Tasmianian violet, jasmine, and stephanotis

I bought several tropical plants a few months ago. One of them is stephanotis, a plant which has fascinated me for years on account of its scent. But I had heard it could take years to bloom (ten years from seed). I decided to go ahead and get a plant from Kartuz Greenhouse. I think I saw that it would bloom in three years.

Well, it’s getting ready to bloom now! I have been watering my collection of plants in the corner of my apartment but haven’t been doing much else with them. They seriously needed potting up, so yesterday I finally did that. That’s when I discovered that not only had the stephanotis made a very long vine, but it has a bunch of buds. ¬†So looking forward to this! I’m still looking for folklore about this plant. I know about its association with weddings (a classic bridal bouquet plant), but I think it’s got more to it than that. It’s a member of the Dogbane family, although it is not toxic to cats (I was careful to choose non-toxic plants for my indoor garden). The fact that it is typically slow to bloom and has small flowers points to a Saturnian influence, but I need to do a lot more digging before I get anywhere with its possible magical properties.

The other plants I have inside are also doing well. I potted up the three baby mandrakes, patchouli, some fancy version of lavander, good old basil, Italian yellow jasmine, and some hoyas. I made quite a mess, but they should do well in their new homes. This weekend a friend will be helping me put up shelves so that this winter I can have a “conservatory” in the corner of my apartment.

Out in the garden!

I ended up being able to use a raised bed after all (maybe two, actually, since one I cleared just to make it look a bit neater has not been used). I got a very late start this year, latest ever, so I went through my seed stashes and chose a crapload of oldish seeds to sow heavily around the edges of the bed. These are mostly easy-to-sprout stuff I enjoy like Sophia marigolds, cosmos, and some archaic morning glory seeds that I harvested off my own plants some years ago. And what do you know, those elderly morning glories are up after only a few days. Other stuff is coming up as well, but they might just be weeds. That’s okay. I can weed. I also put in a ton of nasturtiums because they make a really beautiful living mulch and I just love the moon-shaped leaves. These are mostly an old variety called Tall Climbing Mix, great for draping over the edge of containers; just pop the seeds in around the edges.

In the past couple of years I’ve been buying in transplants of maters, peppers, and even eggplants instead of starting them from seeds because spring got to be too crazy for me. It’s my busiest time of year for the shop since such a large part of what I sell is seeds. But this year was especially nuts because of my book coming out in February. In fact, it resulted in the busiest spring I’ve had in at least five years and got pretty overwhelming. As far as my own garden was concerned, because I got started so late, the suppliers I’ve depended upon in the past for transplants had none left.

But then I found chileplants.com. I have never seen such a huge selection of chili peppers in both plant and seed form, plus they have maters and eggplants. The latter were mostly sold out, but I was able to grab 12 pepper plants, including my favorite, Aleppo pepper, as well as other peppers I’ve enjoyed before, like the dependable¬†Alma Paprika, yum Nardello, and the very beautiful¬†Czech Black. I also tried some new ones, most intriguing among them being Trinidad Perfume, The plants were big lusty critters too. I hope whoever is running this business is making buckets of money, because these are the best pepper transplants I have ever gotten and the selection is gigantic. Next year I hope I will be starting a bit earlier and can get some maters as well. And lots more peppers! This year they are mostly very short-season pepper varieties, since I am starting so late. But RI has a much longer growing season than upstate NY, so I hope I will still get some peppers.

I might also try starting some plants from these at the end of the season and taking them through the winter inside, since I just bought what looks to be a very decent indoor grow light system. I’ve grown mandrakes and henbane under plain old shop lights through the winter as well as starting seedlings with them for years. These lights are more intense without being so intense as halide or sodium lights or having such a creepy (IMO) color as the LEDs. My unit here is on a southeast corner and has huge windows, so I get plenty of light in addition to artificial light. I have shelving to hang these lights from that will go in the southeast corner of the unit.

The jasmine and other tropicals I bought a few months ago are doing great next to an east window with no supplemental lighting. I’ve also got three mandrakes started that I’ll be potting up today, and they’ll go under these lights because mandrake just LOVES fluorescent light.

Hope your garden is growing well!

New plants & new garden

yellow jasmineI think the best garden I ever had was in pots on a screened-in porch when I lived in South Florida. I had no access to a yard for growing, but I had a great selection of plants there–everything from henbane to calamus and more–and they were in really nice decorative clay pots of all sorts. The porch looked out onto a lot of trees. There were squirrels who came to give hell to the cats. We loved being out there. Sometimes I’d even sleep out there when the weather was nice.

The memory of that garden is helping me now. One of the reasons I chose this place was because they offered raised beds for the tenants to use. But this place has been so contaminated with drama and craziness from one kook tenant with way too much time on her hands that for me, the whole raised bed idea is no longer desirable. I do have big windows, so I wasn’t too upset, knowing I’d be able to grow a lot of things inside.

But it’s been a lot of years since I’ve grown plants indoors. All these decades I’ve had substantial gardens in my yard, I never had any houseplants except for some mandrakes. I haven’t got any interest in growing the standard houseplants. I thought if I’m going to focus on growing inside, then I’d really love to learn about some tropicals like jasmine and other good smelling flowers. So I’ve started collecting these plants and hope to branch out into orchids as well.

So far I’ve got two jasmines (photo above shows the yellow jasmine, Jasminum humile), a stephanotis, a New Zealand violet, a parma violet, several hoyas, and a couple of passionflowers. My goal is to fill my home with fragrant plants that I can not only enjoy for aesthetic reasons but learn to work with magically.

I have big south-facing windows here, but they might still not provide enough light, so I’ve got some lights on my wishlist for when the time comes. Right now everyone is doing well with the sunshine that comes in.

mandrake babyI did start a batch of mandrakes VERY late this year. I don’t have a basement here, which was ace for germinating mandrakes. I might have used the unheated maintenance storage area on the first floor, but I just didn’t think of it. Instead, I tried something completely different that I think will work for others in my situation: I created a good temperature fluctuation for the mandrake seeds by putting them on the top shelf of the fridge at night and then taking them out to put on a propagation mat during the day (max 70F). I did give them a brief 4-hour soak in a 1:9 solution of 10% hydrogen pyroxide (just like you get from the drug store) and filtered water. Then planted them in Jiffy pellets as I usually do. As of today, I’ve got germination.

I’m really looking forward to building my new indoor garden. Today I’ll be potting up the new plants. I’ll keep you posted as I move along with it.