Gardener's Supply Company

Miniature monsters–the tropical pitchers

Well, I finally succumbed and purchased a few more miniature growing nepenthes commonly known as  tropical pitcher plants . Some of the species can get to be monsters in the wild, big enough to capture a hapless frog or small monkey! But if your’re growing under lights indoors, then the miniatures are your friends–and kitty is safe (meow of relief).

These hybrids came for Predatory Plants in California. They took a while to get to me as the first shipment was lost, but another was dispatched from their cosy greenhouse–as soon as there was a break in the weather (33-45 degrees F)–to my deluxe apartment in the sky. Well not quite.

The babies arrived with pitchers fully formed , tightly bundled in sphagnum moss like new born babes in zip-loc bags. Below is a close up of a small-growing cultivar of a delicate species with tendril like leaves called Nepenthese glabrata.

a miniature pitcher plant

a miniature pitcher plant!


The  grower included pots and long-fibred sphagnum moss so I could immediately pot these up with minimum trauma. I went ahead and added some peat moss and perlite, mostly sprinkling this on top of the moss as its hard to get the two to mix together very well. I gave them a  good soaking with some collected snow-water, that I warmed up first. I also added a few drops to the pitchers as per the instructions. Here is a photo of the trio of plants potted up.


Young pitcher plants potted up.

Young pitcher plants potted up.


The last step was to drop them into a decorative jar then i got from one of the home decor shops a while back. I added some lava rocks at the bottom to capture any drainage water as Nepenthes like to be wet, but NOT sit in water. This also provides added humidity to the jar terrarium. The lid totally encloses the pants into a  little stove-like greenhouse but they seem to love this. The plants were set under my grow lights. In winter the temperatures are ideal(mid 70s day–low 60s at night)  but in summer I may have to move them to a bright spot that does not get as hot. By then, I hope they are well established and growing strongly!


tropical pitcher plants--at home in assorted vase and jar terrariums!

tropical pitcher plants–at home in assorted vase and jar terrariums!

Miniature Sinnningias Put on a Show

sinningiaThe cooler fall weather seems to have perked up my miniature sinningias. So I threw a bunch together and took this photo. As you can see there is quite a variety of shapes and sizes , though any of these would sit easily in the palm of your hand! Despite their delicate appearance, the flowers are quite sturdy and last a while!





Miniature Sinningias



Charming Chinese Clivias

Unbeknownst to most of us, the Chinese have been cultivating Clivias for more than half a century now but have gone in a very different direction than here in the west. The Chinese clivias have been bread for their leaves; short, wide, round-tipped leaves with uniform inter-venal patterns on a ‘fan shaped’ symmetrical plant are highly valued, often to the tunes of several hundred dollars.  The flowers themselves are secondary to the foliage! With descriptions such as ‘broad leaf monk’, ‘malian’, ‘oil miller’  and ‘painted face’ there is an entire lexicon around these most intriguing of clivias that Chinese breeders have made their life’s work.

Chinese clivia in 5 " pot

Chinese clivia in 5 ” pot

What has intrigued me the most is the compact nature of the Chinese clivias. Standard clivias grow up to be large showy plants that take up a lot of room. The Chinese ones are about quarter to half the size from as little as a 12 ” wingspan up to only 22″  across.

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to find three ‘Broad Leaf’ monk seedlings for sale in the US on ebay. One of them perished after a year, but the other two grew well and developed the characteristic fan-shape of the Chinese clivias. The one pictured here, that is blooming for the second time,  is about 22″ inches across. Its twice as large as the other one, which has yet to make its debut on this website.

I enjoy these plants both for their exquisite foliage and lovely blooms. I grow them the same as regular clivia, though they apparently have more specialized and exacting needs. One things they do seem to more susceptible to is root root–so I make sure not to water them excessively.  I also use a very open bark-based mixture, and I ensure that the base of the plant sits just above the soil level.  If you’ve grown and bloomed clivias before, you may want to try your hand at one of these lovely compact Chinese cultivars.

Chinese clivia--flower close-up

Chinese clivia–flower close-up


Scarlet Baby Awakens

Well, one of the indoor gardener's first sign that winter is on its way out,  is the appearance of buds on Amaryllis bulbs.  So, here is a multi-bulb pot of Amaryllis Scarlet Baby emerging from dormancy. If you can't make out the buds look  for the lightest yellow coloured areas amidst the foliage--yup, those are the buds! And they are emerging from all four bulbs. They are pale as they've been in a dark storage room but will green up in light.  As you can see they look dead and dry to the world, but will soon spring back to  life with a little warmth, light and water. We'll post  a picture when they bloom but if you would like a sneak peek, head over to our Amaryllis bulb website

March 9 update: We’re in full bloom! see below..20 flowers and buds

Amaryllis Scarlet Baby

Amaryllis Scarlet Baby

Amaryllis bulbs after 8 -10 weeks of dormancy

Amaryllis bulbs after 8 -10 weeks of dormancy


Pinwheel Patterned African Violets

A 'pinwheel' African violet

A ‘pinwheel’ African violet. This cultivar is called ‘Petunia’

Perhaps not as exciting as the mythological chimera (a mishmash of snake, lion, and goat) chimeras in the plant kingdom refer to distinct  types of plant cells within the same plant  that have different characteristics. So in the case of African violets, you can end up with the beautiful pinwheel effect displayed here by the miniature variety ‘Petunia.’

These are no harder to grow than other African violets, though you may have to go to a specialty grower to find them. They also will not reproduce by leaf cuttings so you’re out of luck there unless you can get hold of a sucker(young plantlet that forms at the base of the mother plant. Petunia happens to form multiple crowns so could be easily propagated. It also has an attractive semi trailing habit. This plant is growing on a tiny plastic two inch pot that we dropped into this decorative cache pot for display.


Government Shutdown forces DC Orchid Show to Relocate

2013 NCOS Orchid flyer 2

Usually held at the beautiful US National Arboretum, now closed due to the  government shutdown, the NCOS 66th Annual Orchid Show and Sale will now be held at Behnke Nurseries, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705.
For directions see

Same DATES: No change: still October 12 to 14 (Sat., Sun. and Monday, Columbus Day weekend).
Same HOURS: No change: still 8:00 am members-only Advance Sales, 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday, and 10 am until 3 pm on Monday.

Here is your chance to see thousands of orchids in bloom, attend free workshops and demos, speak to experts and but choice orchids from vendors that you won’t find in your local grocery or big box store! Its just past the beltway and there is ample free parking.

 Below are some photos from recent orchid shows to tantalize you..

gorgeous cattleya in bloom at a previous show

gorgeous cattleya in bloom at a previous show

Paphiopedilum Misty Del

Paphiopedilum Misty Del

Habenaria medusae, a terrestrial orchid

Habenaria medusae, a terrestrial orchid

Corpse Flower, Titan Arum, Blooms in D.C.

Despite record heat in Washington DC, the titan arum, the world’s largest flower, took its time unfurling its giant calla-like “bloom” at the U.S Botanic Garden and is in full bloom!

The giant titan arum in bloom

The giant titan arum in bloom


Native to the jungles of Indonesia, this plant can take a decade or more to bloom. After all, putting up an inflorescence that can be ten feet tall is no easy feat. The plant has to build its reserves, which it stores in a giant swollen root called a corm –kind of like a spongy potato–that can way 30 pounds or more.

The role of the giant spadix that gives the plant its Latin name, Amorphophallus titanum is to generate heat about the temperature of the human body, or that of a rotting corpse. Like a giant antenna sticking up from the jungle floor the spadix disperses the flower’s stinky perfume far and wide to attract pollinators. The effect is enhanced by the deep red spathe, the skirt that surround the spadix and approximates the color of decaying flesh. This attracts certain carrion beetles and flies that end up pollinating the tiny flowers that are actually deep within –so what we think as the flower is technically an inflorescence.

All this takes a huge amount of energy and within 48 hours, the flower will collapse not to appear again for a very long time. You can see an illustration of this plants amazing life cycle here.

Sunlight shines through the spathe

Sunlight shines through the spathe

getting ready to bloom....

getting ready to bloom….

Quadruple-spiked Amaryllis?

Amaryllis buds emerging

Amaryllis buds emerging

Amaryllis bulbs can produce 2-3 spikes per bulb once bulbs mature. If you want an even more impressive display you can plant several Amaryllis bulbs in one pot, There is another way though. Amaryllis bulbs tend to produce baby bulblets, or offsets, from the base of the main bulb.

Many growers simply remove these and discard them or pot them up separately. This way, the main bulb continues to grow bigger and stronger without having to feed the younger bulb. Or, you can just let the second bulb continue to grow. You will have two cojoined bulbs that in a few years can be separated.

However if you leave them joined they will develop their flower spikes at practically the same  rate this assuring you of a spectacular display. We illustrate this with an favourite of other Amaryllis White Picotee. The photo on the lower left was take in spring 2009.  You can see the new baby bulb emerging on the left. To the right , is a picture of the same plant taken in spring of 2013, Four years later, the baby bulb has matured and caught up with the mother bulb. Each produces 4 spikes. Typically, the first  pair open simultaneously, followed about a week later by the 2nd pair. For a few days, while the first flush of blooms are fully open and the send flush opening, you get the maximum number of flowers open simultaneously  By the time the second flush of blooms are all open, the older blooms on the first flush are beginning to fade. Nevertheless, you will have blooms to enjoy for several weeks all from the same pot!


Amaryllis Picotee in Spring 2013

Amaryllis Picotee in Spring 2013

Amaryllis White Picotee in spring 2009

Amaryllis White Picotee in spring 2009















Time to awaken your sleeping beauties


With spring’s arrival Amaryllis are awakening from the their winter slumber. If you’d done things right, you would have waited until the leaves died down last fall, gradually tapering off the watering. Then, with a sigh at summer’s passing,  you would you have put the bulbs away in a coolish dark place at about 55 degrees to hibernate through winter. And forgotten about them.  And if you didn’t do this, then you can learn more about amaryllis dormancy here.

And you’ll also learn that not all of these beauties want to fall asleep, Some let the old leaves wither away gracefully, but keep a saucy plume of green, flirting with winter and biding their time(the aptly named Amaryllis Scarlet Baby is notorious for doing this but with its beautiful delicate foliage who am I to complain).

But I digress.

Over the past few weeks, you’ve poked around your garage, or your storage unit in the basement in your apartment building in my case, and found your trove of amaryllis bulbs(and if not, don’t dally and go look for them now). And while your withered bulbs may look like death warmed over you must have trust. If you look closely you should see the tips of white buds or leaves peeking out optimistically, ready to catch the spring sun and turn green!

Help them.

Find a warm bright spot on your windowsill and give your bulbs a gentle wetting, like a spring rain rather than a summer deluge. Be sure not to get water into the crown of the leaves from whence the bulbs and leaves will(or are) emerging. As the leaves lengthen, and the flower buds arch out on sturdy green stems, keep your plants sufficiently moist but not wet. This will encourage the roots to grow, rather than rot with too much water.

No plant food is needed. The ingenious bulb  has packed away all nutrients it need to sustain the blooms. Stake the flowering stem as it lengthens, slowly at first and then really quite rapidly. Be sure not to let your plants dry out. Once the buds burst through their sheath sit back and enjoy the show –  ideally with a nice got cup of tea and enjoy the floral display as sleeping beauty awakens.

This is the same plant 3 weeks later. Each of the two cojoined bulbs has two flower spikes!

This is the same plant 3 weeks later. Each of the two co-joined bulbs has two flower spikes! They typically are staggered so as one spike begins to fade the other one  comes into bloom.

Amaryllis bulb emerging from dormancy

Amaryllis bulb emerging from dormancy in early March. You can see the buds emerging from the ‘side’ of the bulb.The bulbs have lost weight as all their stored energy is now devoted to blooming.

Bonsai Dendrobium

Dendrobium neomorale blooms

Dendrobium neomorale blooms!

I purchased this dendrobium orchid  at our local orchid society meet from a visiting speaker who grew them in Texas. This orchid comes from the Philippines where it likes the heat.

I was struck but the architectural beauty of the plant and its bonsai like appearance.  So  after it had  been growing in its pot for a few months, I slipped it into a bonsai pot.  The plant was growing in sphagnum but knowing that these cane-stemmed dendrobium often a appreciate a good drying it out, I potted it in clay aggregate while leaving the root ball intact within the sphagnum.

The plant has grown well and blooms every spring after the cooler night of winter. The tallest growth is about 18 inches tall. The tiny flowers last from 1-2 months! They have the texture of plastic and appear in pairs, hanging ‘upside down’. In nature, the plant would be growing on a tree with the long stems hanging meandering  down. The flowers, thus, would be the right way up.  This is one orchid that is very attractive even when not in bloom. As you cannot see, the plant has been very carefully staked to keep the growths more upright. There were twice as many blooms as shown in the photo below–I just waited too long to photograph it!

Dendrobium neomorale

A striking orchid-Dendrobium neomorale