Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hello, my name is Tillandsia

You've seen these epiphytic airplants displayed in terrariums, vivariums, and on wood mountings in a la mode shops and restaurants throughout the Northwest, in Portland at Clyde Commons, Stumptown at the Ace Hotel, Solabee, New Seasons and more.  Magazine pages are press-hot with modern reintroduction efforts to convince you you want one.....they're strangely appealing, so easy to care for, au courant.   But what are they?  And where do they come from?  They look like plants from outer space, and they come from...the internet, of course.

Those of you in the Bay Area (or with internet access to the Bay Area), seek out Paxton Gate SF on Valencia to find a unique selection of hand-blown vases in miniature.  The Hudson vase is by far the coolest, if you can find it in stock.  It's a 3-inch globe with 3 tiny "legs", and is the perfect size to house a very miniature airplant.  It's inconspicuously alien, complementing a wide range of personal styles indoors.  And due to the persuasiveness of literature, it's selling like crazy.  SF neighbor Flora Grubb also sells them in her store. Her photos are up at

Not wanting to travel with much glass, I only bought one of each.  My friend Shae took the Hudson vase home to NC, and I took a cube vase home to Oregon.  Shae named her airplant Bubba, and put him in a place of honor in her home.  I named mine Mama, and she sits in the kitchen windowsill.  Until I get a picture of Bubba at home, you'll only be seeing Mama.  But know that the possibilities for your own airplant vase and display are many...

They don't require a lot of care.  Due to that fact, vendors will tell you you can't kill these, but you can.  So don't feel too badly if you do.  They're relatively inexpensive, and worth a second or third try.  The more research you do about the variety you purchae, the better success you'll have.  Not all Tillandsias are created equal.  But it's not completely inaccurate to generalize that most are happy with bright, indirect light and regular misting with or soaking in distilled or chlorine-free room temperature water. 

For a broader selection that what you'll find in stores, try ordering online from Rainforest Flora, at  It's where Miss Grubb, and likely the whole west coast gets theirs.  Call and ask for Aaron for a little expert advice on caring for your purchase.   

Mama in Cube Vase

Airplants don't need soil to survive

Weekly Soaking

Tillies with Blue Coral Climbers

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Carnivorous Plants

Sorry I've been away!  I had a great opportunity to stay with a good friend in San Francisco while she was there attending an NCORE conference.  Shae and I grew up together in NC, and haven't had many opportunities to visit each other since my family relocated nearly 20 years ago.  We met at age 11 when she moved into my neighborhood, transferring schools in the fourth grade.  Both of us had pink plastic glasses that were too big for our face (as were common in the 80's), shared equal passions for clothes and candy, and were fiercely independent in a 4th-grade dependent sort of way.  Our friendship was immediate and has lasted more than 2 decades despite our living on opposite coasts for nearly half that time.  Across the miles and the years our lives have paralleled enough that we still tune to compatible frequencies.  So this was a must!  To learn more about NCORE and what brought us to SF in the first place, follow the link below.

I'll post more on our SF adventures, but today am focusing on carnivorous plants, some amazing specimens of which are housed at Golden Gate Park's Conservatory of Flowers.  Nepenthes and Venus Fly Traps were both on view.  I don't recall seeing my favorite, the Sarracenias - also called Cobra Lilies, but found each atrium mind-blowingly cool, though literally warm enough that jackets had to be removed to avoid passing out.

For anyone new to carnivorous plants, this short little video is a succintly great primer.

People are fascinated by the carnivorous nature of these plants!  During my Urban Flora days we sold lots of the Nepenthes, but for reasons I don't recall never had many of the Sarracenias on hand. So I was delighted to see Xera Plants peddling a few small, striking cultivars at close-in retail locations such as Portland Nursery and Pistils this spring. The species' small statures make them perfect for home terrariums, windowsills, or small bog gardens.  Here's one I put together for our upstairs window table.

Hanging in the photo below is one of the amazing Nepenthes specimens from the Conservatory of Flowers.  If you ever have the opportunity to visit, go!  I'd read mixed reviews, and so went in expecting to be less than impressed and was pleasantly surprised at the incredible displays.  And for kicks, we sat down to an impromptu concert outside where a blond pixie punk in tattered organza sang from a low spot on the lawn in a soaring operatic voice while her companion provided violin accompaniment in city punk stretched earlobes and aftermath rags.  They had a good-sized crowd, held static by the immeasurable weight of heavy, low clouds on an incentive to mobilize.  We stayed long enough to cool off, and then were off to the next adventure.....