dweller by the river

sojourner of earth attempting to understand the journey home

Month: April, 2014

Spider mite infestation — Part 2

I’d intended to do the follow-up chilli padi treatment two or three days after the initial hardcore assault, but as it turns out, I’ve only just done it — a full week later.

Remind me how painful a process it is when I tell myself I’m doing it again. It’s no joke. I spent an hour gasping for breath, each one bringing more and more itch and sting into my throat and sinuses. I sneezed and coughed until I was sure my lungs must be on the way out. And my nose ran till I was tempted to stop trying to staunch the flow and just let it go (down my chin and suchlike).

Anyway, the first salvo last week seems to have done its work well. The infested T. ehlersiana and T. sitting pretty don’t seem to have suffered any relapses, and the T. sunset glow that I saw suspicious signs on and gave similar treatment seems all right — it’s even growing new leaves with a sort of new enthusiasm.

I don’t have new photos of these plants but I have fairly recent shots… so you can guess from the pictures and my descriptive comments what they look like now.

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From left: T. ehlersiana mini clump with grass pups, T. sitting pretty (T. streptophylla x T. paucifolioides)

I’ve had to pull off half the T. ehlersiana grass pups and quite a few of the main plant’s base leaves. I also had to pull off base leaves from the T. sitting pretty, reducing its size by nearly 50 percent and its root hold on the wood is a little loose now, giving its perch a bit of a precarious-looking swing. Sad.

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T. sunset glow (T. caput medusae x T. brachycaulos)

I’d spotted yellow and yellow-brown spots on some of the larger, lower leaves, and the edges of a few leaves were also browning and drying up. It just didn’t look right even though the plant looks generally healthy. So I took definitive preventive measures and today it looks somehow perkier, with new leaf growth. I suppose there must have been a few spider mites hiding among the older leaves where I couldn’t see them, and they were killed by the mad dunking.

EVERY tillandsia in my collection got a good spraying today. I am considering doing this every three months… heh…

Spider mite infestation — Part 1

Having been in on the tilly-keeping thing since August last year — eight months to date — I’m still a relative newbie. I guess I’ve been relatively well off where pests and disease are concerned, compared to the experiences of some others in the community, but it had to happen sometime.

Last week we had weather that seemed kinda bipolar. It was both rainy and searingly hot. I had been watering the plants on alternate evenings except for days when it rained heavily and they got a good splashing of good old natural rainwater (which is better for them anyway. They seemed fine.

Then on Sunday evening, while doing a quick round of spraying before heading out to attend an Easter service (first time attending a church service in 10 months, by the way), I realised that two of the mounted plants — a small T. ehlersiana clump and a T. sitting pretty — that were gifts from S were catching the droplets on what seemed to be masses of fine web.

Spider mites. Oh, crap.

There are reasons I prefer preventive action to violent reaction. One is the fact that these pests can do serious damage to plants, and sometimes the plant doesn’t recover. And I’m squeamish. I hate bugs. I hate, especially, those that operate in swarms. Just looking at them makes me feel phantom sensations of said bugs crawling all over me. And now you know why there are NO PHOTOS in this post.

But there was no way to deal with the problem immediately. It would have to wait till I got home from work on Monday.

Having previously recced the nearby supermarket in preparation for just such a situation, I headed there to pick up some of the community’s tried-and-tested miticide. To my horror, there was none to be found. The staff had seemingly misplaced the entire gardening section in the midst of the haphazard ongoing renovations. I was forced to change plans on the fly.

Since there was no way to get hold of habanero peppers, I settled for a local alternative — chilli padi (bird’s eye chilli). Since they’re supposedly less hot than habaneros, I figured I’d just have to make the brew a lot more intense. A third of the packet, chopped, went into a small pot along with four smashed garlic cloves. While they simmered, I inspected the infested plants, their neighbours, and some other suspected victims.

Then I dunked them all into a hellish mix of chilli-and-garlic soup and soap solution and left them to soak underwater for three hours. Hopefully all the disgusting little bugs would be drowned, along with their eggs. After that, I had the odious task of removing the webbed portions of the plants, along with dead and blackened leaves and pathetically languishing grass pups. And then cleaning all that gunk out of the sink and into the trash. Only after that did I rinse off the affected plants and hang them outside the window to dry off — as far away from their compatriots as possible. Just in case.

The simmering mixture filled the entire house with biting vapours. There’s nothing like it, though slicing/chopping up a bunch of particularly fumy onions comes close. In minutes, and for hours after, my eyes were stinging and watering, my throat was itching, my nose was runny, and the skin on my fingers was burning (despite my having used several pairs of disposal gloves in quick succession).

Truth be told, I was supposed to repeat the treatment on Wednesday, or last night. I failed due to last-minute overtime in the office. I may try it tonight.

T. balbisiana

My T. balbisiana was an impulse buy. I’d gone down to the nursury where I usually get my plants, and some of the plants that I wanted that day were completely out of my budget. Instead of beating a wise retreat and snowballing the allocated funds for another day, I prowled around looking for a plant that would fit the budget because, you know, I’d come all the way already.

So I ended up with this plant. Didn’t really love it at the time but it was something I hadn’t seen much of, whether online or at various nursuries and shops.

It’s now been with me for four months, and it’s grown a bit larger and has sprouted quite a number of new leaves, which seem to be a lot perkier than the older leaves. In fact, the plant looks a little like an alien insect from some angles, especially at dusk (and probably dawn, but I’m not awake to see it then).

I guess it’s grown on me? I’m quite fond of the trailing jellyfish-like “tentacles”, and the pale grey-green shade that it sports. I don’t personally know anyone else who has one of these, so I’ve never seen blooms, pups or clumps, and after trawling the web for goodness knows how many other things I’m just feeling way too lazy to hunt for images of this one.

Anyhow, it’s a pretty graceful specimen and I’m looking forward to seeing it complete its life cycle, after which I’m hoping to give away a few pups to anyone who might be interested. It’s a curious sort of species, and quite fascinating in its own right – like a squid of sorts, yeah?

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T. baileyi

Today I spent about two and a half hours inspecting all my tillandsias and doing some housekeeping: clipping roots, removing dead and dried leaves, adjusting wires and hanging positions, and taking mugshots. Here’s one of the bulb-type tillandsias that I tend to gravitate towards. This one, T. baileyi, has a hard texture, with very stiff leaves and extremely fine trichomes. I really like the stripy appearance it has. It’s been with me since September 2013.

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Pups and Related Thoughts

I had a short conversation with one of the dance ladies yesterday, and somehow the topic wandered into parenting territory. And for once, the advice and warnings that I received were actually rational, logical, totally realistic, and also exactly what has been on my mind for months. But that’s for another post.

I’m not a parent (yet), but I do get the sense that God is teaching and preparing me for it in a very different way from what appears to be the norm—somewhat like how He gave me various insights and revelations about marriage in the one or two years leading up to my wedding. Those haven’t stopped, either; they are still coming every now and then. The problem isn’t Him (the source of wisdom), it’s my ability to retain/recall/apply what He shows me. I’m not the best student in the class.

In any case, it was a short conversation (10, maybe 12 minutes tops?), and it was hovering at the back of my mind as I let myself back into my home and proceeded to check on my tillandsias as usual. Someone had recently posted a photo of his newly-sprouted pups online, and I wanted to see how mine were doing. And as I looked at each plant, various thoughts came to me.

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T. pruinosa

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T. bulbosa

These two plants were bought on whim and both flowered unexpectedly. The pruinosa, admittedly, is pretty much the usual size for it, but the bulbosa was/is still rather small and I think it was a case of shock-blooming since it wasn’t sold to me in great condition. But the surprises were pleasant ones, not un-looked forward to, and it’s been a delight watching them grow. I suppose it’s not unlike (although on a much smaller scale) the feeling of finding out you’re expecting when you weren’t actively trying to conceive, but were ready and open for it to happen. I’ve been watching these pups’ progress quite carefully, to see when they’ll be ready to live life as independent plants.

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T. humbug (ionantha x paucifolia)

I was watching for the flower on this one—I bought it knowing that it looked like it might be blushing and therefore might be readying itself to start spiking in the near future. When it did, I was delighted, and then came the first pup… and then the second, pushing its way out from behind a parent leaf, completely unexpected. I’ve been watching them closely and my fingers are itching to separate them from the mother plant, but it’s too early still. And if you know me, you know that I’m reading and researching and getting advice from experts that I know and trust on what to do, and when and how to do it.

Which brings me to when I posted this photo online and said that I was tempted to “depup” them, but would have to wait a while more—and was instantly bombarded with unlooked-for advice from total strangers saying NO YOU CANNOT DO THAT, IT’S TOO EARLY and THEY ARE WAY TOO SMALL/YOUNG TO BE INDEPENDENT. Like, what gives, people? Number 1, I don’t know you, so why are you trying to tell me what to do when most of the community activity on the forum is positive mutual encouragement? Number 2, I said very clearly that I was tempted to depup, but was not going to do so since it was still too early, so why are you all jumping to conclusions without even reading what I said (it’s only a few lines, not a bunch of paragraphs!)?

It’s probably how parents feel when people they don’t even know (much less trust) just butt in and expect them to take all their sage advice when it’s thoroughly unwanted and in most cases, unnecessary.

So, anyway. We reach these other plants that are the last to be mentioned in this post:

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T. kolbii

This kolbii is somewhat special. Not because it’s an exceptionally pretty plant or that it’s a personal favourite species of mine, but because it’s one of the first batch of tillies I bought, right at the beginning of this green journey, and because it spent some months in the office with me, slowly languishing despite everything I tried to help it flourish (it turned rather yellow, and wrinkly, and the leaves started curling inwards), and because after I gave up and brought it home in the hope that it would somehow survive, it rallied, started looking loads better, and presented me with a totally unexpected pup.

The pup is growing way slower than the other pups from the other plants, and there are days when I wonder if it’s stagnant or even dead… but its colour seems fine and the mother appears to be doing okay, so I just shrug off the pessimistic thoughts and keep on looking after them as usual. I wonder if it’s in any way similar to how someone who’s been barren for years, or ill with a condition that supposedly makes her barren, or ill to the point where her life, much less her fertility, are in question, might feel when a sudden pregnancy is discovered. The going is tentative and slow and at times the progress is questionable, but there’s wonder and thankfulness all wrapped up in it…

I suppose one could also think about prophecies (or dreams/visions) that haven’t yet been fulfilled. Lots of “church speak” uses terms like “pregnant with a prophetic word” and suchlike, after all… I used to find it rather contrived, but now, I don’t know, it does seem to make sense. In a way.

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T. pruinosa

This little pruinosa isn’t mine, actually; it belongs to a friend but it just will not flourish under her care no matter what she does. In fact, it contracted a case of rot and we pulled off nearly half of its leaves before it looked clean enough to stand on its own. We hoped that it would rally if I took over its care—it did, and produced a tiny, fragile-looking pup. Upon that discovery it was decided that I would adopt it and take it home, where it seems most plants thrive, and then return it once it is strong enough for another attempt by its rightful owner.

The pup has doubled its size since it came home with me, and the mother has gained some “weight” and is looking much healthier. In the picture above it is already at that doubled size, and is a much better colour. When we first detected its presence, it appeared to be brown, and the mother had a worrying damp brown spot on the main leaf just above it. Both, clearly, are doing pretty well.

No doubt I will be sad to say goodbye to both pup and mother when both plants are finally large and strong enough to leave my makeshift “nursury”, especially since many long hours of careful effort would have gone into nurturing them. I can’t say it is fair to compare this to releasing a grown child to his or her independence, but surely this little experience is better preparation than none at all. At least I am now aware that it’s not that easy to set something free, or to release it into the hands of another (handing over a daughter as a bride, anyone?), as it looks on the outside!

So I saw another fond farewell to the T. ionantha pup that matured and flowered and had pups of its own, and which I have released into the care of a good friend:

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T. ionantha var. rubra

It helps to know that she loves plants and will find as much delight in their health and growth as I would.