- Author: Launa Herrmann
Generally when one thinks cactus, one usually thinks desert. Personally, I imagine a plant with thorns or spines that tolerates a dry hot landscape. Yet a spineless variety of cactus also grows in the tropical rainforests of Mexico, Central America, Northern South America and the Caribbean Islands. And believe it or not, this cactus can survive in Solano County.
If you are fortunate enough to obtain a cutting from a friend or at a plant exchange or sale, don't hesitate to give the Epiphyllum a try. Here are a couple growing tips:
1. Place the cutting in a dark place that's cool and dry.
2. Wait until the cut end forms a scar.
3. Find a clean small pot since this cactus prefers to be rootbound.
4. Loosely add potting mix to the bottom of the pot and around the cutting.
5. Lightly water but do not soak the soil. Set the pot outdoors in the shade.
6. When new growth appears and/or the cutting appears to be rooting, increase the watering. Soil should be moist — not soggy or bone dry.
Because the Epiphyllum needs shade most of the day, I placed my plant beneath a patio overhang. The overhang provides protection from summer's scorching noonday sun and winter's unpredictable frost. The cutting I obtained from a friend in Dixon who successfully has grown this cactus for decades. Although my cutting took several years to not only sprout into a multi-branching plant but to flower, the wait was worth it, as evidenced by the photographs below. Last year I marveled in awe when the plant produced its first, one and only blossom. This June I enjoyed the delicate almost translucent petals of three spectacular blooms that once again seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Also known as “Jungle Cacti,” “Phyllocacti,” and “Orchid Cacti,” the Epiphyllum is often called by its nickname of “Epi.” This rainforest beauty with its jointed stems and no leaves is an eye-catcher when planted in a hanging basket under a tree or in a clay pot mounted to a fence. In its normal habitat, this plant attaches its roots to the crotch of trees and drapes its scalloped paddle-like branches downward. However, some Epis present stocky branches that arch upright or at an angle. Epiphyllum hybrids are available with small to large flowers in almost every color except blue. The trick is finding them.
- Author: Jenni Dodini
I can't completely call this a "road trip" musing because we had to fly to get to Iceland for this tour, then we got to the "road trip" part. The tour group that we use always introduces "controversial" local topics during the long bus rides, and in Iceland there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the lupine plants which one can see all over the open spaces, more in the south part of Iceland than in the north.
A little history before I get to the story part... Icelanders can trace their history WAY BACK to when the first settlers landed in Iceland from Norway. The stories have it that when they landed in Iceland, the island was covered with trees. Over time, the settlers built their homes and warmed them with wood from the trees and eventually, all the "good wood" was used up for homes and boats, and the "bad wood" was used for fires. That is, the place was deforested.
In the south part of the island, the winds are incredible, and assisted in eroding the denuded forest. Then the snows and snow melt eroded more of the soil. Then, to add insult to injury, there are those volcanoes which felt the need to erupt and spew lava and ash all over the place. Over time, the lava beds will re-grow in a very slow fashion, but in the 1940's the ecologists of the time decided to try to speed things up and brought the Nootka lupine in to help with the process. The lupine plant (Lupinus nootkatensis) is a perennial that is native to North America from the west coast of south-central Alaska to British Columbia. It is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae. Lupine was chosen because it is a rigorous self-seeder with a long taproot known to stabilize loose and eroded soil. It is also drought tolerant. It is used in land reclamation of large, barren areas because it is a nitrogen fixer and phosphorus extractor. It grows densely to about 20 inches in height and produces a large amount of beautiful purple and white flowers, and hence an even larger amount of seed to be transported by the birds and very strong winds. The dense growth also traps plant debris and creates compost to revitalize the soil. The other lupine varieties, while grown in local gardens have not spread themselves around as has the Nootka.
Now for the controversy: The lupine forms a thick canopy over the ground, thereby stopping the smaller native plants from taking hold in the soil, actually, the lava rock. The primary impact, according to the articles which I read is the woolly moss, also known as gray moss, because of its color. Gray moss (Racomitrium lanuginosum) is one of the first plants to grow in the lava rock and helps the soil regeneration process. While the lupine does this much faster, the native plants do not get a chance to grow because they don't get enough sunlight. In Alaska, the lupine has been proven to die back once the soil becomes more fertile, but it has not died back as quickly in Iceland as it did in Alaska. Many Icelanders are calling for the eradication of the lupine and letting nature get back in control, and the others want to help nature along.
The saying in Iceland goes like this, "If you get lost in the forest in Iceland, then you need to stand up!" The picture below shows a pine tree growing up at the edge of a lupine patch. Some of the gray moss is visible in front of the pine. To the north, there is a large amount of forested area where a person would not be able to stand up and see the way out of the forest. This has been due to a combination of a less windy environment and the efforts of a wealthy landowner to re-establish the forests. Over the last 50 years, this landowner has been said to be responsible for the planting of almost a billion trees in the northwest part of Iceland. The efforts were very apparent as our bus rolled along through the beautiful green countryside. Then we would pass a bunch of lupine popping up out of the lava rock alongside the numerous streams. The trees which he planted most are birch (Betulaceae) varieties, larch (family- Pinaceae, genus- Larix siberica), as well as other pine species native to this subarctic zone. In the north, I noticed a lot less of the lupine than I did in the south. Then again, it may have retreated because of the work it already did....
- Author: Mike Gunther
- Author: Jenni Dodini
I was recently donating a good portion of my paycheck at the local box store's nursery, with my 5 year old grandson in tow. I was looking for a particular plant when I hear, "Gramma, I just CAN live without this plant!" Trying very hard not to laugh (as were several other adults in the vicinity) I corrected him that the phrase is "I just CAN'T live..." Since he said it with all the seriousness of a 12 year old girl, I assured him that if we did not buy it, he would indeed live, but we would not have to test it that day, and I put the pot into the cart. After a bit, he asked what the flower is called, so we looked at the tag and saw "Balloon flower."
Once we got home, I jumped on the teachable moment and had him get a spot picked out and choose a pot for it. We talked about how it likes a lot of sun, but not the really hot sun in the afternoons. So, he looked around, and I encouraged him to pick the spot on the bottom step going up to the house. He was fine with that, and into the pot it went. The next day, the stamen had opened into another little white flower and the bud had turned from a light brownish color to the balloon looking bud pictured below. The flowers that had been there were shriveled up. After doing my research, I found that balloon flowers are of the most kid-friendly plants that one can put into the garden. I think they are great because of the color, and they can also be found in white and pink, and because they are SUPER easy to grow and maintain. Their only pest enemy are snails and slugs. They only need sustained release fertilizer once a year, in the spring, and they produce lots of seeds which are in the dried up flower. The gardenknowhow.com site said to pluck off the dried up bud and put it/them into a paper bag and store in a cool dry place until spring, then break it open and sprinkle the brown, rice-like seeds onto a layer of compost and water. The sprouts should come up in about 2 weeks. (This will be the next teachable moment.) The site also said that if one would want to cut the flowers for an arrangement, to singe the ends to make them last longer. They may also need to be staked up, as they can get fairly tall.
Overall, I'm glad that I did not make the boy try to live without the plant as it has been blooming right along since we brought it home. Now I'm keeping an eye out for a pink one to add to the pot, and white while I'm at it.
- Author: Martha White
My Garden's Soul
A garden is such a personal creation
For some, it is faith
For others, it is promise
For many, it is memories-
A volunteer cedar tree, given by a friend who lives in the foothills
The handprint stepping stone, crafted by young grandsons, years ago
A birdbath Christmas gift, not so cleverly wrapped
The boy statue and the girl statue, reminding me of the blessing of my children and grandchildren
A pot of double begonias, part of a partner purchase on a happy garden outing
The hanging plant on clearance at the grocery store, now thriving
Succulents and geraniums, flourishing from cuttings, gathered from friends
Birthdays, Mother's Day, Easter, love
Every glance, every turn of my head, reminds me of the story. The story of how all these beautiful parts of my garden have come to be
And, continue to be…