signs of autumn

Greetings and salutations everyone; yes, once again it is I, Chess the purebred border collie, filling in for the guy I live with, and here to bring you the latest and most spine-tinglingly  exciting news from our garden. You may remember me from such spine-tingling posts as “Out Came The Sun” and “Invasion Of The Pods”, among so many, many others.

Here I am in a characteristic pose.14090501The reason why I haven’t posted for a while is that, for one thing, we had three beautiful sunny days in a row, and we had to enjoy them to the fullest before it started to get all thundery and stuff again, and also because I finally began the transition to the new anti-seizure medication which should help me lose a lot of weight. The guy I live with was all freaked out about this, thinking he wouldn’t be able to get the dosage right, or forget something, and I would die, and then what would he do, but we finally started, and now I take fourteen pills every day. (Until we’re done with the transition.) The guy I live with only takes six, so I’m sure he’s jealous.

Oh, and by the way, the ten sunny days, give or take a few, we’ve had since the middle of May don’t necessarily mean the end of the world as we know it. Summers here are sometimes like that. Denver does not have, as is often claimed “300 sunny days a year”; it only has around 100 or 120. Days where it’s sunny all day, I mean. What they did to come up with the 300 business is to count an hour of sun as a sunny day, which I think is cheating, because it was often sunny in the morning here (I could feel the sun on my stomach, lying in bed), and then started to thunder about eleven in the morning, so that didn’t count as a sunny day to me.

It was all overcast and gloomy yesterday, and thundered a little, and then last night it rained. About half an inch (1.25cm), so everything is all damp and rain-smelling. My morning walk was cool and pleasant.

The guy I live with says it’s beginning to feel like autumn, and I guess I have to agree. Looked what popped up in the garden, pretty much overnight.14090506Colchicums are up. This is ‘Dick Trotter’. You can see what Graham Stuart Thomas called “rain splash” on the little one. 14090507Cyclamen, of course, are big news around here. I don’t notice them much, but the guy I live with gets all excited, and likes to crawl around on his hands and knees ooohing and aaahing. The first of the Cyclamen coum foliage has unfurled.14090509The teeny tiny Cyclamen intaminatum.14090508And the first serious flush of Cyclamen hederifolium14090511It was also time to re-pot the Rhipsalis pilocarpa (aka Erythrorhipsalis pilocarpa) which hangs upstairs in my bedroom. This cactus came from Logan Street Greenhouse, where the guy I live with and my mommy used to go, when they went to various places in the Washington Park section of Denver (like to Oodles, the Asian-fusion restaurant they both loved, or to Book Buffs, a “totally cool” book store which had the most amazing selection of books), and there was one time when they went there in the rain, and the rain was pattering down on the old greenhouse roof, and the guy I live with was really taken with the cactus, so he brought it home. The greenhouse caved in after the blizzard of March 2003, and so the cactus is a memory of the greenhouse, as well as their visits, and to the other places which are also gone now. 14090505There was a lot of noise in the garden a couple of hours ago, and the guy I live with realized there was a hummingbird fight, so he stood out there trying to be invisible (he says it works better when other people are around), and took this totally unfocused (just pointed-at) picture.


Besides all this, there really is some big news today. I mean like “hugely gigantic”, according to the guy I live with. (My mommy would just roll her eyes at times like this.)

This is the source of all the excitement.14090503This is a seedling of Iris urumiensis.

They say that growing oncocyclus iris (which this is) from seed is a very time-consuming project. Like me, the guy I live with has no sense of the passage of time, but really didn’t feel like waiting twenty years for the seed to germinate, so he used the forced germination technique, to speed things up, some.

Aril irises are so called because of the aril, or collar, on the seed. Here’s a picture of a really old (maybe ten-year-old seed). The picture could have been more in focus, but you can still see the aril. 14090504What he did was to get salt shakers and beakers, and soak the seeds in a solution of half bleach and half distilled water for about half an hour (to sterilize the seed coat) then wash that out thoroughly like he learned to do in chemistry class (in high school, he got a D+ in chemistry because he thought it was boring, and the teacher didn’t appreciate that, for a take-home test, he wrote out Avogadro’s Law in Italian), then the seeds were put into the salt shakers with distilled water, water changed every day for five days, and then the aril was removed with a dental pick (the seeds were all plumped up and soft), and then the seeds were stratified in the refrigerator with perlite. This was around Christmas, and the seeds are germinating now.
“So, see, all the time I saved?” I thought about pointing out to him that nine months in human time is like 63 months in purebred border collie time, but I decided to just let him bask in the glory of his achievement. I have other important things to attend to.14090502


Until next time, then.

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14 Responses to signs of autumn

  1. Hi Chess,
    I enjoyed this fulsome post immensely. God what to comment on? Too much of a smorgasbord!
    I’ll stick to something the guy you live with and I have deeply in common. I cant totally relate to the feeling when one sees that tiny, shy, single blade pushing up into the light. It is one of the most transfixing and truly gratifying experiences … And when they flower? That adds another frisson of excitement. I used to use the same method but now I have met a resident genius who embryo cultures in vitro and he does all mine now. But this last southern autumn I had 3 I. kirkwoodii seedlings emerge from an old pot, sowed 4 years previously. I moved 2 into a seramis based mix and left one alone, just for a conrol. One of the two has died (clumsiness on my behalf) but the other is powering ahead and even the control has 2 leaves. I have only 1 plant of I. urumiensis, from Archibald seed, and would like to have a fertile group. Was your seed commercially purchased? If so where? Sorry to bring down the tone of your beautifully and poignantly written piece with my prosaic observations and questions but just couldn’t resist.

    Cheers, Marcus fron Down Under

    • PS I meant to wrote, I CAN totally relate. The minefield of a swype keyboard!

    • paridevita says:

      Thanks; the guy I live with has followed some of the in vitro stuff, like on the SRGC forum, but he doesn’t have any vitro, and, besides, so little happens here (by design) that nine months seems like nothing. (So he says.) He was given the seeds as a gift from a friend. The Vickery seed list has some oncos, and of course there’s Paul Christian for rhizomes. Oh, and there’s also going out and gathering seeds oneself. (The guy I live with talks about the Archibald seed list with a heavy sigh.) He said he might consider an expedition by yak to collect seed of the several dozen species of eremurus he desperately needs, especially after discovering this site (lots of irises here too) but of course he’s not going anywhere, and all because of me.

      • Thanks, I know Kurt and am slowly working through a large stash of seeds he sent me last year. I did order a few more desirables from his latest in the last little while but I’m probably too late. Importing small numbers of high value rhizomes into Australia is a thing of the past now Biosecurity has seized its business opportunity firmly in both hands. I used to buy a few back in the day (when I had my own quarantine facility) from Pilous and some of the other Czechs. I still have a few of those or offspring therof.
        Thanks for the link and if you ever hear of I. urumiensis being offered drop me a line.
        Yak packing …. now there’s an interesting visual postcard.

        Cheers, Marcus

      • paridevita says:

        The Vickery seed list seems to be the only one offering oncos these days. Bondarenko offered some rhizomes last year but didn’t see his website updated for this year. We only need a phyto for bulbs…..currently anyway….. The guy I live with says that the yak trip would be risky, but probably no more so than explorations 150 years ago. I think it sounds scary. (When he was writing the columbine book, he tried to talk a couple of people into going to Afghanistan to look for a couple of Aquilegia species which had been described from only half the plant. Which half, upper or lower, he forgets. No one took him up on the offer, even though he said he’d contribute $10 US to the trip.)

  2. Padaek says:

    Great post Chess! 😀

  3. My goddess, Chess, you live the good life — hickory smoked! I know there is thunder, even lightening. Still. Loved the guy you live with’s stroll through the garden. I know his excitement when a cyclamen peeps up — I’m excited when any seed I plant peeps up. I myself am more the broadcast seeder, and not very good at that. Am I strolling in my garden? No, I am not. I am engaged in Cleaning All The Things inside my house. My fallback position when visitors threaten is to groom the garden. But this time I cannot overlook greyed windows and begrimed leather furniture. We do have a cleaning couple who show up cheerfully every two weeks, and we neaten for them. Mostly put away books and throw out magazines and newspapers. Even with this, deep down dirt happens. How, you inquire, do you not, Chess? From jets overhead, cars going by, houses being scraped, dirt piles constructed, dirt tracked in from garden, sand from the beach. Dogs, of course, are pure beings and have nothing to do with the unclean. I yowl with the cleaning — I want to be out in the garden, I want to be reading. Please, write more, Chess, so I may escape this cleaning life into the garden on the net.

    • paridevita says:

      Thanks; the guy I live with does a lot of cleaning, too. Possibly to the point where I should worry about him, but maybe not. I know he’s really bored, not having my mommy to talk to, but the vacuum cleaner makes a lot of noise and it pretty scary. Purebred border collies do not like vacuum cleaners. (I might have told the story of the time my grandpa Flurry pulled the bag off the little hand-held Kirby while my mommy was vacuuming the stairs; she got really mad.) My buddy Slipper had to be locked outside because he would whoop it up and attack the vacuum cleaner. I just hide, but in my fort. The Pill Pockets come in various flavors. One is Duck and Pea (which the guy I live with says sounds like a command, ha ha) but he says that the aroma of dried peas is not an olfactory pleasure for him. I would point out that Brie might be an excellent pill-hider…wait, no, Fromager d’Affinois would be even better. Broadcast seeding doesn’t work very well around here, either. It was only within the last year or so that the guy I live with made the connection between feeding the birds in winter and the failure of broadcast seeding.

  4. Deborah S. Farrell says:

    I remember the salt shakers, beakers (mystery) & dental pick — so it’s very rewarding to see the result!

    Good luck with the pill transition. Hearing about your 14 pills made me stop & count how many I take a day — only 1 prescription plus 20 of various supplements. Too many to fit in my XXL pill dispenser thingie.

    • paridevita says:

      Another iris up today. The guy I live with, who, as I’ve said before, is kind of a nut, spent several hours at the patio table with a jeweler’s loupe, dental pick, and giant tweezers, making sure all the seeds had been properly cut (this was supposed to have been done on Christmas day and the day after), rejecting those seeds that had rotted, and putting the seeds back in new freezer bags filled with a little damp, washed sand. The reason for the sand instead of perlite, he said, was that the white perlite made him think more seeds were germinating, which generated unnecessary excitement. The beakers were for soaking the seeds in bleach and distilled water prior to the four- or five-day-long soak in plain distilled water; it’s said that the seed coat itself is the source of most bacteria, which is undesirable when the embryo is as exposed as it is. There was some rot because, and I know this is hard to believe, he had pretty much forgotten all about the seeds all summer, spending most of the time railing pointlessly against the darkness. I understand that when the guy I live with went to Whole Foods today, wearing his shirt inside-out (unintentionally), he brought back some mozzarella for my pills, thinking that too much hickory smoke flavor might have the same effect on me that it has on him. I’m in favor of mozzarella, and I hear that he also got some brie, which I definitely like, and a tiny wedge of something called “paski sir”, sheep’s milk, which I haven’t tried yet. It was a good thing he didn’t have anything in his shirt pocket at the time.

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