Bromeliad propagation

Just before leaving for Denver last week to attend the Garden Bloggers Fling, I was in the process of finalizing an order for some hard to find bromeliad species. My visit to the San Antonio Botanical Garden last December inspired the purchase; I admired the garden's display of epiphytic bromeliads growing on tree branches, small pitchers connected by a dramatic network of long stolons.

Below are the new arrivals from Michael's Bromeliads, all arrived neatly wrapped in newspaper with handwritten labels. If the offsets/pups look undersized, they should; most are mini Neoregelia species with a couple of small Aechmeas, plus an Acanthostachys for fun. Apologies for the terrible lighting.
This was the bromeliad I most wanted but seemed impossible to find in the US, Neoregelia pendula var. brevifolia.
Acanthostachys strobileacea arrived already in bloom, or perhaps fruit? While bromeliads are monocarpic, an unbloomed offset was also attached, so the bloom was not a cause for concern. The blooming plant was a bonus and will hopefully produce pups as it declines.
All of the new bromeliads arrived as unrooted offsets/pups separated from mother plants and will need time to root. For the potting substrate, I created a mix of coconut fiber, coconut chips, grit, and Orchiata orchid bark. And here are the bromeliads potted up.
My experience with bromeliads is limited to hardy varieties, so hopefully this experiment goes well!

Crested cactus discovery

I am back in Texas visiting family and enjoying the local flora, mostly around Comal County. The native cacti in this area are generally Opuntia species and Echinocereus reichenbachii (my ID, so take it with a grain of salt). I am particularly fond of E. reichenbachii, seen below.
And a small village of E. reichenbachii.
The size and shape of the cactus varies but always appears attributable to growing conditions in each site. That was until today, when I found a crested form!
From another angle, note the three normal growths at the top and the mutated squiggle towards the bottom right.
Nurseries frequently offer crested forms of cactus and euphorbia, but I have never discovered the mutation growing naturally in the wild. Judging by looks, there is not much economic potential (and obviously I would not remove it in any case). The plant certainly looks very healthy, despite its unusual growth pattern.

New addition at the Nancy Malmgren Environmental Learning Center

I had the opportunity yesterday to stroll through Carkeek sans dogs, a rare opportunity to view the garden around the Environmental Learning Center without distractions. The garden showcases drought tolerant natives, and yesterday I saw an exciting new addition, Xerophyllum tenax, a beautiful bear grass native to the Pacific Northwest.
Compared to many grasses, X. tenax has a stiffer, almost plastic texture, which creates a lovely fountain shape and displays the pale undersides of the leaves.
The tall, white blooms are stunning too, seen here on our hike to Tomie Peak Lookout in Mount Rainier National Park in late July 2016.
The plants at the Environmental Learning Center appear to be mostly shaded and may not bloom as much, but beautiful foliage nevertheless.

Not a garden post

While I am generally not a fan of the home & garden genre (the focus is always on the former), the project dominating this year's growing season will be a major house renovation. I do not intend to switch the focus of this blog to the renovation work, but given it will pose a significant challenge for the garden this year, I believe it is relevant to mention for context.

Currently, we are still in the demolition phase. Previously, the master bedroom was on the left, and the master bath on the right. The roles appear to have switched in this photo, taken shortly after demo started in mid February.

Removal of wallboard by the fireplace revealed the original wood veneer checkerboard. Successive owners hid the house's mid century roots with traditional remodels, resulting in a very odd look, particularly with the asymmetrical fireplace location.

And a week later in early March, with the wood tiles, ceiling, and pole gone. Apparently the pole in the middle of the room was not structural beyond supporting the weight of the ceiling, crazy!

 The fireplace today, notice anything missing? The high "window" is actually a hole where the chimney was.

A view from the outside, the chimney previously went through the hole in the roof. Boards on the right are missing windows. 

Unfortunately, I did not plan ahead and take any before photos, but here is a listing photo showing the chimney and windows.

Returning to the garden, my plan is to keep making progress as much as possible on weekends. In the meantime, given much of the garden cannot be planted, quite a few plants remain in or were relocated to pots, and I will be running a small nursery at the back of the garden. I have a feeling a lot of my time will be spent repotting and watering.

Two walks in Carkeek, continued

Continuing from yesterday's post, our second walk in Carkeek Park began around 2 pm, and the sun made an appearance...

Snow on this particular tree was especially beautiful...

Pipers Orchard, wind was causing a secondary snowstorm to fall from the trees...

The crooked trees were still standing...

A little snow certainly makes a city park look like pristine wilderness. Unfortunately, the cold weather is forecasted to continue, with more snow expected in the coming days.

Two walks in Carkeek

After a very mild, sunny winter through the end of January, the weather fell apart in February, turning cold and snowy. Four to six inches fell overnight, and without much else to do, dogs and people took two walks in Carkeek Park.

Around 10 am Saturday, starting the first walk under cloud cover...

 Paul and Kona, walking ahead...

Several trees were down across the path, and I doubt these trees are supposed to lean this much (walk quickly)...

The snow may be depressing in the garden, but it is certainly beautiful in the park. I will post photos of our second walk in Carkeek tomorrow.

Bamboo installation, completed

Last week, Paul and I planted the shadier half of our 50 ft stretch of fence line with bamboo, and yesterday,we were finally able to complete the project. Had we fully considered how difficult it would be removing several tree stumps and trenching and installing bamboo barrier in the middle of winter, we might have reconsidered the length of the hedge or hired a professional.

We planted the lower 25 ft with Chusquea culeou, a relatively short-lived clumping variety. Bamboo Garden started these plants from seed in May 2016, so I very much doubt their 45-year lifespan will be an issue.
Unlike most bamboo, Chusquea has solid culms that lack the characteristic hollow center, and its canes are reportedly much stronger. Hopefully I will have a ready supply of canes for various garden projects in the relatively near future.

And this is what Kona was up to while I photographed the bamboo, chewing on a stick carefully selected from the Olympic Peninsula...

Raised bed construction

Beginning in fall 2017, the big garden project was constructing vegetable boxes and installing them in a sloped, circular bed. The bed was overgrown with 7-ft tall fennel when we moved into the house earlier that year.

Boxes being built inside the garage...

And after completion, upside down and waiting to be dug into the ground in October 2017. Five-month old Kona, enjoying the process more than her owners...

After installing the raised beds and filling them with soil, we quickly realized fences would be necessary to stop the dogs from digging and sleeping in the boxes.

Fence prototype under construction. The panels slot into black PVC pipe pieces buried upright in the raised bed so the fence can be quickly moved for unrestricted access.

Initially, we covered the unused sections of the existing circular bed with mulch. That was a big mistake. With two large dogs running around, it was impossible to keep the mulch and graved from mixing. Completed boxes as of March 2018...

Vegetable garden in early May 2018...

Looking much neater in July 2018 after replacing the mulch with more gravel,

And a winter reality check today,
Sandy is hoping she can snag a collard leaf through the fence.