Houseplant Count #1-5

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Not long ago I realized that many online houseplant lovers count their plants. Honestly, I’d never thought to do so because it seemed like a lot of effort. Then I thought, what the heck? Well, after what felt like hours, I stopped counting at 500 houseplants. How did that happen lol? I have a lot of growing areas in my home, in the basement, and outdoors in the Seed Studio. I don’t have a light stand, I have multiple light stands. Additionally, I place plants all over the house during the cooler months—with many going out into the garden during the summer. Making some sense of them little by little will be fun as I post these lists once a month or so.

We’re going to begin in my bedroom. This is how it currently looks but in the coming weeks I intend to change the lights and make a few more improvements.

Houseplant #1: Unknown Cane Begonia, possibly Begonia ‘Flo Belle Mosley’

We begin this long journey with my favorite kind of plant. It’s one that I purchased at a Mt Hood Gesneriad plant sale years ago. It was an inexpensive start of a cane begonia and it was cheap since it was a NOID. Even wonder what the means? Have you heard it before? All is means when you see it on a tag is the it is No Identification, NOID.

The woman selling it assured me it was a beauty and I have to agree. It was worth the purchase and the wait.

Cane begonias are notoriously challenging at times. I learned this at one of my first gardening jobs where I was a garden assistant to private homeowners with a large houseplant collection. I have to admit, caring for their canes was no fun but I sure did learn a lot about them. For instance, I learned to lightly bottom water and to regularly feed them while they were putting on new growth. I also learned that you had to diligently check leaves for powdery mildew so as to not spread it in your collection. Letting them dry out between waterings is always a good idea too.

To grow cane begonias to their absolute best, they really do enjoy being able to summer outside. To my surprise, this one loves lots of light. They can take lower light indoors, but it is not sustainable year round.

Houseplant #2: Pregnant Onion, Albuca bracteata or Ornithogalum longibrachteatum

Once you have one of these plants, you’ll ALWAYS have a plant gift to share with others. Some may find this kind of an annoyance with it setting so many babies but I like this plant quite a bit. (See the little bulb above. These grow out of the mother bulb and are pushed up and out as the plant peels. This plant produces lots of these and hence it’s always pregnant.)

Not a true onion, this South African plant is actually in the Asparagus family. Mine first came from a fellow garden blogger at one of our plant swaps, although a friend later delivered it to me since I was unable to attend that day. Peter of The Outlaw Gardener http://outlawgarden.blogspot.com had been keeping the original mother plant in a hanging basket in his greenhouse and it had outgrown its container. I was able to break it up into many babies and this is one that’s left. (I sold and passed along the others.)

As for the care of this plant, it seems to take a lot of abuse. It can take sun, low water, lower light, no food, and yet it keeps going.

Houseplant #3: Chinese Money Plant, Pilea peperomioides

Yes, of course I have one of these. It would likely be a lot larger if I hadn’t propagated so many babies from it. Funny that it doesn’t like that. Come to think of it, it doesn’t like a lot of things. The light must be just right, the feeding must be just right, watering must be done properly.

This is a plant that will not reward you if you give it wet feet. It does not want to ever stand in water. If this happens, it gets ugly fast. I left this plant outside all summer and am just going to let it keep growing. As it is positioned in my room right now, it needs more light. For now though, it is doing well. The plant has actually never looked better.

My baby was purchased back when they were impossible to find. I purchased it from a fellow horticulturist who had a few but it wasn’t overly expensive. This was the first plant craze that really had me scratching my head. It was definitely a plant that went viral and it is cute—but not all that cute.

Houseplant #4: Begonia ‘Gene Daniels’

During the month of September in 2019 I took an extended road trip to California. In addition to attending the 2019 Begonia Society Convention in Sacramento, I visited many places and met folks I’d never met before. It was such an amazing experience and I came back home with a rental car full of plants and cuttings. This is one of those plants and I am so glad that it made it home with me.

One of the impromptu visits during that trip occurred because my friend Derick Pitman (aka Mr. Impatiens) and I ran into Landscape Designer David Feix while at Annie’s Annuals. A fan of his designs, it was an honor to have him ask me back to see some clients’ gardens after we toured his garden and plant collection in Berkeley. He also gave me some plants but we’ll get to them later. (If you’d like to see his garden, here’s a great post by my friend Gerhard: https://www.succulentsandmore.com/2019/09/david-feixs-tropical-jungle-in-berkeley.html )

After I saw the designs on Sunday (which were amazing and kind of unreal looking in the perfection in real life), David suggested that I visit the Dry Garden Nursery and then the garden of artist Marcia Donahue. Since she was open later that day for guests, I went for it.

While there she passed along a few pieces of plants to me. I had never met her and yet I felt like we’d known one another for years. (We have many mutual friends and one just so happens to be my employer and friend Sean at Cistus. She has known him much longer than I.)

This Begonia ‘Gene Daniels’ is one that I had seen at the nursery just before meeting her and I was so grateful she passed some of her plant of it on to me. It is a technically a shrub and will likely be a bit of a beast in no time but I can’t wait. It may grow up to 6′ x 6′ so that should get interesting. At that point it is more of a greenhouse plant, but I’ll do what I can for it.

Houseplant #5: Begonia ‘Angel Glow’

This rhizomatous hybrid begonia was developed in Australia and it was one of the plants that I picked up at the convention in Sacramento. It was offered by Kartuz Greenhouses and I couldn’t resist. I just love those leaves.

Rhizomatous begonias have been easy for me to grow. When they start to look “not so fresh” I’ve found that they just need to be divided or potted up. It works wonders. They just keep growing and making more of those lovely leaves. Just let the plants dry out. They really do benefit from not sitting in water. (Do you see a pattern here yet? Yes, do not overwater houseplants.)

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Hope you enjoyed my little houseplant stories. Since cultural information is available all over online I didn’t go into detail about how to care for all of these plants. If you have any additional questions about them, please feel free to comment. I’m a horticulturist and can likely give you some pointers based on my professional experience.

The Zoom Office: Video Socializing with Garden Designers in the era of Covid-19

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While I’m not a garden designer or landscape architect, I guess that I play with them on the same playground. What they may call “plant materials” or even a “plant palette” has to come from somewhere. I help to make the plants so why not invite me into the circle?

This does not look like the garden of a designer. That’s because it’s my lab-or-a-tory with an emphasis on the lab-or.

While there are many who work in these professions who don’t think a lot about where their plants come from, there are still others who care a lot and want to know everything they can about the plants they use in their work. To be honest, time and time again I’ve been shocked when I’ve met professionals who just think plants come from massive wholesale nurseries and that they seem to appear for their asking. In my honest opinion, I think they don’t want to take the time to care about the labor and environmental issues of that entire process—but that’s just my opinion based on the impression I’ve been given. This has just been my experience.

If you care about where your food comes from, then you should care about where your landscape was grown, how it was grown, and by whom. That too is just my opinion though.

Oliver loves the summer office.

So, thanks to my being a hands-on propagator working at two small nurseries in the PNW I’ve met some great plant folks. With an academic background in science and the arts, it’s honestly a lot of fun for me to meet and talk with these designers. Many are very engaged in their work, so much so, that it’s personal to them. They want to create beautiful spaces, but they also want to do so responsibly. I enjoy hearing about their processes, and hearing folks discuss how they do their work.

I must confess that I skipped the first few invitations that I was sent. I had things that I was doing and will write about those next time, but then I committed and I’m glad that I did. Since then I’ve participated a few times and have talked to several folks in this ongoing group roundtable. Today though I kind of forgot that it was happening and was late so I just showed up looking like this…

My back hurt. This was about as much as I could muster. Luckily, we had yet another great discussion and I continued to learn while at the same time staying home and safe. I mentioned that I needed to post something here, and it seemed like a good idea to discuss these meetings.

This COVID-19 thing is still afoot and my autoimmune issues caused by a blood disease that I have are not getting any better. So, until the vaccine comes along, you’ll typically find me socially with friends in front of a screen, and this summer, I’ll be doing that a lot out here in my summer office.

If you want to organize something like this, just be sure to have a moderator who keeps you sort of on track. Thanks Caleb!

Begonia dregei with Agapetes hosseana.