Summer 2023 – General Update and Garden Progress

astrophytum collection

Written ByJen Greene

Posted: July 4, 2023
Apologies to anyone who typically visits my blog each week, eager to see a new post about a new plant, or an update to existing specimens. The last couple months have had a lot of chaos happening for me personally, and I needed to take a step back from writing so I could focus on life events!

If you’re following me on Instagram, the biggest upset to my free time and schedule will come as no surprise: we got a puppy!

World, meet Luke, the Dutch Shepherd.

We went with a Dutch Shepherd in the hopes of a dog that would mature smaller than our big lumpus of a German Shepherd, Ritter, who’s a hefty 100 lbs. Luke should mature at about 70 lbs, so still big enough to do his job (chasing away coyotes and sounding scary when strangers visit) but not the small horse we’ve been living with so far. 

He’s extremely smart, extremely active, and very sweet. I hope to bring him with me to club meetings in the near future! 

Another crazy bit of news is that the same day we picked up Luke from the airport (to find a breeder selecting for the traits we wanted, we ended up having to get a puppy shipped), I was contacted by someone who had found Kitty!

Kitty is our rescue Pomeranian, who went missing from our front yard last August. Turns out someone had stolen her, and about a month ago, she ran away and was picked up by someone else on the street. The person who found her only was able to reach out to me thanks to all the lost dog posts I couldn’t bear to take down last year when we didn’t find her! 

She had fleas, was so matted she had to be shaved, and her teeth were a disaster, but she’s back home now and very happy to be here. She settled back into the house and our routine like she never even left. 

In plant related news, now that I’m heading into my third summer in the greenhouse, I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of it. Some plants need more water, others less, and I move things around seasonally based on what’s active and growing compared to what’s dormant. This year, we had a particularly long and dreary spring, and it’s only been in the last couple weeks that I really had to do my summer shuffle between below-the-bench and above-the-bench. 

All the cacti are up and awake, and when I can remember, I’ve been pollinating flowers and grabbing seed. The gymnocalyciums have been easiest, and obliging about producing seed. This year, I haven’t focused much on the pflanzii, as I know I won’t be able to collect and prep the seeds reliably with the demands on my time thanks to sir puppy, but the vatteri and ragonesi have timed themselves well. 

astrophytum collection

My small farm of oddball Astrophytum myriostigma is also all blooming and have been producing quite a few fruits for me, packed full of seed. The hardest part is getting out into the greenhouse and grabbing the fruit before they split and drop all the seeds into their pot, or slipping away from work meetings to pollinate midday! 

I have several sets now of 3 and 4 lobe fruits, with both plants crossed into each other, as well as seeds from my variegated 3 lobe myriostigma. Alas, as cool as it is to have the seeds, it’ll be at least 2 years before any of the progeny are of a size to sell! 

Case in point: the echinocereus above are at least 2 years old now, but are only just starting to grow in a way that’ll make them of a size that’s suitable to offer for sale. Too young, and they’re too delicate, even if they are very cute when they’re tiny. 

I’ve been making sure to use fertilizer nearly every time I water this season, at least for the seedlings, and I’m seeing much faster growth to robust sizes that hold up. Any seedlings left after the intensity of summer should be ready to be packed and shipped off! 

Many of the stapeliads are starting to bloom, and these really seem to have appreciated consistent fertilization through springtime. As long as nights were above 50 and the greenhouse hit at least 85, I’d water about once a week with a balanced fertilizer. I can’t wait for some of my new species to throw blooms, although I know it may not be until next year that I see any. 

This plant, while pretty, was a bit of a let-down in bloom. It’s a stapelia x orbea hybrid called “purple bullseye”, and while the center of the bloom does look purple in the right light…the bloom itself is really just a somewhat oversized scitula bloom to me. At this point I have at least 3 slightly different types, and I’d love my bench space for the stapeliads to have more significant variety in bloom appearance. 

I have two of these and haven’t decided yet if I want to keep them both or not. 

They’re very hardy, easy growing, and fill in their pots rapidly. Maybe I’ll use them as ground cover or filler in my African slope planting to the north of the greenhouse.

Planting some stapeliads to use as ground cover and fill in for the area would help keep weeds out, and keep things in theme for the slope. 

I have a slew of aloes and gasteria in the ground already, like the Aloe karasmontana above, and they are doing well. I planted the slope in early spring, when we were still getting all the unusually excessive rainfall, and that’s really helped everything establish nicely. 

I’ll wrap the xeric plant portion of this up with my big win from the SDCSS Summer Show and Sale! My first time ever winning a “best of” category, and with my Dudley brittoni! The long dreary spring was good for one thing; my dudleyas all looked amazing heading into the show, and were full of impressive blooms. 

My outdoor tropical plants, like the Thai Constellation, absolutely loved the rainy, cloudy spring. Mild temperatures, high humidity and rainfall, constant cloud cover during the brightest times of day? Apparently, the exact idea of heaven for my monsteras. 

My Philodendron verrucosum are also all doing well; I’ll actually need to trim them up soon. The new leaves are so gorgeous, it’s impossible not to just sit and stare at them when they unfurl. 

And that wraps this update! 

I’m hoping to get back into the habit of blogging again now that initial puppy frenzy is giving way to puppy routine. This time of year is the busiest when you have cacti and succulents, and I definitely have plenty of repotting and seed sowing to do before the days really get shorter! 

Keep up with me over on Instagram – although I’ll warn you, at the moment, it’s an awful lot of puppy posts in my stories. 

Enjoy your Fourth of July! 

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