Friday, February 22, 2013

Plant Sale Preparations

Hello everyone! On Friday, we had another meeting in the greenhouse. Instead of the usual presentation, we talked about the biggest event we hold each semester - the plant sale.

We try to hold 2 plant sales per semester to give people many chances to get the plants they want. Since we were only able to squeeze 1 sale in last semester, we're doing 2 in the spring - one next Wednesday, February 27, and another one on April 2 (check out our Google calendar to see the schedule!)

We hold plant sales to promote awareness of our organization, to recruit new members, promote horticulture and to raise funds for general greenhouse maintenance. Since they are always in PGH, many people see our tables, and a good deal of students/faculty purchase our plants for their homes and dorms.

For our first spring plant sale, we are selling some classic plants such as tomatoes, basil, rosemary, and aloe vera. Additionally, we are also going to be selling new plants like coleus, celery, and kalanchoes. Unfortunately we won't be having any cacti this semester, but we may get some succulents like sedum in the second spring plant sale.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Plant of the Day

Venus Fly Trap

This is perhaps the most interesting and alien plant we have in the greenhouse - the carnivorous plant Dionaea muscipula, more commonly known as Venus' fly trap.

Carnivorous plants are a group of plants that survive in nutrient-poor soil and obtain many of their essentials from living animals (usually bugs). They have evolved over the years to develop unique mechanisms to trap their prey, from pitchers to sticky dew to the famous trapping technique utilized by the Venus fly trap.

Venus fly traps, like all carnivorous plants, are very slow growing, and it would take 2 years for a fly trap to grow to an appreciable size from seed! Thus, most people avoid growing them from seed and buy the plants instead, but both paths are a bit pricey. Carnivorous plants take a very long time to flower, and it drains a lot of energy from the plant, so cut the flower off when you see the stalk forming unless you want the seeds.

Our Venus fly trap is growing in a homemade terrarium with long fiber peat moss as the growing medium. The terrarium keeps the humidity high and the peat moss provides a low-nutrient substrate. Some of the peat moss began growing, as you can see in the pictures.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Green Roof Update!

Today, the officer's for Horticulture Society went up to the green roof to get some work done. We worked for about an hour and a half and got the UH logo plotted on top of one of the beds. We used stakes and yarn to make a tentative outline, which will be finalized later. However, unlike previously planned, we had to plot the logo on the fifth bed instead of the fourth bed. There is a tree blocking the view to the fourth bed and we had to make sure it would be visible. We are also planning on planting Redhead Coleus for the logo with a two feet border.

Our next meeting is Feb, 22nd. Make sure you're keeping up with the Google calender on the blog page. Also, if you have any suggestions or questions, please feel free to contact us.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Plant of the Day

Aloe vera

Today's plant is the succulent Aloe vera. Aloe have thick, serrated "leaves" and rather shallow root systems for their size. They are well-known  for the gel within their leaves, which can be used for treating burns or making drinks and desserts. Aloe vera plants are very drought tolerant and grow well in most soils, making them very popular as house plants.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera are also easy to propagate, since most species naturally form 'pups' that grow from the roots of the 'mother' plant; these pups can be separated and will grow into genetically identical plants. However, because of this vegetative propagation, it can be difficult to find a suitable pair of plants for pollination since they are not self-fertile. 

There are hundreds of Aloe species out there, but only a handful are used for medicinal and consumer purposes. We have a small collection of Aloe here in the greenhouse. 

"Buena Creek"

"Golden Tooth"

"Blue Elf"

Friday, February 1, 2013

Plant of the Day

Thanksgiving Cactus

There are two similar looking cacti known as Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti - the main differences lie in their anthers (Thanksgiving have yellow, Christmas have purple), their flowering times (occur during their respective holidays) and their leaflets.

The top is Thanksgiving, the bottom is Christmas

Thus, contrary to the labels, we actually have a Thanksgiving cactus belonging to Dr. Pattison in the greenhouse. It still has beautiful pink flowers that occur towards the winter time. The cactus can be easily propagated by breaking leaflet segments off and putting them into an appropriate growing mix. I took many cuttings of the cactus in the greenhouse and have produced quite a few clones of the original plant.

Despite being cacti, they are more akin to tropical plants and thrive in standard potting soil. I wanted to pollinate the two cacti we had in the greenhouse but a member took one of them home, so I attempted to self-pollinate the remaining cactus with no success.