But I digress (again). The Sinningia I bought is called ‘Kevin Garnett’. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting, nor a choice for that matter — I was just happy to find one at all, and so cheaply, too. Given a choice, I would have selected a plant that produces a much simpler, red flower. Regardless, I’m happy with this one, despite the fact that it’s not really to my taste. The novelty of keeping it alive and making it bloom hasn’t worn out yet.
At home, I repotted the plant up in a little terracotta pot and placed it alongside my other African Violet Family plants. I used African Violet soil and planted it shallow, exposing the caudex like Erika’s. Mine did not come that way, but I prefer the look.
It is still early days in my Sinningia growing experience and I am not well-read on the subject. To be honest, I’m kind of winging it, going on instinct more than anything else. Whether or not exposing the caudex is good or bad for the plant is beyond me; however, months later and ta-da, my plant is blooming. I must be doing something right.
I love this pot I photographed at Paul and Uli’s garden in Etobicoke a few month back. It uses a tender Kalanchoe as the centre feature and is stuffed full of tender echeveria (the frilled varieties are always my favourite), and pencil cactus (lower right).
This is a pot anyone can grow as long as the potting soil has a bit of grit added to it to help it drain well. Unfortunately, none of these plants will overwinter outdoors in cold climates, but they settle back indoors with little fuss.
I don’t even bother upending the roots. I just cut the stems, let them heal over for a few days (forming a callus over the cut end) and then stick them into some sandy soil. They reroot easily, and cutting them back in this way prevents those long and scraggly bare stems that are inevitable with these plants as they grow and drop their older leaves.
Over the weekend my friend Barry opened his garden up to public viewing and for something special, brought most of his impressive agave collection down from a third floor balcony and into the yard for viewing. It’s not just that Barry has assembled this collection, but that he grew many of these large plants from seed! Perhaps not such a difficult feat in a southern climate, but here in the North that means years of shifting spiny plants indoors and out, and months of coddling under lights and in sunny windows through the winter.
I walked around the table with my cellphone and shot a little video of the plants. If I had to choose a favourite, I think it would be the one that has black leaf margins and spines. But only under duress since there are several others that are just unbearably pretty. The white one in the centre of the arrangement is pretty impressive too. And the little one with the very thin leaves….
Can you distinguish the plants from the rocks? Lithops, aka stone plants, are a favourite botanical freak but I am very tentative about growing them. I’ve killed a fair share and even though I have an intellectual understanding of their needs, I still don’t feel like I truly “get” them in practice. I currently have 2 plants and I haven’t killed them yet so that’s saying something, I suppose.
My friend Barry grew these from seed. He says they are about 2 years old. Look at the exciting colours in there!
I never see anything that interesting in stores. I’ve got a packet of seed that I bought back in the spring. I hope to grow them this winter once my outdoor gardening activity cools off. Since I’m feeling a bit nervous about the experiment, I’ve started a Lithops Grow-Along thread in the You Grow Girl Forums. Support, camaraderie, and accountability just might be the ticket to success. Wanna join me?
One of the things I brought back with me from our month-long Caribbean trip (did that really happen?) was a renewed enthusiasm for some of the tropicals we grow here at home as houseplants and annuals. Seeing them in their natural habitat provided new, helpful insights into their growth habits and needs, and an appreciation for what they are capable of.
I returned home eager to grow cosmos again, with a respect for caladium (although I will never grow them), and a wish to expand beyond African violets and into growing other Gesneriads (African violet family plants).
The first gesneriad that caught my interest was the episcia shown above. I spotted it growing out of a wall at Papillote Gardens in Dominica. I recently acquired a little cutting of a different episcia and boy do I wish I could grow it in the crack of an old wall like this one. But alas, while our summers are sometimes hot and steamy like the tropics, the rest of the year is not. Mine will be living life in a pot.