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Archive for the ‘Plants’ Category

Oh, what of it.

I’m back after eight months of silence. Real Life got in the way. Now I’m back! New year and sort of an updated online presence. I have aquired an Instagram account (anachroneironaut, for some reason Anachroneironaut wasn’t available).

I’m not going to be able to recap the lion part of 2014 to my satisfaction, so I’ll just pick up right here and now and post bits and pieces as I go along. There are plans for 2015, some of which have already sprouted. Among them the epic Fish Pepper, a favourite from last year. A chile pepper with striped pods and variegated foliage. Great looking plant.

Fish Pepper - Capsicum anuum.

Fish Pepper – Capsicum anuum

One of the reasons I’ve had such a long blog hiatus was me not drawing enough and wanting the next post to be a drawing.  On the other hand, the Fish Pepper is truly as fantastical as anything I could draw at the moment. This article made me buy the seed over a year ago: Fish Peppers – Mother Earth News.

Fish Pepper rainbow

Pods in various stages of maturation

Fish Pepper White BIG

Sometimes the pods go all white

Upcoming: I am buying a Namiki Falcon, finally, from The Goulet Pen Company. Look forward to flex nib drawing in the months to come. Sweet. I am going to try out some black inks and focus on B&W line drawing only for a while, to get going again.

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…Sometimes you really have no good excuse for procrastinating, so you should just shut it and get on with it.

Things I have done recently rather than blogging:

1. Researched biopunk. Oh, yes.
2. Continued to plan my collection of botanical SF, Day of the Triffids upcoming. Recommendations of other works welcome by mail or in the comments.
3. Watched plants grow. It is more enjoyable than it sounds. Re: above.
4. London. Once again Kew and Cass art. Bought Bristol board, maybe partly because Ian Miller uses it. I am very curious about it.
5. Failed at keeping in touch with people. An old favourite, unfortunately.
6. Grown Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Swan Lake, a k a Dainty White. This is supposed to be the ‘Fantasia’ cultivar which sometimes have partially/all pink flowers. I will post again if this happens. The plant is from Madeira Exotics, a Portugese shop on British Ebay. I bought it last year. Growing Hibiscus from cuttings is not very difficult, but not for complete beginners either.

HibiscusSwanLake

I might have drolled around a bit. The title of this blog post is called Back to the classics for a reason, as this is very much nothing new at all and I wish I had something more bombastic to offer. Though there is fish, eyes with feet and what looks like an alien owl involved, which means it cannot be all rubbish.

uggle

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The two areas of intrest that have held my attention the longest are exotic (house)plants and fantastic literature. I have been into plants since I was about 12 years old, and at that time I was already an avid reader. A long-standing favourite book that combines these interests, a book I have previously mentioned on this blog, is Hothouse, by Brian Aldiss. His Saliva tree is also a classic in its own right. Of course, there are plenty of others. In my botany-related to-read pile is Phytosphere by Scott Mackay and Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock. Maybe a future area of collecting, botanical SF and Fantasy? I haven’t even gotten into green/macro biopunk yet. Just wait til I get my lab up and running… Any book recommendations?

I am growing tiny black holes in my bedroom window...

Huernia keniensis. I am growing tiny black holes in my bedroom window…

With an interest in the odd, grotesque and strangely beautiful, the more common houseplants did not do it for me, at least not for long. So I researched… Among the orchids there are many species that look beyond weird but I will start this series with another class of plants, the Stapeliads (tribus stapeliae). To add even more epicness, almost all the generas have names that really trigger the imagination: Huernia, Carraluma, Stapelia, Quaqua and Tromotriche. The genus Hoodia that has been featured in the weight-loss press, is also a stapeliad.

Stapelia grandiflora

Stapelia grandiflora

Probably Stapelia lepida

Probably Stapelia lepida

I wouldn’t go so far as to say reality is more fantastic than mine (and your) imagination. But I would say they are equal, if you know where to look.

These plants are E A S Y to cultivate, cheap to buy cuttings of (but you’ll have to wait a while for them to flower if you buy smaller cuttings) and generally awesome. They do like to dry up between waterings and a sunny, but not burning hot, spot in a bright window. Fortunately, as opposed to several orchid genera, they tend to look nice (Well, barbed-tentacle-nice) even when not flowering. The only disadvantage might be the stink. Yep, most of them are pollinated by flies, not by butterflies or moths. Ergo: “scent” of rotting meat or days-old cadaver. Some species are worse than others. When growing them in a small apartment I either open the window a bit or (really!) cut the flowers off and throw them away after a couple of days.

Upcoming: at least several posts on different orchid species, various pretty-leaf plants and probably more stapeliads, since the ones I bought a couple of years ago now are flowering size. Also, maybe a drollery or to inspired by my plant collection? Moving into my new and plant-wise very optimal apartment next week. Can’t wait!

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Vivarium, at five months…

New city and new place of work have kept me and left me busy and tired. I do like (almost) everything about this new phase of my life, but there is definitely a period of acclimatisation. I have a small but persistant headache and my eyes are a bit strained. I have made some progress on my borders and figured out the story a bit more on one of my Graphic Novel ideas. Apart from that I have read some books (Jasper Fforde, Celis T Rono, Conan Doyle and Jaqueline Carey), watched a lot of Farscape and started to paint the small figures that came with the boardgame Mice and Mystics I bought at Orcs nest this spring.

I brought my vivarium (of course). At five months running everything have been developing nicely. I have had to fight off a small fungal infection with neem oil and cinnamon powder. Seems to have worked and now I have made sure to improve the ventilation. None of the orchids have flowered yet. The Sinningias flower profusely, very prettily. I have sown another batch and they also seem to sprout small new plants from the base. The Kyoto moss spores have thrived in the treefern-wall in the back.

I am really annoyed at not being able to take better pictures, like the ones my father took in this post. Below is the best I managed, after some computer manipulation

Vivarium month 5

In other news: WordPress informs me that “sometimes your visitors will see ads here”. I have gotten more than a couple of e-mails from people wanting (sometimes for a small fee) to write guest posts. I guess this comes with this blogging thing. I have had plans on paying the fee to get my own domain and get rid of ads, but I am not yet decided. This was supposed to be a no-cost/no-earn blog and I hope to keep it that way. I hope it is not too annoying!

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Sinningia muscicola 1

Another look at the vivarium, now with flowering Sinningia muscicola Rio das Pedras.
This species is one example of a collection of species and hybrids commonly called “micro-mini Sinningias”. The diameter of the plant rosette is about 3 cm (that’d be a little more than an inch). The flowers are about 5 millimeters, pure white except for some vague blue mottling in the throat. My plants really thrive in the humid environment with constant air- and water circulation and good lighting (all these variables are important to avoid molds, algae overgrowth and rot. More on the construction of the vivarium in this post). There are other micromini species and I plan to try them all out. Having a vivarium this small is a bit like having a reverse bonsai, grooming meticulously inwards instead of pruning borders. I am looking forward to continue working with it. I do like the idea of restricting my huge intrest-drive to a smaller space like this. Restriction makes for quality and lots of time for this one structure. This thing is like a tiny green jewel.

There is a lot of information on Sinningia cultivation on the ‘net. A good start is googling “micro-mini sinningia” or visiting the American Gesneried Society homepage. I joined the Swedish Gesneriad Society earlier this year and I am very happy with the magazine and general attitude towards newbies (the homepage is partly in English).

Sinningia muscicola closeup

Thanks to my father for taking the very fine photographs!

In other news: two weeks until I move and start working at my new, very exciting place of work. Looking forward to it immensely.
Recently read: I finally got to read Jasper Ffordes Shades of Grey, and oh, was that a great read! The only good thing about putting off reading it for so long may be that the next book in the installment (of three, I believe) comes out later this year. The wait from 2010 would have been long, had I read the first installment earlier. Since I love reading about colour, perception, weird stuff and dystopia-flavoured adventures in mad bureaucracies, this book is just up my alley. The general colourfeeling of this book is a somewhat bleak sepia tone. The constant referencing to colours messes up my synaesthetic book-sense, though (and I am not bothered by that in the least). This book is among getting-in-hardback-for-regular-price-territory for me, which is sort of epic since I am a bit neurotic when it comes to spending money. I have gotten better about that, though. Largely because I like authors getting their due.
Future plans: I wish I could get started making small illustrations related to books I have really enjoyed, to try to capture the vividness of imagery a really well written book creates in my mind. Next blog post is wholly original though, but unfortunately not yet finished (and may never be…).

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Back from spending the better part of three weeks at my childhood home. I had a great time, reading a lot. Among others by Jo Walton and Zoo City by Lauren Beukes were two of the books I looked forward to reading the most and I am not regretting it, having read them (gah! Wonky grammar! Good thing this is not a blog on writing). The links lead to the Little Red Reviewer, one of my favourite book bloggers.

I love all sorts of herbs and have a special spot in my heart for Lavender. I am not sure which cultivar this is. One of the purchases I made at Kew Gardens this year was a book on Lavender. I cannot seem to remember the exact title and the book is in a box somewhere by now. Sigh. I’ll get back on you about that. This cultivar is originally from a 50s suburb in Stockholm. It is on the greyer side of the scale compared to many other varieties. It is amazing how much they differ if you bother to look. The thread is linen, from ropemakers at Beck & Rep at Fardhem, Gotland. I cannot recommend them warmly enough.

Lavender and linen thread

Back at my other home, the vivarium I started in May have, well, exploded. The image below is after some severe pruning of the Ficus pumila (a species which really isn’t suitable for a vivarium this small). The Java moss have been especially vivacious, but there has also been some growth of the smaller mosses I found in the forest. The small sinningias which were nonexistant in May are now ready to flower. Pics upcoming.

Vivarium expansion

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I’ve got more than 50 followers! Yay! Six new since the last post. Welcome, everyone.

As I wrote the day before yesterday, I made soap again. “I used smoked tea, Clary Sage, Green Mint, propolis and spirulina algae. If all goes well, this soap will have an earthy, green, smoky and minty type of fragrance and a pretty three-colour swirl in dark brown, grey and dark green. If it goes not-so-well I will have a vague minty smelling disaster in three shades of muggy brown. I will know tomorrow. It is very exciting and fun still, this soapmaking thing.”

Soapthree1

Well, above is the soap poured in milk cartons (very handy if you haven’t got a soap mould/tray/whatever). This time, with two previous batches under my belt, I decided to up the ante and make something more advanced. A swirl. Now, if you google “cold process soap swirl” you’ll get giddy, hungry and maybe a bit intimidated. There is a lot of pretty soap out there. To add to that, I wanted to only use natural colourants and decided on spirulina algae for green, black (smoked) tea for brown and actually LUSH deodorant powder, mostly powderized herbs, which turned a dark gray in the oils. This is the result:

Cold process soap with spirulina and Spearmint...

Cold process soap with spirulina and Spearmint…

It is hardly visible that I used three different colours. The yellow is the uncoloured part of the batch and the green is mostly spirulina infused oil with some undissolved spirulina powder in it as well. The dark dots are propolis (getting propolis to fully dissolve is practically impossible). The colour and swirl turned out great (although I confess I choose one of the nicest cut bars to show in the pic above). The scent I am less satisfied with. Mostly spearmint and a vague whiff of black tea. No smoke, no Clary Sage. The soap needs to be cured at least 6 weeks (maybe longer since this is an ungelled cold process soap). I look forward to see how it develops but I do not have high hopes of the (expensive) Clary Sage to magically appear in the scent palate. Still, I am satisfied with this first step in creating a soap to fit me perfectly. I do have plenty of ideas to improve this recipe, but this was a great beginning. I made approximately 20 bars.

The jars in the background contain freshly picked spruce shoots and honey. A couple of weeks in the sun makes for a good cough-syrup.

Upcoming: I have one more batch of soap planned this summer, a lime-coconut bar inspired by this post from http://offbeatandinspired.com. After that I have enough soap to last me forever and I will try to refrain from soaping til I have had time to try everything out, see how curing will affect the soap I have already made and of course work out and develop my recipes.

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