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Happy Crinum Day!

July 15th, 2015

I always look forward to the first day in summer that my Crinum americana flowers in my pond. Today was that day! Happy Crinum Day!

Crinum americana Flower




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Pogostemon yatabeanus Flowers

September 29th, 2012

It’s autumn and with the cooler temperatures some of the plants out in my pond are going to flower. The most striking one is a field of Pogostemon yatabeanus that I have out there.

Pogostemon yatabeanus with Inflorescence

This Asian native has grown wonderfully all summer for me, but has started producing terminal flower spikes on most of the stems.

Pogostemon yatabeanus Flower Spike

The spikes themselves are quite pubescent (hairy), and are made up of hundreds of individual flower buds.

Pogostemon yatabeanus Buds

Up close, the flower buds look more like an insect than a flower, but you can see that they gradually begin to open up, with each bud producing a viable flower.

Pogostemon yatabeanus Buds

The flowers themselves are a brilliant purple and very feathery. Each flower has a single stamen protruding outward.

Pogostemon yatabeanus Inflorescence

The immature flower doesn’t appear to have pollen (below), but over a day or two each stamen is filled with it.

Pogostemon yatabeanus Flowers

In this 5X magnification (below), you can see the tiny pollen particles clustered on the stamen. I’m not sure if a single flower spike can fertilize itself, or whether multiple plants are required.

Pogostemon yatabeanus Flowers

Eventually, the individual flowers detach from the spike, with the wind carrying them away.

Pogostemon yatabeanus Inflorescence

Below is a close-up of what’s left once a flower detaches.

Pogostemon yatabeanus Inflorescence Bare Spot

Eventually, all that’s left is a bare terminal spike that looks similar to how it all started.

Pogostemon yatabeanus Fading Inflorescence

I really love seeing how our aquarium plants grow and flower outside of the aquarium. Submersed, Pogostemon yatabeanus has growth that’s similar to its terrestrial form, but it’s more delicate with narrower leaves.

Pogostemon yatabeanus

By trimming more frequently, you can encourage the plant to produce smaller leaves, which is really necessary for most aquascapes. It also has a unique feature of sometimes sending out creeping runners that then popup new stems a few inches away. Overall, it’s a great aquarium plant, and it converts pretty easily from emersed form.

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2012: Pond and Garden

June 10th, 2012

The garden is in full swing right now, doing wonderfully thanks to the well-balanced weather of rain and sun that we’ve had in the mid-atlantic region. My raised brick pond is taking on a more natural look. Pogostemon yatabeanus has reseeded itself all throughout the pond from last year, which was a definite surprise.

Pogostemon yatabeanus

I also repotted my Crinum americana, which had become so root-bound that I had a terrible time removing the previous pot and separating the plant. I hope they’ll survive the process, as they are no where near as prolific as they have been in previous years.

Crinum americanum

Otherwise, the only other plant in the pond are some Mesanthemum sp. Africa that I’m hoping will eventually flower so my friend can try to properly ID it.

Sweet Potatoes

Elsewhere in the garden, my vegetable plants are all going strong. I got my sweet potato slips (Georgia Jet variety) in our boxes a few weeks ago, and they’re starting to take off.

Husk/Ground Cherry Plants

Our ground/husk cherries have already provided several handfuls of sweet yellow cherries that my wife and I have snacked on while watering.

Pepper

Some of our heirloom pepper plants from Seed Savers (highly recommended source for transplants and seeds) have peppers forming, but it’ll still be awhile before we harvest anything.

Neon Eggplant Plant

We’re growing three varieties of eggplant this year: regular, neon purple, and white globe. I been manually picking off the flea beetles to prevent the leaves from getting too much damage, and in return all three plants have begun to set flower so it’s a matter of time before fruit appear.

Tomatoes!

We have about a dozen different varieties of tomatoes growing this year throughout the garden. My most anticipated variety is Kellogg which was an absolutely phenomenal beef-steak style tomato that we grew last year. It stays bright orange, is pretty firm for a large tomato, and is sweet as can be!

Collards

What started as an impulsive buy of a market-pack outside of our organic market has turned in a really nice harvest of collards. Our favorite use has been to use the leaves as a wrap, in place of a soft tortilla. I’ve had to begin manually picking off the hungry green caterpillars that had been deposited on the leaves by white moths that regularly visit, but it hasn’t gotten too bad yet.

Okra

We did have an excellent harvest of white icicle and red radishes, where we ate more of the radish greens than we did the tuber. In their place, I’ve planted two varieties of okra that are beginning to pop up in the warmer weather. I still need to thin out the rows a little bit this week.

Grapes Forming

Our grape vine is going strong with lots of grape clusters formed. I’m debating whether this will be the year that I put up some bird netting to save the grapes for us. The bird netting worked fabulously for our strawberries this year, but I do worry about having birds and other critters getting trapped in the fabric.

Strawberry Spinach

We eat a lot of greens, and this year, we’re trying a new one in our garden: Strawberry Spinach (above). This plant should eventually produce stalks of red little berry clusters, but the leaves are suitable replacements for spinach, and tolerate the heat a bit better.

Peas

The peas are trellising and starting to produce pods. I doubt we’ll have enough to make any substantial pea dish, but they’re another nice treat in the garden. Malabar spinach is planted beneath the peas, so as the hot weather approaches, that red vine will overtake the peas on the support lines, and we’ll have lots and lots of greens for cooking dishes.

Kohlrabi

We’ve also planted kohlrabi for the first time ever. It looks a little leggy to me where it’s planted, but hopefully it’ll form that alien shaped base as the summer moves along.

Rainbow Chard

Did I mention that we love greens? Our rainbow chard has been prolific, producing seemingly new big leaves every day for harvest. There’s nothing quite like walking out back to harvest dinner!

Plant Nanny

Finally, we’ve been experimenting with these terra-cotta “Plant Nanny” spikes in several of our containers. I try to water regularly, but containers often seem to dry out on our patio unless they’re watered twice a day. With these spikes, water is absorbed through the terra cotta into the soil as the soil dries out. For medium pots that only have a single plant in them, they seem to work pretty well. Larger areas, like shown above, would probably need several spikes to make any kind of a noticeable impact.

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White Clouds Come Indoors

September 18th, 2011

We’ve started to get some cooler evenings as we’re days away from the start of Autumn. Therefore, I decided to begin the process of shutting down my raised brick pond for the year by netting out my mosquito controlling white cloud mountain minnows and bringing them indoors.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

I had put a dozen outside in the spring, but so far I’ve netted about 20 adult sized fish, and quite a few tiny fry (2-3 mm). I’m going to try to collect as many of the tiny fry as possible and raise them in an extremely densely planted aquarium inside. I love putting fish outdoors, as when I bring them back inside, I almost always multiply the number of fish I have, and the colors on the fish are fantastic from all of the live food they’ve hunted down over the summer.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

All of these minnows are going into my 12G bookshelf aquarium, which has a large colony of orange-eyed-blue-tiger-shrimp in it, plus about 50 juvenile bristlenosed plecos. This is a low-tech tank without any CO2 added and minimal fertilization, but there has a noticeable increase in plant growth since I’ve added the baby plecos and minnows. I guess they’re producing just enough waste to spur the plants on.

Hemianthus glomeratus

The baby plecos are also progressing pretty well. I’m keep their small bellies round and full by feeding them a mixture of veggie pellets, with earthworm or shrimp protein foods added 1-2X a week. Of course, I just noticed a brand new spawn of bristlenose in my 50G aquarium, so I’m overflowing a little bit with these fish at the moment.

Young Bristlenose Pleco

Nevertheless, my 12G bookshelf tank is becoming one of my favorite aquariums to sit and watch. The bottom is always moving with shrimp and plecos scavenging about, and now the white cloud mountain minnows are constantly active in the upper water column. Comments welcome!

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Nymphoides sp. ‘Taiwan’ Flower

August 26th, 2011

I was very happy to walk out to my raised brick pond this evening and find a single Nymphoides sp. ‘Taiwan’ flower. This particular Nymphoides species is fairly rare to flower, which is exactly why I put it outside for the summer.

Nymphoides sp. 'Taiwan' Flower

Every summer I try to put a number of previously unidentified aquatic plants in the hobby outdoors in hope that they’ll flower for me so that more botanically inclined folks can use my photos and pressed specimens to properly identify them.

Nymphoides sp. 'Taiwan' Flower

This particular flower is only about nickel sized in diameter, and sits about 2-3″ above the small lily pad below. It has four sepal and very delicate petals.

Nymphoides sp. 'Taiwan' Flower

The plant itself is a very easy to grow plant indoors in your aquarium, or outside in the pond. Indoors, if you continually trim any of the leaves that reach toward the surface, it will eventually grow fully submerged. One of the neat things about Nymphoides sp. ‘Taiwan’ is that roots eventually grow from the underside of each lily pad, producing a fully viable plantlet. That makes propagation very easy, and possibly also explains why it rarely has cause to produce reproductive flowers.

Nymphoides sp. 'Taiwan' Flower

Nevertheless, I’m very pleased that my plants cooperated and flowered! Now, I can feel justified to clear the water surface, as nearly the entire area is covered by overlapping Nymphoides sp. ‘Taiwan’ leaves! I’ll be sure to post soon if we’re able to properly identify this plant.

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Acmella americana Flowers!

October 12th, 2010

I was very excited this weekend to discover that a plant out in my pond was flowering! This particular plant was collected down in Texas in 2009, and a few of us have been growing it in our aquariums ever since, not knowing what its identity was.

Mystery Plant from Texas

We didn’t actually know we collected it until we got home, sorted through some other plants, and found a single stem in with everything else. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if it was an aquatic plant at first, but sure enough, it grew, albeit slowly. 

Mystery Plant from Texas

With the flower, we now believe the identity of this plant is likely Acmella americana, which has also been known as Spilanthes americana and Acmella oppositifolia over the years.

Mystery Plant from Texas

Submerged, Acmella americana grows a lot like Hyptis lorentzianai, except that it stays lime green in coloration. The growth rate and pattern is similar to Hyptis, in that the leaves stay much smaller under water, relative to their terrestrial size.

Mystery Plant from Texas

Additionally, emersed the stems tend to creep horizontally, but in the aquarium they are much more upright, with longer distance between the nodes. Due to that distance, use in aquascaping would require several stems growing together like you would grow purple bamboo or the true Rotala indica.

Mystery Plant from Texas

I’m very happy to finally get a lead on a plant ID after finding this plant 18 months ago. Now that we have a likely ID, I’m going to try to grow it out, and have some others try using it in their aquascapes to truly find out whether or not it’s a viable plant for the aquascaping hobby. Apparently, Acmella americana has been available in the pond hobby for some time, so it should be readily available to anyone looking to try it out. Comments welcome!

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Raised Brick Pond – It’s a Jungle!

August 12th, 2010

The pond is doing fanastic this year. I finally deviated from my previous use of a solar powered pump in favor of a Mag pump and pond filter. The circulation is much improved, and the plants have gone crazy. Back in May, I have a single Penthorum sedoides survive the winter and sprout from one of my containers. Now, nearly all of the green mass of plant matter is the bush that the single plant has become.

Raised Brick Pond - Overgrown!

The only other plant that may be even more prolific is the Hyptis lorentziana. This is a beast of a plant that has spread in every direction from its original planting, creeping horizontally, reaching for sunlight vertically, and everything in-between. Fortunately, the purplish green leaves are very attractive.

Raised Brick Pond - Overgrown!

Left to compete for sunlight and space are a Ranunculus species, Bacopa monnieri, Limnophila sp. ‘Sulawesi’, Hygrophila odora, some frogbite, and Salvinia. Of course the Crinum americana plants are still doing well, but they seemed dwarfed by the other plants this year.

Raised Brick Pond - Top Down

My regular garden plants are also creeping into the pond’s normal space. A huge stand of okra is beginning to block a lot of light to the pond (it’s about 7 feet tall now and growing), and my thyme and tarragon are invading from the other side. I kind of like the jungle look, however, as do our frogs, which we rarely see anymore as they are taking cover in the jungle. Comments welcome!

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Crinum americanum – New Lily Flower!

June 27th, 2010

I was very happy to see our Crinum americanum flowering outside in our pond this weekend. I’ve been growing this North American native lily for several years in my pond, bringing it indoors every fall to overwinter in a 5-gallon bucket in my office. The flowers are some of the most fragrant flowers I’ve ever grown, very much resembling a woman’s perfume.

Crinum americanum Flower

The flowers themselves are very delicate, lasting only a few days (or until the next rain), but they are nevertheless quite striking with purple/pink stamens. The stalks themselves run a couple feet tall, towering above the rest of the plant. The flower stalk begins like shoot from the base of the plant, and eventually, opens on the end exposing three separate flower pods like below.

Crinum americanum Flower

Those, of course, open into the flowers. Interestingly enough, the flower pods themselves are not really fragrant at all until after they open. (This may not surprise you, but if you’ve ever smelled how intense these flowers can be, you’d expect the scent to diffuse through the walls of the flower pod.) All in all, these Crinums provide a lovely backdrop for the rest of my pond. Comments welcome!

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Where’s My Pond?

February 7th, 2010

I live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., which was just hit with record snowfall. I figured it would be fun to provide a little perspective for those not from the area. Normally, during the spring, my raised brick pond in the backyard looks something like this:

Raised Brick Pond - 7/13/2007

This morning, I took a quick picture with my phone. Where’s the pond? For a frame of reference, the fence is a six foot fence. Keep in mind that I did shovel a little bit of snow onto that area to make a designated “doggie bathroom” area in the yard, since even our labs aren’t tall enough to wade through 3 feet of snow, but still, it’s incredible.

Blizzard 2010 - Where's my Pond?

Nevertheless, I’ve spent a good deal of time this weekend shoveling snow. I’m incredibly thankful that we have not yet lost power (knock on wood), as some other local hobbyists have and are very worried about the temperature of their aquariums falling far enough to threaten the lives of their inhabitants. Now that we’ve beat the modern snowfall record, I’m ready for spring, and gardening, and all the other niceties that come with warm weather!

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Raised Brick Pond – Ready for Winter

October 4th, 2009

Yesterday, I spent a large part of the afternoon preparing my raised brick pond for winter. Below is a picture of what it looked like right before I began. To prepare the pond for winter, I sorted through all of the plants, composting the extras, and bringing a few inside to overwinter in an emersed setup. I also had to drain the water down to about 2 inches in order to fish out all of the zebra danios, which would definitely not survive the declining temperatures.

Raised Brick Pond - October 2009

In the spring I added a dozen danios, and yesterday I pulled out about 4 dozen fish of all sizes from fry to adult. They’re going to overwinter in a terrarium setup inside, which they should love due to the waterfall current I have in there. Hopefully they won’t continue to breed in there because I really was only hoping to use them as mosquito control — not as a fish I really wanted to keep in large numbers.

Hyptis sp.

Hyptis sp. Growing Emersed

One of the goals I had at the beginning of the summer was to flower as many plants as I could outside. In that respect, I had a number of successes including: Ludwigia repens x arcuata, Bacopa sp. ‘Araguaia’, Rotala sp. ‘Sunset’, Staurogyne sp. ‘Bihar’, Bacopa monnieri, Limnophila sp. ‘Wavy’, and a few others I’m sure I’m forgetting. There were a few that I wasn’t able to flower, but hopefully they’ll send up flowers in the emersed setup over the winter.

Limnophila sp. Flower

Limnophila sp. 'Wavy' Flower

Finally, I closed the season with four frogs making my pond their home. They weren’t happy about me draining the pond, but hopefully they still have a few weeks to go down the street to the runoff pond where they can overwinter in the mud. My pond is almost entirely above ground, so if they stayed in there, they would surely freeze solid, which wouldn’t be good. Next time I build a pond, I’ll definitely dig deep down to keep a refuge place for fish so that I can keep some natives out there year round.

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