Two months ago I had a brand new lighting setup and a hankering to test it out with some seeds so I sowed three packets that had been sitting around for a year: lithops, mixed succulents, and mixed cacti.
Back in the spring, when I guiltily purchased this kalanchoe tubiflora (aka Widow’s Thrill) on impulse, it was all about the tall, spotted tubular leaves and the way it looks like a bottle cleaning brush.
I didn’t look for photos online or in books to see how it would turn out down the road. I repotted it, watered it, and let it tell me what it needed. I let it be and enjoyed it as it evolved through several stages into this wonderful surprise.
I didn’t realize it would bloom through the first cold and dreary days of winter. I didn’t think about the flowers or imagine that they would be such a beautiful shade of orange, nor did I consider how much delight they would bring me as I trudge through the emotionally turbulent final days before I hand over my next book manuscript for scrutiny.
After all of these years, I think I’ve finally come to understand what a necessity it is to keep a few plants that will make pretty, colorful flowers when we need them most. They’re not decadent or self-indulgent; they’re essential.
Once again my attempt at Wordless Wednesdays is a complete failure. As I was prepping this image, I realized I could not post it without saying something about these fascinating flowers.
Begonia plants have male and female flowers that carry the reproductive organs on individual flowers. This flower is the female, aka pistillate flower. The yellow part in the center that looks like a twisted up pipe cleaner is called the stigma. It’s the part that receives the pollen. The entire female reproductive system is known as the pistal. In this photo, you can just see the ovaries peaking out from behind the flower.
And so concludes today’s mini botany lesson.
Behold, the beautiful leaves of this Rex Begonia I bought last winter. It’s flowering!
The trick to growing this particular begonia is shade and humidity. My time hiking through forests in Dominica really drove that point home in a clear way. I often found begonias growing in surprisingly dim spots underneath thick tree canopy and near to a water source where the humidity was high. Rex Begonias are known for demanding more of both.
When I first bought this plant I had a difficult time finding that balance. I got the humidity part right but gave it too much light. Rexs without enough humidity end up with crispy leaf edges. And when the light is too bright, they lose their vibrant color.
From the moment I first laid eyes on an Oxalis palmifrons I knew I wanted to take a picture of it with a tiny model train figure standing underneath the leaves as if she/he was a tourist posing among a bank of palm trees.
This photo isn’t quite what I had in mind.