Green Thumbs

Passion for growing plants

   Oct 10

Darkness Crept back into the Forests of the World

To quote Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings movie, darkness is creeping upon us in this part of the world, the weather is chilly and the leaves have started to turn colour. It feels sad but at the same time I like this darkness. I’m feeling like the world is a darker place and more connected to all the evil spirits that populate the horror books and movies I so enjoy. The plants are shedding their leaves and everything goes back to the earth, slowly turning to humus. A sense of peace and quiet can be felt.

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Horse-chestnuts, aren’t they pretty?
The balcony has been emptied of tender plants except a passion-wine, a Bougainvillea and an olive tree. I have also made the unfortunate discovery that I don’t have endless space in my windowsills which has meant that some plants have been given away or sold. The windows in the stairways have been conquered by plants and I can only keep my fingers crossed that the neighbors won’t complain, I hope that’s hard to do with a tropical hibiscus blooming its socks off in two different colours.
Inside the apartment the Desert Rose has been given a new pot I bought the last weekend of summer and the Sarracenia has been moved indoors. Both seem to do well and the Desert Rose looks handsome in the new pot. The same day I got my very first Tillandsia, it does look a bit like an alien, doesn’t it?

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Tillandsia in the upper left corner of the second picture.
I do worry about the huge olive tree I have though, will I keep it indoors and hope for the best or find a corner in the staircase for it? I don’t really know yet but will keep it outdoors for as long as possible, which to be honest isn’t very long.
On the bright side my yellow Cattleya that hasn’t been re-potted for ages got a new clay pot today and I removed some of the leafless back pseudobulbs, hoping for the best but it seems like it should work. It has some really nice new shoots and needed a new heavier pot because it kept falling over all the time. The roots were a tangled mess when I cut away the pot and all the bark mix seemed to have been eaten by the roots.
This time of the year is bittersweet for me, I have to clean, weed my plants and check for pests, there is a lot to do and I can clearly say that I prefer to be bringing plants outside rather than inside. But when I can’t do anything more in the evening because of the darkness I can always watch garden series and dream of spring and one day moving to a more gardening friendly climate. I’d love to live in a Mediterranean climate some day. For now I have to be satisfied with watching my old favorites, like Monty Don and his Italian and French Gardens! Doesn’t Mr Don seem like the sweetest and most knowledgeable person one could listen to a gloomy autumn evening? Scroll down for more pictures.



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Summer tries to stay while being pushed back by autumn.


   Jul 10

From Manhattan to the Swamp

Phew! We’re having a heat wave right now, the weather is unusually warm and we’ve had several days with temperatures reaching 28 degrees! We poor Swedes aren’t used to having it quite this hot. The plants need lots and lots of water and I, their faithful servant need ice water.

In late May I bought a Canna lily with spent flowers, because of the lack of flowers it was marked down to 25 SEK, that’s quite a bargain! I recently had it repotted into a large bucket with drainage holes and the other day I saw a new bud forming! Right now it’s blooming its socks off. It feels good to get a great deal on a plant and then having it grow and flower.
Back to the Phalaenopsis orchids. I bought a new plant quite some time ago (also marked down from 199 SEK to 19,90 SEK) which I bet is ‘Wild Peach’ Since flowering is over I bought a simple but beautiful glass pot and put it in. Also the orchid where our former landlord broke the spike when she dropped a lamp on it was repotted. I figured it was for the best to give both of them some new space and growing medium. I have wanted to try a new thing with the orchids for awhile now. Planting in sphagnum moss and wine corks looks so pretty I had to give it a go. Friends have given me really weird looks when I have asked if it’s alright to keep the wine cork when at a party! I have to since the boyfriend doesn’t drink at all and looks at alcohol with disgust. Anyway, the project has been a success. The plants look very nice in their glass pots with the moss and wine corks.

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Last week when doing grocery shopping I was stopped dead in my tracks by a real beauty, it called to me in its speckled purple glory and as by magic suddenly I had a new Phalaenopsis in the shopping basket. Of course I never meant to buy yet another shopping mall NOID but I simply had to. Turns out it isn’t as NOID as I though, beneath all the plastic and paper stuff they put on the plants I got down to the original transparent pot which had a neatly printed text that said ‘Manhattan’ week 34. It made me super happy to get a confirmation of my suspicions on the cultivar name.

Before I wrap up for this time I just wanted to tell that my Amaryllis ‘Cherry Nymph’ is flowering right now, with two stalks none the less. And the Penguicula that got a new home in a bonsai pot early this spring is also in flower, it’s so cute and also very reliable. It keeps the kitchen free of flies and ocassionally sends up some flowers. I even made a division that I brought as a house warming gift for some friends who have also recently moved to a new place. That’s all for now, I have to refill my ice water!

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The Canna leaves are very pretty with their dark colour. I also have some peppermint cuttings growing in an old strawberry container, they are made from the same material as jiffy pots.

   Jun 23

Relocating, Repotting and Changes

Hi there again! Long time no see. Spring decided to be a hectic time for us since our landlady decided to sell the apartment we were renting, and between trying to find a new place to live and school there wasn’t the time and energy for the blog.
But now it’s June and the summer has given me more time to spend gardening and blogging, at a new place, a new balcony with an amazing view of the lake Mälaren.
Now, after half a month of living at the new place I feel the balcony garden is shaping up, the herb garden is finished in the planters and some of the indoor plants are summering outdoors.


What I don’t like is that we now live at the top of a hill, at the third floor with no elevator. It is torture to load a bag of soil onto a shopping stroller and take it all the way to the top and then carry it three floors. Doesn’t really make me motivated to repot my darlings. I bought eighteen liters of soil yesterday but it’s almost gone! Now here’s hoping for the weather to turn nice again, the weekend of Midsummer passed with grey skies, chilly winds and constant rain showers. The only thing actively growing in this sorry excuse for summer is the peppermint.

My Amaryllis bulbs have been refreshed with new soil and more space. Now I have a pot with only white flowering bulbs and one with reds and pinks. ‘Cherry Nymph’ has two buds! Look how juicy and nice it looks. When I was done taking pictures I realized that my favorite, ‘Aphrodite’ also has a bud, they are indeed spoiling me with flowers.
I’ll finish up this post with some recap pictures of spring.

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My oldest Adenium is in bloom!


A Canna lily is relaxing in the reclining chair


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And now some pictures of the gorgeous spring we had

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   Apr 26

Easter Holidays

Our Easter holiday was bliss! It started out with chilly overcast weather accompanied by winds, but ended in sunshine, warmth and a taste of summer.
Dear boyfriend had the day off on Maundy Thursday so we decided to head off for Djurgården, a large island in the harbour connected to the mainland by a bridge. It was a long time since I had been there and I wanted to see the pretty springtime wildflowers.
After almost two years in the city I was confident I could find my way without the crutch of my smartphone, perhaps overly confident as I took the wrong bridge and we ended up at Skeppsholmen instead! Of course my boyfriend took the opportunity to tease me about my mistake.

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This is the place we were aiming for, right across the water.

Although not the place we had planned to visit, Skeppsholmen is a lovely place with old houses and laws strewn with flowers. In our search for a boat to take us to Djurgården we took a tiny bridge to Kastellholmen, yet another island, which is a bit rough and untended compared to Skeppsholmen. However, that didn’t bother me; I like gardens a bit on the wild side.

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Kastellholmen was for a long time a part of Stockholm’s defense and features a small castle which once had cannons pointed out to sea. On both of the islands there are many old and gnarly oaks growing in the rooks. I’m sure it will look lovely once they are green.
What I found most entertaining about Kastellholmen was the tiny castle, complete with towers, arched windows and blazon inlays. It is situated to the right of the bridge support at the island’s shore. It turned out to be an ice skating pavilion, built in the 1800s as a place where nobles could change and get a bit warm in the winters before venturing out on the ice again. Nowadays it’s used as a hotel and restaurant.
If one were to visit Stockholm I would really recommend taking the time to visit Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen. Even though they are close to the city there is a calm and quiet on the islands that is only occasionally broken by a car or a siren from the city.

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Friday and Sunday we went to enjoy the Sakura blossoms in Kungsträdgården, a park in the city centre, planted densely with cherry trees.
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Monday it was time to take the first run of the season in our woods. The weather had warmed up and we could run without wearing our jackets!
The Common Hepaticas are still going strong but have gotten competition from the Wood Anemones. The weather has been amazing and I hope we can get to keep the warmer weather; we could really use some greenery now!


I can never get enough of cherry blossoms!

   Apr 12

Spring Symphony

So, spring has finally sprung. We had a couple of cold rainy days which were followed by glorious sunshine and birdsong. The buds on the lilacs are bursting in slow motion and one can see their tiny flower buds.  Other trees and bushes have bright green buds ready to finally meet warmer weather.
Behind our house there is a small forest where one can find masses of Common Hepaticas, which aren’t really that common in Sweden. Actually they are quite rare which makes it even more precious to get the opportunity to see them. It is a protected species in the whole country, meaning it is prohibited by law to sell the flowers or dig up their roots. In some parts of our contry the protection is even more strict. Best to enjoy them with eyes only.
Speaking of eyes, let’s see what spring looks like!


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Remnants of the farm which was once here.


Looks like ‘Wild Peach’


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Our landlord is wants to sell the apartment and while trying to style it a bit she accidentally broke the flower stalk on one of my oldest Phalaenopsis. As a way to apologize she gifted me the green and pink one above.

   Mar 28

Adenium Obesum, Pretty in Pink Desert Rose

I didn’t get around to posting this piece until now, but the seedlings are already starting to branch out and the mature plant has been heavily pruned to correct uneven growth.
I haven’t posted anything about my Desert Roses, Adenium Obesum. Actually I have in my possession one mature plant and a couple of one-year-old seedlings. The old plant flowers in summer with large pretty pink flowers, the most prevalent colour in Adeniums. But the seedlings, they are going to be surprises! Apparently seedlings do not grow true to type; many times they revert back to pink, which is also nice, but not as exciting as some of the burgundy and double varieties I have seen.
Its native habitats are for example Somalia and the fascinating and isolated island of Socotra, located off the coast of Yemen at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Because of their desert like origins the Adeniums form a large swollen caudex to get them through life on scarce water resources. The caudex grows larger as the plan gets older and often takes interesting otherworldly forms.

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While other plants in more favorable conditions grow large and tall with age, the Adenium doesn’t get much taller than a dwarf tree. Instead it focuses on growing broad and round in order to tolerate the harsh sun, fierce winds and seasonal monsoon rains.
Desert Roses are very easy to grow, but they require a lot of water during spring and summer. To prevent root rot indoor gardeners and dark climates induce dormancy in the autumn by reducing water and letting the plant shed its leaves. If cared for like this and kept in a warm place the Desert Rose is an easy plant, even though it does look a bit odd with its bare branches in the winter.

Adenium 1
Last spring I ordered some Adenium Obesum seeds from the US. to try my hand at. They sprouted rapidly and had a fat caudex from the start. The purpose of growing Desert Roses from seed is to get some variation in the colour of the flowers, and the fact that seedlings often have a more pronounced caudex than cuttings. But oh, are they slow growers! Since sprouting last spring they currently struggle to reach even ten centimeters. This plant requires endless patience.
As of today when I’m writing this piece I pinched my seedlings just a few hours ago to encourage branching. This is important in cultivation to avoid a large caudex with one single spindly stem ending with a couple of sad leaves. Pinching should be done when the plants are in active growth. As I started to water again early February and we are currently fifteen days away from the vernal equinox I hope it’s the right time and not too early.

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It worked!
Some other plant related news; my Amaryllis ‘Aphrodite’ is in full swing right now! One open flower and a bud. I really like the delicate picotee and watercolour-like look of this frilly double. It looks like someone took a paint brush to the flower and gently brushed it with a watery raspberry red. I’m so grateful, my dear mother purchased her for me at the grocery store after I had spent two years looking for this specific bulb.
Also, my pot with two white ‘Jewel’ has started sending up stalks, I think I prefer spring flowering Amaryllises to the ones forced for Christmas. When the light returns the true colours and sparkle in the flowers are easier to see.

Last weekend I went to the garden fair at Älvsjö, this is something I normally look forward to all year but this time I was deeply disappointed. It was very scaled down and nothing was really exciting. Armies of NOID Phalaenopsis orchids stood like soldiers on rows upon rows on the shelves. The fair was littered with cheap garden ornaments and very few unusual or high quality plants, pots or tools. I got a nice pot apparently made in Crete, but that was it.

Vit Phal


Armies of NOID Phalaenopsis

The highlights were a little specialized orchid boutique, a stall with nice little old ladies selling seeds and the above mentioned Cretan terracotta pot. Let’s hope the next garden fair at Kista in late April is better!

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Randig Phal

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This is an idea of how a garden inspired by the tales of writer Astrid Lindren could look.




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Keeping hens has become popular!


At last, spring has finally sprung!

   Jan 04

The Peculiar Pinguicula

The story of the Pinguicula began when I had lived on my own for a mere six months. Being new to doing all the work myself I had more than once found a blackened banana in the fruit bowl, and I think everyone knows what black bananas bring. Fruit flies, in hordes.


See the flies?
As the plant geek I am, I found this situation to be an excellent excuse to try my hand at carnivorous plants (even though experiments I made as a child never lasted for more than just a few months as the plant inevitably didn’t get enough water.) So one afternoon spent at a plant crazy friend’s house (now with a degree in biology) I was presented to a few curious clumps of bright green rosettes with diminutive roots. My friend also promised me plants of my own if I could supply a pot or two. Of course I could.
It turned out that the rosettes were some kind of tropical Pinguicula, the name of the sub species being long lost. In essence it is a carnivorous plant that catches its prey with a sticky substance that is produced in the leaves. Once stuck the flies cannot escape and will slowly be digested by the plant.
The species exists in many parts of the world, but the one I grow indoors is a tropical one that thrives in swampy conditions. It can take drought but stops producing the sticky coating of the leaves if it gets to dry. The best thing to do is to place a deep saucer under the pot to keep it wet at all times.

The plant itself is not very flashy but deserves the place on my windowsill anyway. At best it can be described as cute with its bright green leaves. If you take good care of it and are lucky, you might be rewarded with simple bright pink flowers in spring and summer. Flowering will be encouraged if the plant is placed in a bright to sunny location. The rosettes divide themselves freely and can quickly cover the entire surface of the pot and even start to fall out. The plant prefers a shallow pot since the roots are almost non-existent. A deep pot would dry out far too fast. Even though it is not a great idea to do this very often, the plant can be placed in the shower and gently washed with lukewarm water to remove the unsightly dead flies.
All in all, this plant is easy to care for and soon you could find yourself giving away plants because the pot is becoming crowded. This is a must for everyone who from time to time finds themselves with overripe fruit.

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   Oct 15

Words from an Amateaur Amaryllis Connoisseur

A friend recently asked me to write a post about growing Amaryllis bulbs; this one is for you.

The Amaryllis Hippeastrum bulb originates in South America, is developed by the Dutch and in later years refined in South Africa. It is a tender bulb, meaning it can’t tolerate low temperatures or frost. This should be a hint not to buy bulbs at outdoor Christmas markets in northern Europe. The Hippeastrum bulbs are not to be confused with Amaryllis belladonna originating in South Africa; they are two entirely different species.

Basic care

So, let’s start. When you want to buy a bulb, you should look for a nice fat bulb with white fleshy roots, i.e. if you buy it without pot and soil. It doesn’t matter if you can’t see the bud, at this stage you are almost guaranteed to get flowers anyway. If you buy one in a pot it should also be fat. Buy one that sits firmly in the pot, it should not be wobbly. It is an extra plus if you can see roots coming out of the drainage holes, because yes, the pot absolutely has to have drainage holes. We’ll get to that. The bulb you have chosen should be firm, have no red markings or red stripes on the leaves, and at least one third of the bulb should be planted above the soil level to prevent rot and fungus diseases.

As Amaryllis bulbs grow very long and fleshy roots it is important that you find a pot as deep as the bulb is tall, or more, and three to four centimeters’ space from the bulb to the rim of the pot. Remember to pick one with drainage holes. I myself prefer unglazed clay pots as bulbs in full bloom can get quite top heavy.

When you get home pot up the bulb in rich soil with a good bit of drainage. Then water, but don’t let any water get into the nose of the bulb. Place it in a warm position without cold drafts. Wait.

Skip this step if your bulb is already planted.

Now you have to be careful not to overwater, as that is one of the main reasons Amaryllises go to bulb heaven. Overall, all bulbs are sensitive to overwatering, and with too much water comes rot and funguses. If you stick your finger carefully into the soil and it feels cool and damp, hold the water. A bulb can take some drying out without damage, but salvaging a mushy bulb takes some skills and a whole lot of patience. To further prevent rot keep the soil and bulb clean, pluck away any debris like parts of the old tunic that sometimes falls of.

In a few weeks a stalk should appear, with or without leaves. However, a mistake many make is to cut off the leaves. That is not a very nice thing to do to your bulb. It will deprive it of energy and should never be done unless the leaves are brown and withered.

When the flowers are spent cut them right behind the little knob, unless you have been doing the work of a bee and want seeds. Seed production is very taxing on the bulb, though.

Now it is vacation time for the bulb. It needs ample light, full sun if you can supply it and lots of fertilizer and water (but remember what I said about overwatering). If you do this it will produce several long thin leaves. Just let it do its thing and if you are lucky you might get a second scape, or even a third.

Forcing again

Speed ahead to autumn and many people start to think about forcing their bulbs for next Christmas. They stop watering and put their bulb, pot and all in a dark location and let the leaves wither. They let the bulb sit like that until mid to late November and then put it into the light and start watering again.

I don’t do this anymore, I find the bulb loses too much volume and it might not even have enough energy to flower this Christmas again. I prefer to let my bulbs remain in the green and flower when they want. I find they are much happier that way. This mindset requires you not to be fussy about when the bulbs flower.

If you very much want to have flowers at Christmas time buy a forced bulb from a nursery.



Now we can get to the fun part about different varieties!

There are the large Dutch hybrids; they are the most common ones. In recent years the South African bulbs have become very popular. They are naturally smaller (and thus even more sensitive to drying out while resting I have found) and often sport much daintier flowers. In my experience they are also more willing to flower and it is not uncommon to get three flower scapes from one.

One perk with the South African bulbs is that they are also a good deal cheaper. While a Dutch jumbo bulb around Christmas time might set you back about 150 SEK, an African might cost 70 or even 50 SEK. The smaller size, good performance and attractive price have made them my favorite bulbs.

The Amaryllis has seen a rise in popularity even in the last five years. Now you can find hundreds of different cultivars, you aren’t limited to red, white and bicoloured like you were earlier.

Take care of your bulb and you can enjoy it for several years to come with countless flowers. There is absolutely no reason to throw away a healthy bulb just because the fireworks of New Year’s Eve have passed!


Here is a list of my favorite bulbs:

‘Papilio’ – a species with lime green flowers and burgundy stripes. I don’t have this one, yet.

‘Jewel’ – a pure white flower with a dark red eye, semi double and a wonderful scent. I have several of this one! Always lovely, one cannot have too many jewels right?

‘Alfresco’- white frilly meringue look. Double, I have two bulbs.

‘Exotic Star’ -it has a pronounced ‘Papilio’ parentage. It is less burgundy, leaning more at raspberry red with green/cream back. It’s so gorgeous, maybe my number one favorite. There are also two of them in my collection. It is a vigorous grower which likes to set bulblets.

‘Cherry nymph’- Christmas red but double. I have the only one I need.

‘Aphrodite’- frilly, double and pastel pink. What more can a girl ask? This one can be hard to get, but can be replaced with ‘Elvas’ which might in fact be even prettier. I would love to buy ‘Elvas’

‘Trentino’ – I have this one in my bedroom waiting for a scape. I’m pretty sure it will soon be among my favorites. It is a small flowering South African hybrid with soft pink flowers hinting at green.

See a pattern here? I’m very fond of small delicate flowers in white and pastel colours. I try to avoid the Christmas red jumbo bulbs that are so common.



Amaryllis bulbs are very easy to propagate. The least time-consuming way is to separate a bulblet from the mother bulb. Another way is to set seeds, a most time-consuming way, but the only one to get new hybrids. If you have the patience you can get amazing results though.

We’ll get to a more intricate post about bulblets when it is time to repot my bulbs.

In short, getting bulblets is an asexual way to propagate and the bulblets are clones of the mother bulb. Making seedlings is the sexual way, and they become brand new individuals.

There are two sites I can recommend for further reading: Hadeco, which also has an online shop though I’m not sure if they ship to Sweden. Then there is Eamaryllis, which is a privately run site with an extensive photo gallery of named hybrids.

Trentino knopp

Here is ‘Trentino’ with a bulblet and a bud. As you can be seen it already has a few leaves.

   Oct 06

Project Biosphere

Remember I mentioned my biosphere in my last post? Well, this one is about it! A biosphere can be as large as a greenhouse or as small as a jar, but the most important thing is that it is sealed off from the rest of the world. The only thing coming from the outer world is light; oxygen, carbon dioxide and everything else circulate in a self-contained area with its own cycle.

I have had a question, which is a funny one: “Won’t the plants suffocate in there without air?”. Remember biology classes? Plants produce oxygen and need carbon dioxide for their photosynthesis.

Last weekend I went to a nursery to buy one of their mini plants as my sphere is a spaghetti jar from IKEA. I bought an Asparagus fern and took an ivy cutting from a plant I already had. Then I placed some smooth stones on the bottom of the jar for drainage and added soil, planted the fern and the ivy. I gave the sphere some water and waited for excess water to evaporate.

The theory is that the jar should be sealed off and I won’t have to take care of anything. However, I found out that overwatering is very easy, so I have had to open the lid sometimes to let a bit more water out. Hopefully in a week or two things should settle down and I can seal the jar. If successful, I can keep it for several years. This one might be too small though, and I will probably have to upgrade to a small demijohn or similar later on.

This is a fun and low-maintenance project. One important step to keep in mind, though, is that an absolutely sparkling clean jar is a must and of course the plants have to be healthy, and preferably non-flowering.

Here are some pictures of the biosphere and my new Ficus ‘Ginseng’



Murgröna i burk

Ficus 'Ginseng'

   Oct 04

September in retroperspective, an unusually warm month

We have had a great summer and an Indian summer too. September really was a split personality month, the early half was almost like summer while the second half changed to chilly autumn almost within hours.
Wise of my previous autumns where I have waited a bit too long to bring in my frost tender plants I started early to bring one or two indoors each day. It was hard though to bring myself to do it with this wonderful weather we have had. The fear of the first frost is like having a deadline, only you don’t know when it is coming! It is easy to be fooled by warm daytime temperatures. Almost all of my plants are indoors now as we have had a few light frosts.
After I moved my Amaryllis bulbs one of them sent up two wonderful flower stalks and put on a huge display. An Amaryllis in September! I hope some of my other bulbs will get the message soon, especially the Papillio descendant ‘Exotic Star’
The Poinsettia previously presented here on the blog has been repotted for the fouth time since I bought it last Novemver, it is getting huge but keeps sending up side shoots all the time when I want it to produce a single sturdy trunk. The plan is to let it do it’s thing and when it least expects it, prune it and bring up a new leader. That should set it straight.
In other news I got a Ficus retusa ‘Ginseng’ last week. I don’t know how they do it, but from time to time a plant just decides to follow me home and then I walk to the cashier like a zombie and before I have reacted I have pulled up my Visa card and payed for a new plant. At least this one is an air cleanser.
It has a large bulbous root system that has been brought up from the soil level to mimic a fat swirling trunk. Then it sports a small crown of fresh dark green leaves. This guy has also had a brand new pot with lots of yummy rich soil.
One of the plants I brought indoors is a small mystery Hibiscus with three lobed fuzzy leaves, it flowers with small pink flowers that have dark pink stripes. I bought it from former Weibulls at Sveavägen as a small rooted cutting early this spring. It was labeled as Hibiscus ‘Carolina breeze’ but obviously that is not correct. Still I enjoy it more than I think I would have liked the Carolina one. It has a spicy scent reminiscent of Geranium and always bounces back when pruned, blooms profusely and is a vigorous grower. Internet hasn’t been much of a help in identification, the closest I get is Hibiscus Pedunculatus.
The only plants remaining on the balcony are my two meter high olive tree, a Ginkgo, some peppers and a large tub of Mirabilis tubers. I will have to move those indoors soon.
Oh, and then I have my little project the biosphere, more of that in the next post!
Cattleya NOID

Cattleya NOID

Amaryllis NOID

Old Amaryllis bulb



Hibiscus p.

Unknown Hibiscus

Hibiscus rosa sinensis

Peach Hibiscus rosa sinensis

Mirabilis jalapa

Mirabilis jalapa

Sophora prostrata

Sophora prostrata