Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New 'Old Blue' (and company)


All plant fanatics understand the thrill of getting a box that says "Live Plants." I left behind a lot of plants in Wisconsin to make the move a bit easier. They were ones that had declined in the dark, dry winter to the point that I'd rather replace them or not bother with them altogether. Others just didn't interest me as they did when I got them. 

One plant in particular was one I really wanted to replace. My Begonia 'Old Blue' suffered from my failure to repot it (for many, many months after it should have been upgraded to a bigger home) and the dark and dry Milwaukee apartment I lived in reduced it to the point where it was easier to leave the old one behind and replace it when I got back to Washington. I just love the big leaves with their satin-like finish and subtle variations in color depending on the light and other conditions they grow in. It had gotten quite leggy though, so I cut it back hard rather than repotting it. In the aftermath, I never did really give it good conditions to recover from that. 

The old 'Old Blue', back in North Carolina where it reached its peak, color-wise. Those varying shades of silver, blue, green, and even subtle purple are why I absolutely had to get another.
So when I got settled back in Washington, I quickly put in an order to Steve's Leaves. 'Old Blue' is the result of their breeding program, along with several other fantastic foliage begonias. This has become one of my favorite mail-order sources for interesting indoor foliage plants. They are reasonably priced and the plants are very healthy and large for the pot size. And no, I was not compensated in any way to say that. I just think they do a good job.
Ample newspaper packing kept the plants snug and secure on their journey.


One thing I appreciate about Steve's Leaves is that they tape the label to the outside of the wrapped plants. Though I also appreciate the mystery of opening up each one without knowing what you'll see next. 
The new 'Old Blue'. I really do love these leaves. Pictures just don't do them justice. They only show a static image, rather than the constant play of light on the satin surface.

Begonias arrive a little rumpled and crumpled in the mail, but they adjust after a few days. The new 'Old Blue' is even better than the original, larger and with lots of growing points. This will make a nice full plant.

Of course the new 'Old Blue' couldn't travel alone. This Maranta 'Silver Band' replaces the one that succumbed to spider mites in North Carolina. I've been wanting another one for over a year now. Spider mites have never been a problem for me in the Northwest (knock on wood), just the other parts of the county I've lived in.

Just like with 'Old Blue', the new 'Silver Band' is more full than the first one I bought. This will make a beautiful plant.
Begonia 'Moonlit Snow' is the final traveling companion. With this I've completed my begonia trifecta from Steve's Leaves. They have many other fantastic plants, including new hybrids from their own breeding program, but 'Old Blue', 'Moonlit Snow', and 'Starry Nights' are the three that I first fell in love with when I found their website and that hasn't changed. For some reason, 'Moonlit Snow' didn't make it onto my first order, so I made sure to rectify that situation for this second order. I'm so glad I did.
'Moonlit Snow' came out of its wrappings especially rumpled and stuck out all to one side, like a bad case of bedhead, but like the other two it is big and healthy.

Named for its resemblance to a field of snow in the moonlight, this begonia will get the same charcoal color as 'Starry Night', below. I think that may be why I only got 'Starry Night' at first, but they really are totally different.

'Starry Night', from my original order from Steve's Leaves, has shorter, less pointed leaves than 'Moonlit Snow', and a large field of silver surrounded by small silver "stars", instead of the scattered "snow catching the moonlight" of 'Moonlit Snow'.

'Moonlit Snow' really impressed me as it unfurled from its travel-induced crumple and spread out more evenly. I think this one may have the most elegant form out of the three begonias, though there's something about the subtlety of the colors textures in 'Old Blue' that still makes it my favorite (which surprised me at first). 
 And finally, a brief teaser about these plants that arrived in a separate order from The Violet Barn. These plants are so small right now that I won't gush about them too much. I'll save that for later when they've grown up a bit. I will say that I'm particularly excited about the first plant on the left in each picture. Primulina 'Patina' in the first picture, has greenish-silver down the center of each leaf, with a coating of red hairs across the entire surface, making for a beautiful effect on mature plants. Nematanthus brasiliensis has leaves with purple undersides and spectacular yellow flowers variably streaked with maroon, backed by a jagged red calyx, and suspended on a long, dangling pedicel

Left to right: Primulina 'Patina', Primulina 'Betty', Streptocarpus 'Waterbug'

Left to right: Nematanthus brasiliensis, Nematanthus corticola, Columnea 'Janella'
Of course, I haven't just been feeding my houseplant addiction. I've been spending time out in the garden moving things around, cleaning things up, and adding new plants. I just haven't been very good about taking pictures. It's been an "action over action shots" kind of week, getting things done and not bothering to drag the camera along with me. Most of the results don't look very impressive yet, being largely comprised of very small plants in a very large landscape, but I will be sharing some of these developments with you.

Happy gardening!




14 comments:

  1. It's like being reunited with an old friend :) nice haul!

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  2. "Of course the new 'Old Blue' couldn't travel alone"....love that.

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    1. Plants always use the buddy system, usually with multiple buddies. ;)

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  3. It's like a magic act: watching such large, lush plants unfurl from those little newspaper packages.

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  4. Happy new plants to you! Thanks for the link to Steve's Leaves, it's always fun to discover a new plant place!

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    1. Happy to enable! Your greenhouse is going to be filled with fabulous foliage!

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  5. A great selection of plants, I've always admired those swirly silvery begonias. I'm just in a rut with the angel wing begonias you can't kill, I have a 4 footer from my in-laws and every now and then I lop off another branch and root it. I'm sure you will enjoy all your new selections.

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    1. I'm all about the rex types, but I never had any luck with the chilled, moldy ones that show up at Fred Meyers. I don't know if it's just these hybrids or if starting off with healthy plants made the difference, but these plants can take quite a lot of abuse.

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  6. Like Peter, I'm probably going straight from this post to Steve's Leaves. Gotta check out a new place that sent you such great plants. Like you, I've been doing a lot of work out in the garden without bothering to take photos. I guess when I post about it, all I've have is "After" photos.

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    1. It's hard to get back into taking pictures, especially after spending winter in dead, grey and white Milwaukee. Not much to photograph for a gardening blog there.

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  7. You have some interesting plant connections (and now I have a couple more as well).

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    1. I have over 100 bookmarked sources for plants! I just checked. lol. I mostly order houseplants, though, since I have so many hardy plants to choose from locally. Still, I should use more of those mail-order hardy plant sources to start chipping away at my lengthy wishlists.

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