Plants: the introvert's quarantine buddy

During normal times, a plant nerd like me can usually make it through the week by injecting copious amounts of plant time into my daily routine. Working around people in my normal job is exhausting, and being able to relax around photosynthetic friends is a welcome change of pace. I don’t count my family as being exhausting though… I really like them!

It goes without saying that the current viral pandemic is an utter tragedy. We hear about it night and day on every media stream that surrounds us in this ultra-connected world. I hope that at least some of what we are exposed to (media-wise at least) is positive (in a good way). I didn’t even mean to put those puns in there, honestly.

Now that my area of the world has ground nearly to a halt, I can say that at least one good thing has become of these changes. I get to spend all day, every day, with my family and my plants! I have a lot more opportunities to piddle around the old potting bench. The kids are learning about plants and the birds that visit our backyard feeder. Things may be stressful out in the world around us, but here in our home we are happy and healthy.

Most of the C strausii look like hairy fat blobs. Aren’t they cute?

Back to the plant world… things are growing here at Big Leaves. Most of the cactus are getting near to needing repotted. I think my hands will rue the day my brain decided to sow all these seeds. The Cleistocactus strausii will likely be no worse than potting any other plants. Cereus peruvianus will probably be a little more uncomfortable, but doable. Pilosocereus pachycladus and Ferocactus wislizeni have good strong spines at this point, but I think my planting tweezers should keep me out of harms way. The Aloe striatula have really started to jump in size. I think it has something to do with a new regimen of Bacillus amyloliquefaciens root innoculant I’ve started them on.

I don’t know what has made them grow so fast, but these C peruvianus are booking it at around an inch a month. Their seed cohorts in other pots are a measly 1-2 inches tall.
This A striatula is developing some nice teeth on the leaf margins. Let’s hope they get gnarly as it gets bigger.

It wouldn’t be normal if there wasn’t something abnormal here. A few of my Aloe polyphylla have begun to pup. If anybody out there has grown this particularly shaped aloe, I won’t have to say anything more. If you’re not familiar with it, then listen in. Spiral aloes don’t normally pup. In fact, they’re fairly uncommon in cultivation because of that very fact. They are difficult to mass produce because they typically must be grown from seed. They take several years to develop their characteristic geometric goodness, and therefore a lot of growers don’t bother. If you’re like me, then the wait is worth it. They are absolutely incredible to see in person, and once you have laid your eyes on one there are few plants that can compare.

This little pup surprised the heck out of me. Hopefully I’ll see a few more pups from this original plant over time.

I’ve always been a fan of big leaves. I’m sure I’ve said that before. Spring means it is time for a new round of banana cannas (Canna musifolia) and this year is no different. I’ve got a dozen or so gallon sized plants that are poking their leaf buds up outside. I’ve started 9 more under the grow lights, and I’ll probably start another dozen more as spring really starts springing. I can’t let the Lobelia tupa dominate the landscape!

The C musifolia are showing their size early on. It’s hard to see but there are some clover planted among the cannas. Being nitrogen fixers, I had hoped to see some improvement in the cannas growth as a result of the clover’s proximity. Unfortunately there is no control group as part of this experiment. I’m just going to blindly say that it helped.

If all goes well, in the next month or so I should be looking in earnest for a new four season greenhouse. It will depend on what happens in the world outside of course, but right now I’ve got plenty of time to plan.

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