It’s seed time! And time for a new plant…

I just wanted to shamelessly promote my seed germinating prowess (right…) for today’s post.  Before I do that, though, I should tell you about a new plant that I got.

I like to hit up the local herpetology shows for the plants that usually accompany the weird and unusual scaly creatures that people like to keep.  Occasionally I pick up a critter, but recently I only had eyes for one thing; a cryptanthus!  This genus of plants is related to the popular bromeliads that you can see in every big box store across the world.  Most bromeliads are epiphytic (growing with roots exposed to the air), however most cryptanthids are terrestrial (growing with roots in the soil).

Cryptanthus microglazioui, an uncommon find for me. I had to jump at the chance for this one. Who can’t resist the miniature palm look?

This crypt is a relatively newly described species.  While it was still being classified in Brazil, I was still trying to figure out algebra.  What I do know about it is that it will top out between 4 and 9 inches tall, and it should produce pups along the mature stems.  If I’m lucky, it will flower with small 3-petaled rosettes in each crown.  It also responds well to high humidity.

Since it is a new year, that means it’s time to start some seeds!  As of now, I’ve only started a few things.  A lonely brugmansia ‘Rhapsody’ cutting and an alocasia ‘Borneo Giant’ bulb have been gaining momentum inside for the past few weeks.  As far as seeds, I sowed 4 seeds of Echium wildpretii ‘Tower of Jewels’.  I know that seems a little pitiful, but it is still early.  After 6 days, 2 of the echiums germinated.  I don’t think the other two will be joining us, unfortunately.  I might need to start a few more, though.  I think the size of the mature plants might require several in a group in order to not seem out of place.

Echium wildpretii ‘Tower of Jewels’ just nine days after sowing. 2 out of 4 isn’t great, but I can’t complain. They were free seeds! I have at least 100 more seeds, so I’ll still have all I can handle.

This past week has been very sunny and warm.  With outside temperatures nearing 70 in January, I had to do inventory on the greenhouse to see what plants may have been forgetting about winter.  This is the first winter for the greenhouse, and I’m still learning the basics of keeping it in one piece.  I’ve had a few plants dry out too much, and a battle or two with an aphid army, but I think I’m finally beginning to get the hang of it.

I was surprised at how many things are blooming!  The entire south side of the greenhouse is fully exposed to the sun (when the clouds aren’t too thick) and it actually stays pretty warm inside.  Granted, I have quite a few fluorescent bulbs in there too.  When the weather really does start to warm up, nearly the whole east wall swings open as a door.  In the summer, it’ll be warm in there but I hope it’ll have plenty of air circulation.

Here are some of the more interesting and blooms in the greenhouse today.

Aristolochia fimbriata, the White Veined Dutchman’s Pipevine. It is perfectly hardy outside here, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to keep it going throughout the winter.

This pipevine is an excellent candidate for hanging pots.  It doesn’t like to climb, which is odd for a vine.  It does love to hang, though.  If you can get past the pungent smell, it’s a great plant.  The flowers, as you can see, are odd to say the least.  Each one produces a large number of seeds.  These seeds sell quickly on eBay too!  I think I’ve made back triple what I paid for the vine originally, and traded it’s seed for half a dozen interesting plants.

Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’. A small stem had fallen off of a potted plant last summer after storing it in the greenhouse for a while. It rooted and claimed a spot. I don’t mind.

The purple heart reminds me of New Orleans.  It was everywhere; porches, hell-strips, parks, and lawns.  While I didn’t take any home with me when I left, luckily I found some when I got back.

Justicia brandegeeana, the shrimp plant. I’ve heard that this one is marginally hardy in zone 8b, so it lives in a pot.

This shrimp plant has been through a lot.  It lived outside in a pot from March until November last year.  Not surprisingly, it took a while to recover from the cold and wet weather in November.  It apparently has forgotten about the poor treatment it received from me though, and has been blooming non-stop for months now.  Originally from the W. W. Seymour Conservatory in Tacoma.

Although not technically blooming yet, this Begonia luxurians is preparing to do so.

Nestled among spent canna flower spikes and castor bean trunks, my lonely tree begonia does it’s best to flower.  I’ve never seen this begonia flower before.  Then again, I haven’t seen too many of them in person.

Billbergia nutans, or Queen’s Tears bromeliad.

Billbergia nutans is an unusual bromeliad that I can occasionally find at some of the more unique nurseries in the area.  Although I mentioned earlier that most bromeliads are epiphytic, this one is an exception.  It is a frost tolerant bromeliad that prefers being planted directly into the soil.  I kept one outside a few years ago just to test it’s hardiness.  It didn’t disappoint me.  It sailed through cold and wet weather like a champion, taking 20 degrees while barely batting an eye.  Or whatever a bromeliad would bat.  Finally, we had a night that got down to 10 degrees (unusual), and that did it in.  In a normal year, I would expect this bromeliad to be fine in the Vancouver area.

Apparently this is what a queen’s tear would look like.

I resisted the urge to bring all the plants out of the greenhouse for good.  We still have two months of frost risk.  Speaking of that, I need to go start some more seeds.

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