Why I love plants

Along the same lines of my love for calendars, plants are like living calendars to me.  In 2 years time, this grew from a cutting to a 9 ft tall plant.  I got that one in 2005 when I worked with this lady who gave me a cutting.  This one came from a leaf I picked up off the floor.  They’re like diaries.  And watching a plant grow reminds of of how slowly and quickly time passes.  Like watching the clock during the last half hour at work, if you stare at a plant, time seems to stop, the plant doesn’t change.  But if you look back to years past, the plant has grown to a huge weed and I realize how many years I’ve known the people at work.

I have talked myself into and out of growing plumerias many times.  I don’t have ideal light or space.  This isn’t even the right climate.  But I was in Hawaii.  And plumerias were in bloom all around me.  I got these three.

Plumeria cuttings planted

I’m crossing my fingers they thrive.

Aloha!

I had been talking about visiting Hawaii for years! But it’s just so much easier to watch YouTube vids of other people’s trips, or drive to a local weekend destination than to plan a trip to Hawaii. As much of a homebody as I am, it took but the mere mention of a wedding and I booked the trip, packed up, and was ready to go.

Food:
If you’re looking for vegan food, stick to the Asian joints. Many traditional American/Hawaiian places also had vegan options due to Asian influences but there were times when I had to settle on a carb turducken (a breakfast of fruit and hash browns on toast). Towards the end of the trip, I was craving sweets (which I rarely do). Not sure how true it is, but I’ve heard that it’s a sign of a protein deficiency.  In the end, I was feeling insatiably hungry and weak so I relented and had egg at one breakfast joint.  And then I chased it down with a vegan snickerdoodle.  Protein and sugar!

This was one of the best meals I had during the trip. It’s kabocha curry.
Pineapples' Kabocha Curry

The fruit is phenomenal. On our second day there, I got myself a cheapo santoku knife so I could cut some Hawaiian pineapples in the hotel room. Their papayas and pomelos were also amazing. Too bad we can’t get them around here easily. Still, I got my fill – three pineapples in a week.

Sights and Activities:

Big Island

  • Hike to Green Sands Beach – Not an easy hike but the beach at the end of it was such a sweet relief.
  • Kona coffee tour – This is like Napa Valley for coffee.  But rather than getting sloshed, you get buzzed.  Holualoa CoffeeCaptain Cook’s is such a beautiful area so I still felt relaxed in a chatty way.
  • Place of Refuge (Pu’uhunoa O Honaunau) National Park – A beautiful and historic park where they share the history of native Hawaiians.  1812 Trail at HonaunauThere’s a wonderful trail here too.
  • Volcanoes National Park – When people say the Earth is alive, this is what they mean.  Kilauea is pouring out lava.  During the day, it looks like smoke and steam.  Kilauea via bicycleAt night, it’s bright orange red and spurting out.
  • MaunaKea summit tour – MaunaKeaEven just on the side of a highway at night, I saw more stars than I ever have.  On MaunaKea I saw the Milky Way galaxy for the first time.  It’s a breathtaking evening.
  • Check out the waterfalls.  There are many and none of them are as impressive as say, Niagara or Iguacu, but we went to a few of them and they were pretty.Hi'ilawe Falls

Kauai

  • Hike the Kalalau Trail on the Na’Pali Coast – If I did nothing else on this island, this was the one thing I wanted to see – the Na’Pali coastline.  It’s breathtaking.  The first section of the hike starts at Ke’e Beach and ends at Hanakapi Beach.  We heard later from friends that this was not a very safe trail.  I guess ignorance is bliss?  To be honest, I was ready to turn around at the 0.25 mile marker.  Then I was ready to turn back at the 0.50 mile marker.  Muddy hike on the Kalalau TrailSomehow, we got to Hanakapi and the way back was easier.  In the earlier part of the day, parts of the trail were wet, muddy, and slippery.  By the afternoon, much of it had dried.
  • Waimea Canyon – This was the most beautiful hike.  Waimea CanyonIt was relatively easy and relaxing under the cool canopy of a forest.  Even though I’d say this was the easiest hike we did, I slipped twice.
  • Allerton Botanical Gardens – With a return flight not until 10 PM, this was a nice little something to do.  They guide you around the gardens and describe the plants and trees.Loulu

Learn from my Fail:

  1. Hawaii and Kauai’s airports are small. Eat beforehand or bring food. There’s nothing good at the airports.  Even the water from the fountains taste funky.
  2. Bring your own knife or better yet, just get pre-cut fruit from the grocery store.  It didn’t occur to me to do that until after I’d purchased the knife.  I now have a crappy santoku knife.
  3. Stay on the Hilo side of the island at least for a night or two.  Driving to see volcanoes from Kona is a bit of a trek.
  4. Restaurants close early (generally 9 PM).  Plan accordingly.  We missed dinner a couple of nights because we stayed out to see volcanoes and the stars at MaunaKea. Both worthwhile and I had pineapples on hand, but still, dinner would have been nice.
  5. Speaking of MaunaKea, the drive up there is all up hill.  There are no gas stations.  Fill up your tank before you ascend.  We cut it a bit too close.  Luckily, on the way down, you barely use any gas.  We cruised on neutral for some portions of it.
  6. Packing: You don’t need fancy clothes in Hawaii.  This isn’t a fancypants posh kind of trip.  Plan to get dirty.

Gotta catch ’em all

It’s a jungle in here already! But whenever I see plants that I don’t have, I want a cutting to propagate! Lately I’ve gathered a lot of cuttings. I don’t know where to put them all yet but I’m so excited. I now have plants to fill my empty pots. (I always have extra pots for just in case.)

Here’s the rundown of my new Pokemon:
Begonia of some sort
Begonia ("Tea Rose" maybe)
It’s different from the current begonia I have. The new one has thicker, fuzzy, almost succulent-like leaves with no variagation. It grows short and squatty. The one I have grows long and tall, has thin, smooth polka-dot patterned leaves. The leaves are smaller too on this new one. Maybe 5-6″ instead of 11″ or so on my old one. Maybe after if blooms I’ll be able to better identify this variety.

Philodendron Silver
Philodendron Silver
Beautiful variegation on the leaves.

Micans Philodendron
Micans Philodendron
Almost a purply dark green color with some velvety fuzz. I now have 4 varieties of philodendrons. The other two are Philodendron Scandens (Heartleaf) and Philodendron grazielae (brighter green leaves that are almost succulent-like with thicker firmer stems).

English Ivy
English Ivy?
At least I think it’s an English Ivy.

Purple Passion
Purple Passion
I’ve killed one of these before. I left it in water to just grow in a vase. It needs to be potted eventually.

Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen) Silver Bay –
Aglaonema (Silver Bay?)
Again, I’m relying on Google pictures to help me identify this thing. I’m not totally sure it’s a Silver Bay but I’m quite sure it’s an aglaonema. And this is my third variety of Chinese Evergreen. I love the different leaf variegation on each one. They are beautiful plants and so easy to care for and propagate.

Houseplant Appreciation Day

Are we fer reals here? There’s a day for appreciating houseplants?? And that day is today? Well slap my pothos and call me Lulu.

Winter is the toughest time for me in caring for my houseplants. There’s already not enough sunlight as it is even during the warmer months so these plants really have to hang tough for a few months. At the same time I have to adjust my watering habits. I’ve already rotted out a succulent. Luckily they’re easy to propagate so I’m hoping to rescue it.
This christmas cactus is my newest planted propagation. There’s a tiny flower bud forming on it already.
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This weekend I went to a gardening store to look at all the houseplants they have. There were so many I’ve been wanting that they had. If I had more sunny windows or better yet, a sunroom, I would be in houseplant heaven!

Daffodil and Buttercup

I don’t know why I bothered naming my fish straight out of the bag.  I didn’t even know them at all yet. When I named them, in my mind, my fish were dainty little fish that gracefully swam in and out of the plants and enjoyed the lovely garden I planted for them.  Now that I’ve had them for a couple of weeks, I see that they’re just hungry hippos.
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They’ve quickly gotten the hang of brine shrimp flakes and algae wafers and in between meals they act like they’ve never been fed.  Ever.  The shrimp are the same way.  Constantly on the hunt for food.  I added epsom salt to the tank and got some noticeable algae growth in a day.  I can’t believe I’d ever be trying to encourage algae to grow, but the flagfish and shrimp like to eat it.

 

Pot of Propagations

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This here is my Pot of Propagations. I’m not sure how I will separate the plants after they’ve settled in here because their roots will probably tangle in the soil. My thought was, I will just propagate more if I want them in individual containers. I don’t think I have the space anyway for a bunch of separate pots because I’m greedy for new plants all the time. This is a more efficient way to keep them all as long as their watering and lighting needs are similar enough.

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Remember this not-so-little-anymore begonia? It started as a 2 leaf stem cutting. It’s 4 ft tall now and has three stems. It has surpassed the zzplant as the tallest I have. Its’ been less than a year so maybe sometime next year, it’ll reach the ceiling. How tall do begonias get!?

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My two varieties of sansevieria are doing well. There are 2 leaves on each of the plantlets now.

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The succulents are growing out of their containers. Literally. Next Spring I will start propagating more if I can get my hands on more containers.

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This is how it all starts. An innocent looking, barely alive nubbin of a cutting. Every where I go, I am eyeing plants that I don’t have yet. I want a cutting of everything. It’s the most rewarding to start a plant that way because the contrast is stark to go from a cutting to a 4 foot tall plant.  Thankfully Christmas cacti are relatively small plants.  This will probably not go into the Pot of Propagations because it is a succulent and will need less water sometimes.

Contrary Mary

Here’s how my garden grows:
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After waiting for half a year, the snake plant leaves have finally sprouted a new leaf. For the longest time, I had just these leaf pieces sticking up from the dirt and even though they stayed green, it almost looked like they weren’t going to take. Sometimes I even forgot to water them because they didn’t show any visible growth. The only thing that kept me on them was anytime I tried pulling the leaves up, they didn’t budge. That told me they rooted.

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I got a new cutting from a coworker. I’d been wanting an arrowhead vine for a while to add to my collection.

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And I’ve also rescued this pitiful looking planter from work. It wasn’t getting any water or much light. I’m hoping to revive it and bring it back but I might cheat and plant some of my own cuttings to get it looking fuller. I’m not sure yet. For now I’m just trying to salvage the survivors.

And speaking of survivors, here are some survivors from my aquatic garden.
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Leopard vallisneria with a couple of new leaves after a major meltdown.

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Rotala indica finally growing new leaves at the top after its original leaves all melted. You can see the drifty stuff along the stem. Those were all its original leaves. That’s what I mean by melt. They get soft then rot off.

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And even though my amazon sword’s outer leaves turned brown it’s grown some new ones from the center to make up for it.

They’re alive!

My de-chloraminator hasn’t arrived yet but as of last week, I think my plants are done melting for the most part.  I’m seeing new growth and even a few that melted down to nubbins are starting to sprout new growth.  For example my Vallisneria spiralis ‘Leopard’ arrived as a multi-leafed foot-long plant and melted down to maybe 2 inches of 3 leaves.  I considered throwing it out, giving it up for goners, but in one week, I’ve observed 2 new baby leaves, one about 2 inches now, and the other 1 inch.

Another, the Rotala indica, melted down to just stems.  I left them because the stems were green and sturdy.  Now they all have new growth at the top of about 1/2  a centimeter.  I guess everybody just needed some time to adjust.

The only plants certainly gone with no traces remaining are the Bacopa caroliniana and Ludwigia repens.  They were ones that the Internet all agreed were great for beginners.  Grow like weeds.  Will take over your tank.  Will grow even in the crappiest conditions.

The growing plants are so cool to view that I’m holding off on adding any creatures.  It’s like instead of having an aquarium of fish, I have an aquatic garden.  They don’t do anything but I just like sitting there and staring at ’em.  Some aquatic plants grow noticeably fast and it’s encouraging to see that they have adjusted to the environment I’ve set up.  So far, I’ve done weekly water changes of about 1 or 2 gallons.  It’s not much but it gives me enough to water my regular plants and then I dose my aquarium with fertilizer afterwards.

 

Chlorine vs. Chloramine

With no treatment, chlorine dissapates after about a day or two.  Chloramine can last for weeks in the water.  I had been using Chlor-Out which only treats chlorine, as my dechlorinator not realizing our local water uses chloramine.  So maybe that’s why I was getting all that meltage.  I’ve ordered Seachem’s Prime which treats chloramine.  Hang in there little plants!

This is why I’m not getting animals until the plants get established.  If whatever it is I’m doing can’t support plants, it’d be a wonder how animals could survive. Not totally sound logic given that plants like ammonia and animals would belly up with ammonia but, at least it’ll get me that much closer to creating an environment that can sustain animals.

Not so sturdy plants

When I ordered my batch of aquatic plants I made sure to read all sorts of aquarium forums, plant websites, and even watched YouTube videos. I consulted the great and mighty Internet! In fact some of the plants I chose are even banned from some states (e.g. Hygrophila difformis from CA, AZ, TX, LA, EU) because they’re considered invasive and too risky if any bits got out in the wild! It means if you just dumped a piece in a lake it would take over! So I dumped them in my tank and they melt. They slowly lose their leaves. Then their stems get dark and soft and mushy and they just die. And now it feels like half of my plants are stuck on the intake of the power filter.

I spent a good part of the weekend siphoning out some of the mushy floaty bits. The Bacopa caroliniana and Ludwigia repens are all gone. There’s no hope of salvaging either of them.

I got 2 other plants to replace them. And now here’s my new list of plants:

  • Vallisneria spiralis ‘Leopard’ – 1″ or 2″ nubbin left
  • Ludwigia repens
  • Rotala indica
  • Bacopa caroliniana
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Green’
  • Hydrocotyle leucocephala (Brazilian Pennywort)
  • Amazon Sword
  • Lace Java Fern (Windelov’s Fern)
  • Hygrophila difformis – 1″ pieces floating about
  • Java moss
  • Hemianthus callitrichoides ”Cuba”
  • Marimo ball
  • Anubias barteri nana – added this weekend
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Red’ – added this weekend

My goal is to just get these plants established and growing.  New leaves, propagation, off shoots – anything but melting.

I got the 2 new plants from PetSmart. I’m not a fan of Pet-Smart/Co but they sell cultured plants that are grown in clean gel so they’re free of disease and snails.  I can get them online too but for only 2 plants, it’s not worth the shipping costs.  While I was there the store guy there was giving such bad advice to folks. It pained me to hear him talk about adding Stress Coat and other garbage into tanks.  One lady asked if she should replace her filter floss regularly and Store Guy said yes.  I tried to keep my trap shut, mind my own business, but then I couldn’t take it anymore and just interjected to tell her I would just take it out and rinse it in the dirty water when I do a water change.  That way I keep all that bacteria in the floss.  I’d only replace the floss when it’s falling apart.

They should just look stuff up on the Internet. Except sometimes the Internet underestimates how good beginners are at killing things.  Like my stupid plants.