I eventually made allies, and thankfully, good friends that helped make life bearable for me in the San Joaquin Valley.

Life for me, here and now in the Southern California Desert is just wonderful in so many ways.  A slower pace of life from Los Angeles (where I ran to escape the painful memories of Fresno!), no more pointless nightclubbing and dreadful dinner invitations from social-climbing fake friends (“Fr-enemies”: Friend/Enemy), which frees up time to enjoy my passions and hobbies. On top of all that, a fantastic Special Someone, and beloved Fauna & Flora.  I am so grateful and blessed & I shall endeavor to never take ANY of it for granted.

With the recent shooting tragedies here in the United States, it has been difficult for me to actually get in the spirit to celebrate the season.  There is this huge dark cloud overhead–a maelstrom of sadness that seems almost insurmountable–Economic uncertainty, apocalyptic prophecies and random acts of human stupidity often make it hard to see the bright side of life and the good in people.  Death has become all-too-familiar as time marches on by.  Cancer took my dear Mom in 2002.  My Dad died in 2003.  The passing of aunts, uncles,  cousins and friends remind me we don’t own our life spark—it is merely borrowed.  So we ought to make the most of it whilst it is with us.  Like the song says: “Live Like You Are Dying”—That is my main resolution for 2013! (That and…maybe lose 25 lbs!<LOL>)

So–without further delay…  Pictures of the lights that made me get all sentimental!

Our FIRST live tree: A Grand Fir that dried up after being up for one day!  :-(

Our FIRST live tree: A Grand Fir that dried up after being up for one day! 😦

View of back of house--Really, REALLY WINDY!!!
View of back of house–Really, REALLY WINDY!!!

Front of house...
Front of house…

Detail of "Retro 1950's light-up Santa"!!

Detail of “Retro 1950’s light-up Santa”!!

Christmas EXPLODED all over our house!!!
Christmas EXPLODED all over our house!!!

Fireplace stockings, & "Dia de los Muertes" tree

Fireplace stockings, & “Dia de los Muertes” tree

Detail of Jack Skellington tree topper
Detail of Jack Skellington tree topper

Main Tree No.2!  This one is a very fresh Noble
Main Tree No.2! This one is a very fresh Noble

Michele: Nick's Wicked Kitty!
Michele: Nick’s Wicked Kitty!DSCN1964

Welcome Wreath
Welcome Wreath