Sunday, November 30, 2014

Citrus Leafminer

Fig.  1   Leafminer larvae feeding in the leaf through sinuous mines.

Citrus Leafminer in the Area
Leafminers (Phyllocnistis citrella) appears to be an important pest this year in our area.  As a matter of fact, this is the first time they appeared in my garden.  All my citrus plants - including orange (Citrus sinensis), lemon (Citrus limon) and calamansi/calamondin (Citrofortunella microcarpa) - showed symptoms of infestation during late summer and early fall.

Citrus leafminer is native to Asia and has spread slowly around the world. It is relatively new in the US as it is was first discovered in Florida in 1993 and eventually made it to California in 2000 (1).  It was first detected in Imperial County - probably through Mexico.  It soon moved inward toward adjacent counties (2).  And this year, leafminer now infests Sacramento and El Dorado Counties - including my garden.

Fig. 2   Leafminer larvae: feeling agoraphobic after an opening was made on its tunnel.  

Life Cycle
 Leafminer, in its adult form, is a very tiny moth which are rarely noticed.  They are most active during the cooler time of the day as in early morning and evening - resting on the underside of the leaves of the host plant during the day.  The moth does not do damage to the plant but it lays its egg along the mid-vein of new tender leaves.  After a week, the egg hatches into a larvae and it begins to feed in the leaf creating micro tunnels that runs in a sinuous path of mines (Fig. 1).  Leafminer is most destructive in the larval stage. The once-invisible tunnels soon begin to cover a large proportion of the leaf.  At some point the larvae gets out of the mines and move towards the edge of the leaf and rolls the leaf around it -- this is the pre-pupal stage.  The curling of young foliage is the most noticeable sign of infestation (Fig. 3).  Unfortunately, at this stage, most of the damage has been done.  The pupa will live there for a few more weeks before it emerges as a moth (Fig. 4).  Female moths immediately releases sex pheromones to attract males.  Thus the cycle of life continues without delay. :)

Fig.  3   Citrus leafminer (Phyllocnistis citrella) on Calamansi.

How to Manage Leafminer
The success management depends on how early the life cycle broken. Pest when properly managed can be inhibited from spreading into a large area.  Since oviposition (egg-laying) happens only in the newly opened leaves, it is a good idea to monitor the presence of leafminer around the time of growth flush.  IPM recommends the use of pheromone-baited traps only to detect the time when males begin to fly and determine time of insecticide application. There are insecticides available for the control of citrus leafminers but timing and type of insecticide is key.  

 Depending on mode of action, insecticides attack pests at 
specific stages of  the insect's life cycle.

Here are some examples of pesticides and the corresponding stage of the insect when they are most effective:  

1.  Permethrin (e.g. Eight) and Spinosad (e.g. Captain Jack's Dead Bug) Controls the moths.  Spray only within the area where they are expected to linger.
2.  Horticultural oils (e.g. Neem Oil) May hinders oviposition (egg-laying) on sprayed leaves.  Repeat spraying as new leaves emerge.
3.  Neonicotinoid (e.g. imidacloprid) controls the larvae.  When the leafminer larvae are inside the "leaf mine" only systemic insecticides (such as neonicotinoid) can get them effectively. For drench application, it is important to keep in mind that the insecticide molecules take about two weeks to reach the growing points of the plant - where leafminer eggs are laid. In other words, apply before infestation is expected - when the new leaves are half-way open.  Imidacloprid when sprayed on the leaves can also move translaminary - the active ingredient of the insecticide penetrates the leaf cuticle and moves into the leaf tissues.  This means that even the larvae that is securely tucked in its tunnel becomes vulnerable.

When using any insecticide, always use recommended dosage and the recommended schedule so that we do not accidently kill unintended insects including beneficial ones.
Fig.  4     A magnified image of an adult citrus leafminer (Phyllocnistis citrella).   (Photo from Tirogaverd)

Other Management Tips
1.  Pruning encourages new growth (flush) on which leafminers prefer to lay their eggs.  If you can handle looking at leafminer-damaged leaves, do not be too in a hurry to cut them off because they can still continue to photosynthesize (produce food) for the plant. 

2.  High-nitrogen fertilization also result in a growth flush.  Avoid excessive nitrogen application and  use organic fertilizers or slow-release fertilizers. 

Stroll in your garden often.  If you find some leafminers, squash them.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Avocado - First Flowers and Fruit

Fig.1  Indeterminate inflorescence

At the time when I was about to give up hope of ever making homegrown-homemade guacamole, our avocado tree bloomed this year - hope has dawned.  This is the same avocado tree  that I wrote about earlier. Like all other trees in my garden I expected this avocado to bloom sometime; but because it took almost nine years before the first flowers appeared, I was surprised to see panicles (clusters of flowers in one stalk) of flowers last spring.  I guess this is the thrill of growing fruit trees from seed. 

There are two types of avocado inflorescences (flowers) - determinate or indeterminate. Indeterminate inflorescence, terminates below a vegetative bud (Fig. 1), which according to the UC-ANR, is more common in this area.  In the case of determinate inflorescence, flowers appear at the terminal end of the flower-bearing shoot.  Avocado inflorescence develops in panicles of up to hundreds of flowers.  For the tree in my garden, there were very few flowers per panicle - which is not surprising since this is only its first blooming year. Maybe the second year will be better.  

Fig. 2   Cobweb-covered panicle.

After flowers, the next thing to look for are fruits.  There was one fruit that developed. The one and only (Fig.3).  Why?  Pollination is the major determinants of productivity.  Flowers have to be pollinated prior to fertilization and fruit setting - usually, insects play a huge role in this process. Close-up picture of the flowers on Fig. 2, gives an explanation to the singular fruit (Fig. 3) on the entire tree.   The flowers were covered with cobweb prior to anthesis (period when flower is fully open and functional). Any insect attempting to visit the flowers is in for a deadly trap.  Regardless of the complexity of the avocado pollination process, this situation alone seems enough to abort pollination.

Fig. 3    The one fruit.

Lessons learned:  
1.  Under local conditions, avocado takes nine years from seed to flower.
2.  Fruiting can happen in this area.
3.  A second tree is not a requirement to pollination.
4.  Spiders can hinder pollination.  :)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Re-potting and Dividing Cymbidium - Again

Fig. 1  Cymbidium:  Winter of 2014

Three years ago I repotted my cymbidiums into three gallon containers.  This year (late spring) I divided them again after they all finished blooming; turning each plant into three individual plants. In some cases I hesitated to divide them because I like seeing multitudes of spikes (instead of two or three per plant) shooting from among the sword-like sheaths of green leaves, so I repotted them into larger containers.  One of them now resides in a fifteen gallon container.  It will be interesting to see how it will perform next blooming season.

Fig. 2   Cymbidium in  a 10-gallon container.

2010 Potting Medium
Motivated by the high cost of bagged orchid mix, I thought of making my own mix for my cymbidiums as follows:
Decomposed redwood bark (.25 - 0.5 inch)
Handful of  potting soil

I used three years ago worked.  The plants did well - with lots of blooms and good root system.  The bark decomposed into very fine compost which I scattered along the rows of boxwood near my vegetable garden.

2014 Potting Medium
This year I used yet a different mix:  

Bark (0.5 - 1.0 inches)
Peat moss
Garden soil

With the current drought that we are experiencing, the peat moss would help retain more water allowing for less frequent watering.  Larger-size bark was used to allow good air movement around the root area.

Fig. 3  Cymbidiums lined up along south-facing wall.

Fig. 4  Newly repotted orchids.

Fig. 5    Pink cymbidiums:  Winter 2014

Fig. 6    Yellow cymbidiums

Right now, my orchids are doing well in their new growing media but it took them a while to get used to their new root environment.  I will be posing a new update come fall.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

First Fig Fruit...

Fig (Ficus carica 'Brown Turkey')

At last my own fig tree bears fruits!  And it has a name - unlike the volunteer fig that has been planted by birds around my yard.  This one is 'Brown Turkey' which I chose because the tree is supposed to be a more compact than the other traditional varieties such as 'Mission' fig.

The fig fruit is very fascinating.  It is a synconium or an inverted fruit. The fig synconium is made up of multiple fruits that are fused together.  Each seed is an individual aggregate fruit.  It is similar to the strawberry, except the arrangement is reversed. The seeds in strawberry are on the surface of the fruit while the seeds in the figs are inside.  That description almost makes the fig a normal fruit.  But the fact that the fig flowers were never outside of the fruit makes it completely an odd fruit.  

Synconium:  the flowers open inside the fruit.  

Fig is probably among the earliest domesticated plants on earth.  It is mentioned multiple times in the Old Testament Bible as part of the life of mankind in the old days.  For example: the presence of a fig tree, is referred as one of the features of a good land (Deuteronomy 8:7-9); and the shade of a fig tree is symbolizes a place of safety (1 Kings 4:25).  Having a fig tree in my yard seems like owning a time machine that brings me back to that time in history.    

To eat figs off the tree in the morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of owning a fig tree.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Looking Back: Lessons Learned in Tomato Growing

Fig. 1   'Super Fantastic' tomato.

Tomato is one of the favorite vegetables in our home. Every year, we grow different vegetables.  Since we moved to this area (fifteen years ago) I cannot remember a single summer when tomatoes were not grown in this garden.  I can remember a time when my second daughter was just three and I found her in the garden her mouth bleeding and blood dripping all over her white shirt.  Or so I thought.  But to my relief, I also found tomato seeds with the red fluid oozing from her mouth. She has been in the tomato path where she ate, who knows how many, cherry tomatoes straight from the plants.  :)

As the summer draws to an end and the summer vegetable garden begins to fade, I thought I’d look back.  Everyone knows how to grow tomatoes but there are things each gardener learns through experience.  For the record, here is a list of some of the useful lessons I learned.

Fig. 2     Almost-perfect fruit set.

Optimum temperatures for tomato fruit setting are between 70 and 85 degrees F. 

Lesson 1.  Plant early in the season – protect them if you need to.
 As early as March, when other gardeners were still anticipating more frosty nights, we planted tomatoes. As a result, we enjoyed eating our own home-grown tomato salad early in the season. There is a small window in the temperature range when tomato blossoms set - and the optimum day temperature range being 70-85 degrees F. When night temperatures are cool (consistently below 55 degrees) or when day temperatures are hot (day temperatures of 95 degrees with night time temperatures of consistently above 75 degrees), fruit setting is jeopardized. Planting early prepares tomatoes for fruit setting prior to the occurrence of optimum temperatures during that season. The plant should be blooming by the time temperatures are right because this part of the country (Zone 9) heats up within a short period of time. There is nothing worse than having tomato plants that are beginning to bloom in the dead of summer. No amount of blossom spray will correct the effects of our area's intense summer temperature.

Consumption and utilization of produce is the ultimate measure of success in vegetable gardening.

Lesson 2.   Stagger planting of similar maturity-date varieties. 
This is especially important when planting determinate varieties which yield one heavy crop on a short period of time.   Planting tomato successively at two-week- interval provides a progression of harvest rather than an overwhelming amount of harvest at one time. It prolongs harvest period and makes canning even more manageable.

Fig. 3   Tomato varieties in this basket: Cherokee Purple; Super Fantastic; Yellow Pear

The soil is like a plant nanny that holds food and water for the plant. 

Lesson 3.   Recondition old soil. 
Continuously planted soils get depleted over time. Between the amount plants take up and amount water carries through run off and percolation, available nutrients in the soil can rapidly diminish. This is a mistake I had overlooked this year. Just because, my garden produced vigorous plants in the past, I took the soil condition for granted - a critical part of the garden was neglected.  Therefore, by the end of this year, I plan to cover the area with chicken manure and leaves that will fall from healthy deciduous trees. Then add a small amount of complete organic fertilizer.  This recipe will encourage microorganisms and earthworms to do their job on boosting the condition of the soil.

Tomatoes stop being productive under extremely hot and dry conditions.

Lesson 4.   Plant Tomatoes where they get late afternoon shade.
While tomatoes are a summer crop, they reach optimum production at relatively low temperatures.  When temperatures are high, the stomata close and thus halt production (photosynthesis).  In this part of the country (Zone 9) temperatures get in the high nineties up to over 100 degrees.  It is a good idea to position the tomatoes in an area where they get a relief from the intensity of the summer's afternoon sun.  Not only does the production rate is reduced, problems such as scalding, blossom-end-rot, and leaf curling become a problem. Some gardeners provide shade for the tomatoes during the late afternoon to reduce stress from high temperatures, water deficit and high radiation.

Fig. 4   Fresh from the garden.

Gardeners don't work alone, they have natural allies. 

Lesson  5.  Attract Blue Jays to the garden to eliminate problems with tomato/tobacco hornworm. 
When it comes to finding the most devastating caterpillars in the tomato garden, blue jays are the best.  It is good to encourage them to linger in the garden.  Set out some large-seed bird food such as corn and peanuts in the garden and provide a source of water for them such as a simple bird bath.   In my garden, the promise of fruits from the grapes, pears, apples and plums lure the jays as well as the mocking birds (both are great hunters of caterpillars) to stay around.  It’s been years since we had problems with tobacco hornworm.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Torenia: My New Shady Lady

Fig. 1    Torenia fournieri

Every year I try one or two new plants in my garden and this year one of them is Torenia (Torenia fournieri). Torenia, commonly called 'Wishbone flower' is a beautiful annual plant that performs best in the shade. The tubular flowers come in shades of pink, yellow, and blue on the lobes - depending on variety. The tube often comes in white with a blotch of yellow in the interior of the lower lobe (Fig. 1). The plant grows up to 12 inches tall and wide and blooms continuously in summer until temperatures drop to freezing point.

Fig. 2    Torenia blooms in summer to late fall.

Torenia is generally easy to care for.   For best results, plant it in the shade and where the soil is fertile.  Keep the soil moist especially in hotter weather condition.  Pinch young plants to induce branching for a more bushy appearance of the plant.  Fertilize regularly with complete fertilizer to promote profuse blooming. When growing torenia in containers, put container-plants together to create a shadier and cooler environment (Fig. 3).

There are no known serious insect and disease problems but they could be susceptible to powdery mildew and possibly root rot - depending on soil.

Torenia is giving me a positive first impression.  So far, it will continue to have a place in my garden as an annual plant (replacing impatiens) until I find a better one.

Fig. 3   Torenia enjoys the shade of taller plant.

Try new plants in your garden - just for fun!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Fortune Plant (Dracaena fragrans)

Dracaena fragrans 'Masagaena' in bloom.

Dracaena fragrans is one of the most important houseplants in the United States because of its ability to tolerate low-light environments and low maintenance.  In the Philippines, it is grown both as an indoor or outdoor plant.

This plant is known by so many names and for different reasons. With its broad and elongated leaves that resemble that of corn (Zea maize), Dracaena fragrans is nick-named corn plant or cornstalk plant in this part of the world.  On the other hand, its botanical name indicates a significant olfactory characteristic - "fragrans".  This plant's ability to exude sweet odor outweighs all other characteristics that it is used to universally describe the species of the plant.  With such names we could say that this type of dracaena is a fragrant corn-looking plant.  However, in some countries it is called 'Fortune Plant'. There is a superstition that revolves not just in the Philippines but in the rest of Asia.  If the plant blooms in your care, then good fortunes will abound in the home.  The blooming time seems to be unpredictable that people associate it with the elusive incidence of good luck. :)

Dracaena fragrans is sometimes called Corn Plant.

For me, it is not uncommon to see this plant bloom. My mother had one that bloomed outside her front door year after year.  Everyone who came to our house after dusk knew it was in bloom even if they didn't see the flowers.  Here in my house (in California), there are three potted Dracaena fragrans - one of them is about eight feet tall and the other two are about six feet tall - all of which I've had for years now.  I purchased these plants at different sizes.  It has been my observation that only the mature plants - with a minimum trunk diameter of one inch- showed flowers.  However, not all plants with the same size of trunk bloomed.  One of my plants did not bloom this year even if it has larger trunk than the other two that bloomed.  Therefore, I have to come up with another theory -- that the plant has to be exposed to not one but a combination of critical factors prior to flower initiation. I think the plant blooms when they reach a certain age and accumulated experience.  How to quantify such variables remain unknown to me.  I'm sure there are scientific literature out there that explain this mystery.  But before I find them, I will enjoy the secret belief that my Dracaena fragrans is signaling the arrival of good fortune into my house.  :).

Dracaena fragrans line a village road in Cagayan,  Philippines.

Traditions, superstitions and beliefs determine the way cultures look at plants.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Rosa 'Abraham Darby'

'Abraham Darby' is an English rose that was bred by David Austin. The flowers come in pinkish apricot color with a fruity fragrance and the leaves are small-sized and glossy. The plant is a vigorous medium sized bush with arching growth habit. Some consider it as a small climber but in my garden I prune it often both to keep the size in check and to encourage blooming. In my garden, I find 'Abraham Darby' resistant to black spot and powdery mildew.

'Abraham Darby' rose was named after an inventor who played a significant role in the industrial revolution. In the smaller world, however, this plant made it into my garden in honor of my son who is nicknamed Brahms. :)

Regardless of the name, Abraham Darby is a garden-worthy rose!

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Robin and the Worm

An American Robin (Turdus migratorius) gets the worm - early in the morning.

"I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm."   Franklin D. Roosevelt

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Baby Blue Jay

Baby Blue Jay

Blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata) seem to consider our garden as a prime location for building nests. Previously, they had a nest on the lemon tree and on the Cecile Brunner rose that was by our front door.  But the best so far was when they had a nest on a three-foot tall standard rose in the backyard.  My two older kids, who were then very young, looked at the eggs every day.  This year, our resident blue jays built another nest on the grape arbor.  My daughter (younger) watched them as they gathered twigs for the nest.  She observed every activity there - touched the three eggs and then heard the little baby blue jays claim their worm every feeding time. When the nest became too small for them and the mommy bird prodded them to fly but one of them was still too weak to take flight. It fell to the ground.  We put it back to the nest that night but soon we saw her in one of the bushes where she was safe.

Getting ready for the first flight.

It is amazing to watch the birds take care of their young - they are like humans in the way they teach their kids - one lesson at a time.  The other day I watched the parent blue jays teach the babies to splash water from the bird bath.  It was amusing.

Out of the nest for the first time.

 Attract the blue jays to your vegetable garden with corn or peanut seeds.  And they will eat all your tomato hornworms too.

 Mastering Horticulture

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Growing 'Woolly Rose'

Fig. 1    Woolly Rose (Echeveria cristata 'Doris Taylor') flowers

Every summer in my garden, the Echeveria cristata 'Woolly Rose' (a.k.a. Echeveria 'Doris Taylor') sends out colorful flowers that look like candies.  The rosette foliage of this plant is covered evenly with a thick mat of trichomes that gives it a velvety appearance - thus the name Woolly Rose.   Not only the plant is beautiful but it is also a source of nectar for the hummingbirds (Fig. 2).  Whenever my plants bloom, I move the ones that are in pots to a place where we can enjoy the view from the kitchen window.  

Fig. 2    When in bloom, Echeveria cristata is a hummingbird magnet.

Tips in Growing Woolly Rose 

1.  Soil.  Plant Woolly Rose in the garden where the soil is well drained.  Improve drainage of clay soils by adding sand or pumice in planting area.  In containers, use cactus mix for good drainage and weight.  Adding good amount of Perlite and sand to regular potting soil works as well.  

2.  Sunlight.  Woolly Rose is adaptable to a wide range of environments but the plant will look its best in the right place.  In the summer (Zone 9), position Woolly Rose where it will get a few hours of morning sun or a short period of afternoon sun.  Too much exposure to sunlight will result in washed out yellowish color of the leaves while too little sunlight gives relatively greener foliage and longer internodes.  The right amount of sunlight will give the plant a bluish green color and compact rosette foliage.  Contrary to popular belief, succulents thrive best in partly shaded environment.

3.  Water.  The plant can tolerate periods of dry conditions but they grow faster and look better if they get adequate water.  Adjust watering based on the weather.  Watering is needed more frequently in summer and spring time, when the soil dries up faster, than in the cooler months of fall and winter.  The size of container is also a factor to consider when it comes to watering.  Plants in smaller containers require more frequent watering than those in larger containers/

Fig. 3    Echeveria cristata planted along with some Aloes.

 4.  Fertilizer.  Woolly Rose performs better when it gets sufficient soil nutrients.  Although the plant does not need a lot of fertilizer, it is responsive to fertilization during growing season.  A low dose of complete fertilizer is all the plant needs.  Succulent/cactus fertilizers (2-7-7 and 1-7-6), available at local nurseries, are easy to use and can be applied as often as every other week.  

5.  Protection from Frost.  Woolly Rose is easy to grow - the only problem, especially where I live, is the susceptibility of the plant to frost damage.  In areas where freezing temperatures are expected, protect the plant by moving them to a sheltered area.  With a little bit of protection this plant will continue to provide a delightful touch in the succulent garden.

6.  Propagation.  The plant is easy to propagate through cuttings.  Stem cuttings collected under the lowest leaves are the fastest to root.  Collect and stick the cuttings where there is a little bit of moisture and warmth. Figure 3 shows Woolly Rose growing from the sides of an orchid plant. Cuttings were directly planted into the holes.  Some succulents can be easily propagated from the leaves but this is not the case with Woolly Rose.  

Fig. 4   Trichome-covered rosette foliage.

Note:  Extreme temperatures, drought, and nutritional deficiency are conditions that can cause stress to Woolly Rose - all of which can contribute in the loss of the basal leaves and exposing a dark brown stem (Fig. 4).   However, this is not necessarily alarming.  In fact, this is a natural process that gives that plant an aged look. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Radicchio in my Kitchen Garden

Radicchio (Cichorium intybus) made it into my vegetable garden when my husband sowed (literally poured) a packet of Salad Greens seeds in between tomato plants last summer (2013).  The seeds emerged quickly, produced healthy foliage till they began to bolt and produced flowers.  Autumn came; one type of the greens continued to grow and did not bolt.  Then winter came; the leaves of this plant began to form heads - like that of cabbage.  The new leaves also began to turn wine-red in color.  It was then when I began to wonder what this plant was - Radicchio!

When Monocle Magazine named radicchio Vegetable of 2014, I was determined to keep a close observation on these curious plants growing in my garden.  The mildly bitter and vibrant red radicchio is considered a super food due to its high antioxidant content.  It was tempting but I resisted harvesting them.  At this point they were more valuable as a learning tool than food.

Spring came and the radicchio heads began to unfurl and flower initiation began.  The plant finally began to bolt.  The ground-hugging salad item suddenly turned into seven-foot flowering plant.  Beautiful blue flowers opened every morning and faded in the afternoon.  This scheduled flower opening made the bees busy during the cooler time of the day.  Indeed, radicchio is a good insectary plant.  Being a member of the Asteraceae plant family (commonly known as aster or sunflower family), the flowers are designed in such a way that insects can land on them with conveniently.

 Plant radicchio for food, beautiful flowers and insectary plant.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cymbidium Season

There is a season for everything.  In my garden, now is cymbidium season.   While the rest of the plants are just beginning to awake from their winter rest, these outdoor orchids are putting on a spectacular show. 

Cymbidium flowers have an incredibly long life span. When left outdoor under a protected area the blooms can last from four to six weeks depending on prevailing temperatures and available moisture. Based on my experience, they can outlive their desirability. With clean water, cut flowers have a vase-life of two to three weeks.

Cymbidiums prefer being outdoors where they can get bright lights but away from direct hot sun, gusty winds and frost.  Here in our Zone 9 area, night time temperatures still come close to freezing at times and the ornamental pear tree (Bradford) that provides a protective shelter in the summer is still bare at this time.  And although these orchids can withstand some frost, we usually move them into the patio for protection during the cold months of January-March and also for a little cover from direct sunlight.  When they are done blooming they go back where they can get as much sunlight as they can while temperatures are still below "scorching-levels". This arrangement works well for me since the patio is right next to the dining room window; we get to enjoy the flowers more. It is alright to bring the orchids indoors when they are bursting with flowers but they need to go back outside as soon as possible in order to keep the plants healthy and strong. Generally, I prefer to cut the flowers and leave the mother-plants outside. This way, next year's bloom is not compromised.

It is obvious from the pictures here that I need to learn the discipline of staking.  Staking is a process. It is not a one-time activity.  Success in staking can be achieved when the process is started when the spikes are short and then tied progressively higher as they lengthen.  Staked flower spikes look stately and elegant but the natural bent-look of their unsupported counterparts gives the appearance of freedom and playfulness in the cymbidium.  So it is a matter of preference.

  The name cymbidium comes from the ancient Greek word "kymbe" meaning hollow vessel - referring to the cupped base of the lip.  For that reason, cymbidium is also referred to as the boat orchid

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Spring Flowers Meet the Rain for the First Time

First Flowers:  Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera

After a record-breaking period of no measurable precipitation in our area, the rain has finally come this year. Between yesterday and today, some four inches of rain (and counting) has already blessed our soils.  For the first time this year, the soil is getting close to saturation within the root zone.  It is beautiful to see the leaves of the plants glisten under an overcast sky.  The colors of the flowers look more intense in the rain.  Even with just two rainy days, so far, signs of accelerated activity among the plants are now visible.

The plants seem to be singing in the rain right now.

HortiCOOlture - The Mutant Cactus

Fig. 1   Hibotan:  Gymnocalycium mihanovichii var.friedrichii 

Mutation happens when there is a sudden change in the DNA sequence of a gene which contributes largely to the diversity among plants.

Hibotan or Moon Cactus (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii var. friedrichii) is a mutant cactus. This mutation is characterized by the absence of chlorophyll in the plant.  The colors of the normal Gymnocalycium range from green to greenish purple, but their mutated counterparts - lacking the green pigmentation - exhibit bright colors in yellow, pink, creamy-white, orange, or red. 

Plants are by nature autotrophs - capable of producing their own food through the process of photosynthesis. However, the absence of chlorophyll, a key component to photosynthesis, disqualifies the mutant cactus (Hibotan) from being a self-feeding organism.  On their own, they will not survive for more than a week since they cannot produce sugars for nourishment.  However, in spite of its inability to photosynthesize, the absence of the green pigmentation resulted in clear vivid coloration of the plant that mimics the vibrant hue of flowers.  Indeed, the colorful part of the Hibotan (Fig. 1) is not a flower.  On the contrary, it is a handicapped plant that is grafted to a physiologically functioning plant for nutritional support.  The composite plant with brightly colored scion on green stock creates an appearance of a cactus in bloom (Fig.1).

It is not a flower -- it is a chlorophyll-free cactus attached to a green stock.

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