2022 Rock Garden Progress

This year’s progressive growth in our rock garden is now to the point we are working to contain and manage all the plants instead of trying to encourage them to spread. Some plants have been very slow growing while others we can rip out handfuls (eh hem, ice plants) without causing any damage.

We have quite a few ice plants in the pink and yellow varieties that bloomed quickly this year that I missed getting photos of, but the rest of the hen and chicks, stone crop and sedum varieties are still going strong.

We have a final few bare spots we have kept open to move and spread other varieties to, knowing in the past few years we would need to keep re-organizing growth around the rocks. These hen and chicks we found in the scrub parts of our yard and began to dig them up and move them to the garden. They need zero care and minimal moisture and just take off on their own.

New this year are the height of these hen and chick blooms forming. I’m honestly not sure if this is what they do normally or if they are too tightly packed and are reaching outwards for the room. We will see what is to come from these nearly two foot high arms. Examples below are of two hen and chick growths among the sedum.

Each variety brings its own blooms at different times which makes having the rock garden an interesting feature to get to enjoy each time we walk outside. All of these plants do very well in the extreme seasonal differences here in southeastern Wyoming. At this point, other than trimming back overgrowth, it requires almost no maintenance anymore.

My husband did set up a helpful drip line with water spray heads that cover roughly a foot or two in various directions. Most home improvement stores have these and we bought a system from our local Menard’s. Probably all the plants we added would have made it without watering, but it did help them get off to a stronger start.

We look forward to enjoying this patch of small wonders for some time to come. What’s not to love? Easy, heat and cold tolerant and blooms galore!

Firecracker Orchids

Earlier last month, my husband and I made a trip to Fort Collins, CO that occurs every so often: We drive into old town to go to his favorite restaurant, and of course because my favorite orchid greenhouse is on the way, we make a side venture there also. I would like to think he enjoys the brief stop at the greenhouse, but I am pretty certain he knows if he didn’t pull in there, I most likely would jump from the vehicle and combat roll into their parking lot. And that would be embarrassing.

Nine times out of ten we leave with some new acquisition or variety of orchid I do not have. This particular visit yielded some spectacular new plants that I am absolutely tickled pink with. I found this Stellar Hoku right off the bat.

It is difficult to walk into a small section of orchids that are mainly white, yellow or other pale tones and not see this firecracker that is at least 6-8” taller than anything else on display. “Firecracker” is the description I first thought of.

If the blooms were any more visceral, it seems they would fly right off the spike as nearly hand-sized floral explosions. It of course immediately found its way into my shopping basket for the drive back home and I have been enjoying it immensely for the last several weeks since.

My Smallest Orchid Yet

Taking a leap, for the first time I ordered a very young yellow pine orchid (gastrochilus japonicus) and had it shipped to my home. The process was very simple and quick, with the young orchid arriving safely packaged in newspaper and a double plastic pot healthy and growing.

Yellow pine orchid on arrival.

Taking a leap, for the first time I ordered a very young yellow pine orchid (gastrochilus japonicus) and had it shipped to my home. The process was very simple and quick, with the young orchid arriving safely packaged in newspaper and a double plastic pot healthy and growing.

Surprise! More roots than I suspected.

Since then, I have nervously been watching its progress as it acclimates here. We live in an extremely dry climate and despite running humidifiers 24/7, often my new orchids lose their aerial roots until they re-establish in a potting medium where I add more sphagnum moss to help with moisture retention. Most take a few weeks or months but send out new aerial roots thereafter.

My “make do” baby orchid nursery on my standing desk.

This tiny pine orchid has been pampered with daily root misting, fertilizer and a prime real estate location near a window and under an LED lamp where I can keep an eye on it. And still, it’s a battle to keep those roots silvery green and plump. Not knowing what losing any roots might mean to a such a small orchid, I have really been keen to see this small plant get started with as many intact as possible.

Blooms are coming!

Last week, I was overjoyed to see budding blooms appearing earlier than expected. The description of the shipped order indicated it might be 2-3 years before the plant was mature enough to produce flowers but it appears luck is shining on this tiny orchid as flowers are definitely on the way. Once it completes the blooming process, it will get a shiny new pot and medium all its own next. This one will be a joy to care for!

Terminal Orchid Blooms

Orchid bloom alert! Earlier I posted here about a phalaenopsis orchid I purchased from a local store that had an odd leaf structure, which I later realized was a terminal orchid. And voila, she bloomed after all. In fact, this one bloomed so large and so fully, that I’ve had to stake the plant three times to continue to support the weight of all those blooms!

Orchid bloom alert! Earlier I posted here about a phalaenopsis orchid I purchased from a local store that had an odd leaf structure, which I later realized was a terminal orchid. And voila, she bloomed after all. In fact, this one bloomed so large and so fully, that I’ve had to stake the plant three times to continue to support the weight of all those blooms!

I’m not sure yet if I will try the methodology of using a growth paste for orchids to try to generate a keiki, but for now I’ll just enjoy the gift of blooms for as long as they last. I’m watching those additional blooms to come to see if I might have to add still additional support to hold this heavy spike up as the remaining blooms open.

Sweet Nia Rose

Walking into my dining room area today, I didn’t just see my sweet orchid sitting on the table, I smelled it. In advance. From several feet away. Glorious fragrance, just as if a huge dozen big red roses were bursting open in bloom.

If you look, can you see the shape of dancing ladies?

The orchid oncidium Nia Rose is just amazing at how much sweet tones of floral essence it can put out of such small blooms. Often called “dancing ladies”, the dainty and ruffled petals of these types of orchids resemble women in flaring skirts.

We picked up several new plants this year from Fort Collin’s nursery in nearby Colorado. Having gone for one, we came back with six. As one does. And this one was part of that bunch.

Zooming in shows so much more than you see than first glance.

Unfortunately a few days after arriving to our home already in bloom, I found it completely covered in aphids. Stems, blooms, the whole plant. Following online instruction, I used a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water to spray all over the entirety of leaves to roots and cut off the stem of blooms, regrettably. But it was for the greater good of saving the plant.

Surprisingly, it immediately put out this new stem of blooms with not an aphid to be seen. I look forward to re-potting this one just as soon as it finishes it’s bloom cycle and really see it take off a few months from now. What a delight!

Watching and Waiting…

I picked up this interesting phalaenopsis orchid from a Lowe’s store before I learned what this type of plant is. Having tried my hand at a number of orchids prior, it struck me as interesting how the spike rose from the middle of the leaves and crown and I brought it home. Later on, I learned this is the unfortunate malady of a few orchids: Terminal spike.

Dtps. Ox Red Eagle X Dtps. Fuller’s Black Strive ‘3428’ in terminal spike.

Terminal spike is essentially when the spike happens to grow out of the middle of the crown and leaves in such a way that no future leaves can grow, thus limiting the life of the plant. It will eventually die after this point.

There are different schools of thought on why orchids produce terminal spikes. Some say it is because of a deformity where the spike, is pushed into growing out of the middle of the leaves due to an unknown obstacle to growing out of the sides of the crown like it should (toughened exterior or such). The jury remains out on this, but it all seems to make sense based on what I have read so far.

Close-up of the orientation of a terminal spike growing from leaves.

That said, all is not lost. Several terminal spike orchids, in their last bids to live, will send out a keiki from the spike. If you are interested, you can find out more about these here. Some growers will apply a hormonal paste to the spike to encourage this growth so that they can clip if from the dying plant later to start a new plant. It is still a roll of the dice if it will work in each case, but one has nothing to lose in trying.

Heavy spike of blooms ready to open.

This lady seems to be working hard to thrive with what she has left so I think I will let her tell me how this is going to go. It just goes to show though, that you never quite know what you will end up with when you take home one of the “orphan orchids” from the discount section – sometimes you are in for a learning experience and pleasant surprise after all.

Finally, It Has a Name

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This hybrid was a total puzzle as to what it was until I did some online searching and found this beautiful lady to be a Zygotoria Midnight Blue “Cardinal’s Roost”. The blooms emit a scent like a large vase full of roses and the petals stretch approximately three inches across.  The last of the blooms recently fell off of the single stalk this week, but this photo is a beautiful reminder of hopefully more flowering to come.

Mini Orchids

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I’ve started a hobby of buying discounted orchids after they’ve lost their blooms on store shelves and are no longer deemed attractive. Usually sellers will steeply discount them and leave them to dry out as they can’t afford to care for them for their multi-month resting period vs. displaying more attractive plants in bloom to sell.

This little one is a miniature orchid called Younghome Little Snow. While the leaves may grow slightly, the small stature of the blooms and stalks will stay ever small (per what I’ve read). This one began losing its blooms weeks ago and I elected to snip the stalk when it was down to the last 2 so that it could go ahead and start regenerating leaves and resting. (This was also a discount orchid with a sun burn on one of its leaves).

I’ve kept the stalk in a cup with water and the blooms are still going strong now several  weeks later – very surprising! What makes it even more unique is that these snowy white petals with the slightest hue of pink and yellow are barely bigger than a quarter. It’s such a sweet little plant; petal-perfect in every way 🙂

Waking Up from Winter

The first green growth peeking out of winter foliage always lifts my spirit that growing things and signs of spring are just around the corner. It’s in my East Coast upbringing that by April, yards are lush with budding trees and bushes with vibrant blooms  from landscaped gardens.  Wyoming is different with the land not truly waking and stretching  until later.

The winter has felt unreasonably long this year due to work keeping my focus for longer work days with more challenging deliverables across many time zones from my home office here. As the weeks have worn on, I’ve found myself eyeing the dark windows in the mornings and evenings, wishing to see the beginnings of spring to see some element of change on the horizon.

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With that in mind, it surprised me recently to see our rock garden already with hardy succulents and tundra plantings sending out green colors and new leaves. It does something for the spirit to finally see the beginnings of growth again.

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Many of these were sprouts were the beginnings of roots that we tucked into the crevices of rocks and soil wondering just how much of our first foray into rock gardening would take. We hoped that half of the plants we purchased and planted would take, but so far, only 2-3 have been lost – not bad for our first try with these types of plants.

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The clear winner of durability and hardiness so far has definitely been the ice plants purchased at an annual master gardeners community plant sale. Those little plants, per their names, seem to be able to tolerate all forms of winter and still come out swinging.

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It’s encouraging to see the original plants still hanging in there, but even more so starting new shoots and buds from within. Things are definitely stirring under the soil!

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The Wyoming winter is definitely not done with us yet, even here in mid-April. The threat of snow and freezing temperatures likely won’t pass until end of May. But as these tough guys are proving, they’re thriving despite the blizzard that just passed through last week. Yes, they’ll do just fine here.

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I’ve already got the next local plant sale on my calendar to add to our expanding landscaping. Just the idea of picking out more plants and doing more with our relatively new property is a pick-me-up that the cold and gray winter is soon to give way to sun and warm temperatures soon.

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