Sunday, 18 December 2016

house work, house plants and a propagation update

It is another foggy day.  I am going to go to Waitrose, and then cook tomorrow's lunch and tonight's supper and finish cleaning all the things I didn't get round to cleaning yesterday, or at least that subset of things that I'm going to clean at all.  I'm not sure it's worth washing the glass partition in the hall at this time of year.  You can only really see the difference when the sun shines through it. Anyway, by the time I've done all that I'll probably fancy a nice sit down with a Sudoku, and Waitrose doesn't open until half past ten.

The trouble with cleaning is not just the cleaning, it's the tidying up first.  Things would be different if we were tidy people, but neither of us are.  Tidying the kitchen took ages, what with clearing up the pile of old newspapers, catalogues, gallery guides from art exhibitions I'm not going to revisit, bank statements, charity appeals, my calculator, a plastic ruler, several pencils, various magazines, and assorted till receipts.  They all have to be sorted out carefully otherwise your credit card statement ends up in the paper recycling.  Then there was the wildlife camera next to the toaster (which I put on my desk where it doesn't count as mess because I haven't tidied my desk yet).  Even now there is a multipack of tins of cat food next to the kettle, which I can't put in the cupboard where the cat food is supposed to live because that is taken up by boxes of cat biscuits, which have to be kept in a cupboard because otherwise Mr Fluffy will chew through the box.  The kittens have not yet worked out how to open tins, but they did bite holes in a bag of no-mess bird food which is now in a tupperware container meaning it won't fit in the crock in the hall where it supposed to live, so has ended up on the kitchen worktop next to the ice cream machine.

As part of the great kitchen tidy I took stock of the experimental cuttings on the window sill.  One took and one didn't.  Impatiens auricoma x bicaudata rooted with ease.  This is the orange flowered impatiens that will grow a yard tall and across once it gets going, and was happy in semi shade at the back of the conservatory until vine weevils ate the roots.  The piece I experimentally stuck in compost was from fairly near the base of the plant and had two branches about as fat as my little finger, so broader than a pencil, and about eight inches long, plus a third, short, fatter stem.  It always used to drop its leaves for winter in the conservatory and had done so this year before the final collapse from vine weevil.  I used normal multi-purpose compost because that was what I had, and didn't put the cutting in a plastic bag because I was afraid the fleshy stems would rot and anyway it didn't have any leaves to lose moisture.

I thought it was beginning to root fairly early on, as I could see one wavering white thread through a drainage hole, and when I very carefully upended it over the sink (while the Systems Administrator was out) there were roots, just the two.  It is better really not to disturb your cuttings until they have had more of a chance to establish, but it was an experiment and I was curious.  New leaves began to grow at the same time, the kitchen of course being much warmer than the conservatory in winter.  The short third stem began to wither early on, and I wonder if it was supplying moisture to the rest of the plant.  Now I can see more roots through the holes in the bottom of the pot, and it has begun to throw out some rather weedy side shoots, so I think we can say it has taken.  The only potential problem is black dieback in the stem ends at the top, and I have just cut half an inch off one of them, sacrificing a shoot, to take it back to clean and undamaged tissue.  I haven't checked how the two smaller cuttings I left in the greenhouse are getting on, but the principle is established.  If you have an Impatiens auricoma x bicaudata you can propagate it from cutting without any fuss.  I am curious now to try my luck with another exotic balsam.  I think Dibley list one with pink flowers.

Against that, Fuchsia boliviana resolutely refused to root.  First one and then the other cutting died, leaves dropping one by one until the tip drooped and told me it was game over.  Upon exhumation neither had the least suspicion of roots.  Alas.  Perhaps Other Fellow Fuchsias will have more in the spring, and if I can track one down I will know to keep it almost pot bound to make over watering more difficult.

Looking on the bright side, my orchid is throwing up a new flowering spike and sending out two side shoots off the remains of the old one.  But the older leaves on the Mandevilla hybrid in the hall are yellowing and dropping.  The nursery woman I bought it from told me to keep it on the dry side over winter and not to move it into a larger pot until spring.  Perhaps the air in the hall is too dry for it.  The striped green, peppermint and bronze Tradescantia is very happy, sending out long new arms that are feeling their way hopefully up the bread crock with bird food in it and through the Mandevilla.  I am keeping that very dry indeed, after the losses of previous years.  It was rooted from a piece that I accidentally broke off the plant in the conservatory and took very easily.  It makes a good companion for the Mandevilla in that the leaves are a similar size and shape and the green centre of the Tradescantia leaf picks out the solid green of its neighbour.  Aphid has been a problem on everything except the orchid.  Yesterday I sprayed the Impatiens and stood it out in the porch to dry, luckily remembering to bring it in again in the evening, and now I see I need to do the same for the Tradescantia.

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