Monday, March 19, 2012

tree revision

In Cyathea mater epiphiticorum, I wrote about tying a variety of epiphytic plants to the trunk of a dead tree fern that has stood in our front garden for years. I had started this experiment late last fall with two cuttings of basket plant (Callisia fragrans).

With almost daily misting from a spray bottle, the basket plant regularly produced new green leaves at its tips, while its older leaves turned a purplish red and then brown. The redness was caused by exposure to sun, while the crispy brown leaves were simply dead. As new growth slightly outpaced losses, I not only rejoiced in having remade a tree, but also added epiphyllums and epidendrums to the mix and  gave my creation its outrageous Latin name..

A couple of weeks ago, while cutting off dead leaves,  I noticed something sticking out of one of the basket plant stems. Curving to a sharp point, it looked like a parrot's beak, but in fact it was a whole new shoot of tightly furled leaves. Looking more closely, I saw that it was growing on a short piece of stem that had no other leaves. Evidently this stem had broken off one of the two original cuttings.

Delighted with the new growth, I looked critically at the tree as a whole and decided that the clumpy epiphyllums had to go. They had made absolutely no progress, and even if they had, they didn't seem compatible with the feathery basket plant. And so I untied several strips of the raggedy brown towel I'd used to tie the epiphytes to the tree fern trunk, removed and discarded the epiphyllums, and moved a sad epidendrum to a less obvious position.

Two delicate tillandsias of different sizes took the place of the rejected epiphyllums. Finally I added some strands of Spanish moss (actually a type of tillandsia) at the top of the trunk and the bottom of the basket plant stems.

Potentially, my recycled tree fern could bear five different colors of blossoms. I have never seen a basket plant in bloom, and would bet on the common epidendrum to be the first if not the only flower. But it's time for me to step back and let nature surprise me with whatever new growth my efforts may have fostered. Meanwhile, nasturtiums are creeping toward the base of the tree and will create their dependable bright orange accents.

Balanced between control and chance in this fascinating project, I feel uniquely ready for the equinox.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License