Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 31, 2006-Week 9 of the Picture Contest

Welcome to the fifth and last Sunday in January.
Has January lasted a long time? I certainly think so. Maybe that is why  I have found motivation so elusive this week.
So that means it is time to wake up. Do something different. Scare the neighbors. Stop the people walking their dogs. What should you do?
How about this:

I have hung plants in my trees forever. It seems like the thing to do in a crowded shade garden. Some of the lower branches of the walnut tree in the front yard have died. We have put big ropes in the higher limbs of the tree to support heavy plants in the summer. (Orchid Cacti) What do you do with the ropes in the winter? At times I have hung pumpkins. It started one Halloween. I realized that if the temperature is right the pumpkin will freeze solid and last the winter. As they deteriorate they become even more interesting. If you put them up too early, they just rot by Thanksgiving. Rotting pumpkins, as Alton Brown would say, are not "good eats".
We have sometimes carved pumpkins at Thanksgiving. It could be a tradition. But pumpkins are not really available then. So I sometimes get a few pumpkins at Halloween and store them in the garage with the amaryllis. They can then be carved and put outside when the temperature is right. Well this year there was only one. I hope it makes people smile. You should look at the bonus section for other better pumpkin years.

The Winner in Week 8

In last week's contest here was your winner. Poppies are good. My Iceland poppy seeds have sprouted. I sometimes forget how tiny the seeds are. That sometimes means I have 15 sprouts within one inch of each other.

The full vote was:
Pink Poppy 25
Pink Orchid cactus 22
Amaryllis 7
Daylily closeup 7

This week's contest presents the color white.
In fact as we finish out the contest in the next month, this is the first of two weeks featuring white flowers. That is only fitting as winter is white, some places more than others.

                                              Contestant #1    The white Siberian Iris
This is perhaps the picture that best illustrates how wonderful Siberian Iris can be. Siberian iris bloom after the bearded iris, usually occupying the month of June. They come before Japanese iris and about the same time as the Louisiana iris.
The picture was taken on June 5.
The flower sort of looks like the bearded type. Where they are really different is in the root. Bearded iris have a tuber of a bulb that will rot if it is too wet. Siberian Iris have a more traditional root. They actually prefer to be damp.
One drawback for me is that they do like sun. Sun is in limited supply in my garden. Siberian iris come in a variety of colors. Please see the bonus section.

Contestant #2  The white Virginia bluebell
What? A white Virginia bluebell? Yes. It is a rare mutation. I do not believe you can find it in plant commerce. If you look for a white bluebell in catalogues you are apt to find a white English Bluebell. That is something else.
This plant came from all of about 6 blocks away. I had walked by the patch of these white bluebells for years. I had checked up close, and the plant was not just white pulmonaria. Finally in 2014 I overcame my natural shyness and knocked on the door. I asked the gardener if I could have a little piece. He agreed and it came up this past spring. I have very carefully kept other bluebells from growing in that area. I have put out my colored straws to remind me where it is. Otherwise bluebells disappear by about June 1. In 2016 we will see whether some of the seed grows and comes true to color.
I did find a story once about the mutation growing in the wild in Illinois.

                                                        Contestant #3- white waterlily
This classic flower needs little introduction. It was a good year for waterlilies until the raccoons showed up in late August. This picture was taken on July 19. Waterlily pictures have such wonderful backgrounds, even if there are no frogs.

Contestant #4- the regular old cactus
If you are looking for a late summer piece of excitement in the garden, getting a few cactus might do the trick.
This picture was taken on August 31, 2015. It was not a hot summer in 2015, but the plant put on a show anyway.
If you get a plant you may have to wait for a few years for it to bloom. I got my first one of these cactus in I think 2007. It bloomed in 2011. It really was exciting when it bloomed for the first time. I really did not know how fast the bud would develop. The link to the blog post for that moment is
You will need to scroll down to August 15 and17.
As you can see from some of the bonus pictures, the bud is there for weeks. Then in the 2-3 days before it blooms it makes this really big bud. It then opens at about 10 at night. The flower will bloom for a day. What is sort of amazing is that multiple buds will form, and mostly all bloom at exactly the same time.
At the time of the contestant picture, we had 5 flowers at once. That was the most ever.

There are your contestants for the week. Enjoy. And vote. Sometimes that is how I keep score.

It is bonus time. Call the neighbors.

Here are Siberian Iris, some which have appeared in contests in the past. They come back year after year. They really are good. I really should pay more attention to them. The compulsive gardener with time and space would divide them every 3-4 years. That person would also go hunt out the very latest hybrids. That person makes me tired, even in the abstract.

Now for the cactus pictures.

I got this first one from a neighbor, Cindy, in 2007. (What are time stamps on pictures for.) It had those side shoots you can see in the picture.

In a few years the side shoots had been separated and grew to blooming size themselves. That original plant however was the first to bloom.

August 9, 2011

2011 was a very hot summer. There were many days over 100 degrees. It was not coincidental I think that buds finally formed that August. I noticed these furry gray things. There were several. Then the buds just sat, it seemed like forever.

August 15, 2011

The original plant finally took off, sending out these really amazing long buds, and then bloomed. Here was the day before the bloom.

Here was that first bloom. It really was call-the-neighbors-time.
August 16, 2011

August 16, 2011

It seemed like it was something designed by that Tiffany guy that did the glass.

Here was 2012. Once again buds all developed at the same time, blooming for not much more than a day. Sometimes there would be a followup bloom, several weeks later.

August 3, 2013

August 6, 2014

An individual plant will most often bloom more than once. Since I now have many plants you can have flowers or at least buds almost all the time after mid July.
September 25, 2014

Now let me get to 2015.

First that same original plant, that had been in the big white pot, started growing side shoots on the top. What?

This did not prevent it from having the best bloom ever. You could see the buds coming for weeks. There were five of them.

This picture was taken a few hours before first bloom. They all were on the same page, as far as blooming.

This was after it got dark, maybe about 9 p.m.

The picture right below was taken about 10 p.m. with the flash.
They bloomed for a day. This evening in August provided the most exciting single day of bloom for the season, at least until about 3 weeks later. How is that for a tease for one of the remaining weeks of the contest?

What does the future hold for my cactus plants?
I could get more. I could get different kinds.
I have been told that the ones I have do best when given plenty of room to grow. That means they should each be put in their own pot. But I already have so many. If I potted up every little side plant there would be...I don't want to think about that number.
They do not take much winter care. They do take up space on the window sills in winter.
They also take up sun during the summer.
But the blooms are worth it.

I wish to close in a way that helps you keep moving forward, in a positive direction.
Here are some of my hanging pumpkin chorus over the years.

Stay warm. For those of you in Iowa, ignore the bigots; the caucuses will be over soon. For everyone everywhere, pray for sanity.
Good bye January.

Please note that next week's post may be delayed for a few hours on Sunday. We are going to Chicago for the weekend and I am not sure about computer access.

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