Monday, December 12, 2011

Epiphytes – On a Stick!

Life has been crazy lately, leaving me with little time to do what I love. So when an opportunity, well, need really, presented itself, I jumped on it with gusto. I recently moved to a new house, with different window configurations and different layout. I suddenly found myself with one great window to put plants in. It got better sun than what I had before, but it only really had room for one big plant. We have a great porch right now as well, with lots of room and good sun exposure, but winter has set in, leaving all my tropicals inside. Add to that the overgrown nature of my dragonfruit seedlings and something needed to be done.

The obvious choice for occupancy in the window was my Meyer lemon tree. I mean, the thing is actually producing lemons for me and I have a prominent place set aside for it in my future greenhouse. I have great plans for it, including its job as a future scaffolding for my dragonfruit cactus and possible grafting to produce a citrus fruit salad tree. Anyway, the survival of this tree was paramount. But it was living in a pot that was big enough for some friends, so I saw the opportunity for a project.

As I have mentioned previously on this blog, I sprouted a large number of dragonfruit cactus about a year ago and the germination rate surprised me. My estimates were that the three pots held around 90 cactus seedlings. Eventually I need only two. I had repotted one of the pots and some of the relocated plants got very large very quickly. So I had about 60 small seedlings and about 5 large ones. I really only needed to save a couple and get rid of the rest. They were beginning to sprawl. Again, an opportunity for a project.

So I cut a 5’ branch from an elm tree and stripped the branches. Then I got some coir (coconut fiber) fabric from the local pet store and cut it into strips. I wrapped the coir in a spiral strip up the log, nailing it into place at the end of one strip and the beginning of the other. Then I chose the two best dragonfruit seedlings and planted them at the base of the stick. I did my best to train them up the stick, holding them in place with fishing line. Eventually the dragonfruit will begin to produce aerial roots and the coir will provide the perfect substrate for them to grow onto, attaching firmly to the stick.

After I got all that done, I noticed that the spiral wrap of the coir left me some space between the coir and the stick. Of course, if I had thought of this at the outset, I probably wouldn’t have wound it as tightly as I possibly could. It occurred to me that I had a couple of epiphytes that were also in need of a new home.

Years ago I created a very large mushroom log and loaded it up with epiphytes, the concept being that as I misted the epiphytes, I would also be misting the log. Some of the epiphytes have since been moved to soil, where they are happier. Others have died. The log has stopped producing mushrooms. I was down to two lonely Tillandsias, a Tillandsia bulbosa and a Tillandsia caput-medusae, and two tiny strands of Spanish moss (which, coincidentally, are Tillandsias as well) and all had seen better days. Tillandsias like bright light and I knew that they wouldn’t do well in their new home far from a bright window, so I decided to move them to the stick.

With a little tugging and pulling, I was able to make enough space to put my epiphytes on the log. Both Tillandsias fit nicely, but hardly filled all the space. So I took the opportunity to break off a few pseudobulbs from my Encyclia bractens orchid, a happy epiphyte, even in my dry climate, and attached them as well.

The end result is my new happy place. That my new project happens to be in a sunny window next to a comfortable chair is a great boon to me. I can sit there after a hard day, or even at the beginning of a hard day, and feel some calm. I really need that right about now. It has been sorely lacking in my life.

Now to find time for the next project: that old spent mushroom log needs some work. I think I am going to take a dremel tool and hollow out the wood on the top until I get to the soft, pulpy wood inside. Then I’ll fill it with soil and plant something in there. Maybe a little water access to the middle will encourage bits of fungi still living in the center of the log to come back to life and I’ll get a few more mushrooms from it. Or not. That would be fine too.

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