Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Summer is Coming!

The Sunken Garden is busy this week!! The Spring Show, with all the tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and lilies, has been recycled. The thousands of bulbs are being prepared in the garage for the Spring Bulb Sale held the morning of May 17th. The soil and flowers are removed from the bulbs and then the bulbs are allowed to dry. Then they will be bagged and offered for sale!

The installation of the Summer Show is progressing. Visitors can peak through the glass doors into the Sunken Garden and see the gardeners busily planting geraniums, salpiglosis, lilies and other beautiful summer annuals. About half the room is planted as of lunch time today. There will be gardeners working in the Sunken Garden during the next couple of days to finish the room in time for the opening on Saturday morning at 10:00 AM. Besides the planting, there is watering and grooming that will occur before the room can be presented to visitors.

The starlights, hanging above the pool in the Sunken garden, were cleaned yesterday. These fixtures were installed some time after 1927 but before 1940. They are lowered down by hand and the outside is cleaned with a mix of alcohol and water. They are then returned to their place above the pools.

While all this is happening inside, the Blooming Butterfly Exhibit is taking shape outside by the Carousel. The structure is up and there is much activity surrounding it! And the tubs for the Victoria Water Platters are being installed today! The platters will not go out into the pools until early June but the pools are being prepared for their arrival. The Japanese Garden opens tomorrow. Follow the signs in the North Garden and they will lead you to one of the most beautiful gardens in Como Park.

Even with the cool outside spring weather, summer is coming to the Conservatory!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cloudy April day

It has been raining most of the day today. The outside crew has been dodging raindrops as they wait for mulch deliveries and continue the spring garden cleanup. There is an example of a raingarden on the Visitor Center Plaza. Come and take a look and get ideas!

There is a crew working on the Como Blooming Butterfly Exhibit, getting the metal structure set up in the next few days---it will look like a caterpillar when it is finished! More butterfly attracting plants are being transplanted in the growing areas to larger pots. It will be a beautiful display starting in June!

There are only a few more days remaining for the Spring Show in the Sunken garden. The show ends Sunday April 27th. We will have a group of about 8 volunteers removing the plants from the beds and saving the bulbs for the upcoming Bulb Sale on May 17th. The bulbs are stored in the Conservatory garage where volunteers sort, remove the flowers and soil and eventually bag up the bulbs for sale. This is a great opportunity to buy those bulbs that were so beautiful in the Spring Show!

The Summer Show design is ready and the plant material in the greenhouse are looking great. After the volunteers remove all the non-permanent plant material from the Sunken Garden on Monday, soil will be a added to any low spots and the remaining soil will be turned and aerated. Ivy may be trimmed. The Arborvitaes were pruned before the last show and will not need pruning until the Fall.

Plants will be shuttled on carts from the growing range greenhouses to the Sunken Garden starting about Tuesday and planting will continue through the week. The Summer Show is scheduled to open Saturday May 3rd at 10:00am. Geraniums, lilies, roses, salpiglossis, petunias and statice are a few of the plants that are scheduled to be in the show.

The Japanese Garden is scheduled to open May 1st. The pool is being filled today. Volunteers and staff have been spending many hours grooming and pruning to get the garden ready for the upcoming opening.

There is so much going on as we move into the spring growing season!

Friday, April 18, 2008

It is looking like spring!

It is the end of another week here at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory. There has been alot of activity outside in preparation for the spring plantings. The outside crew has been pruning, cleaning, mulching, cutting back perennials and grasses and getting those pesky fall leaves out of the way. A group of plants, slated to be part of the new butterfly exhibit, arrived from Florida on Wednesday. We have been transplanting and repotting other plants in the growing areas that will also be used in the butterfly house. The last group of tulips have been tucked in to the Sunken Garden plantings. There was a large change in plant material today so the Sunken Garden looks very fresh and smells wonderful! There is a little over a week left of the spring show in the Sunken Garden before the big change to summer! It is absolutely beautiful!

The Victoria Water Platters are over a month old now. They were started from seed the end of February and the first seedings are already getting comfortable in the outside greenhouses. The leaves are about 2-3" wide. Watch for these plants out in the pools in front of the Visitor Center sometime in late May to early June.

We are getting ready to start the cuttings for the Gates Ajar plantings in the next few weeks. We are actually bringing in a group of volunteers to help with the hundreds of cuttings that are needed to complete that planting. Planting the Gates has taken about 100 hours in past years!

Stop by and enjoy our Spring weather!

Monday, April 14, 2008

BOB is in the greenhouse!

Before we opened to the public at 10:00 AM today, there was a flurry of activity in the Parlor. It was time to move the tiny titan back to the greenhouses where it can grow and hopefully produce a huge leaf and then someday, another flower! It was bittersweet to move the huge pot. It was exciting as the Parlor has not provided the best growing conditions for the past week and a half for this plant. It is good to get it into a more controlled environment. But it was also sad in that all the activity surrounding BOB's inflorescence and malodorous scent have come to an end. It was so wonderful to see all the visitors each day in the Conservatory and their excitement about a stinky flower!! What started with a wave of activity a few weeks ago, has now ended quietly and behind the scenes. Now the challenge is to keep this great plant alive and growing well! The Horticulturists at the Conservatory are definitely ready for that challenge!

So on this beautiful spring like day, there is still plenty to see and do here at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Saint Paul, MN! Come join us for a sneak peek at spring!

Sunday, April 13, 2008


While the mighty inflorescence flags and the alluring scent of decay fades, the most important phase in the life of a flower begins: reproduction. There is evidence that the male flowers are now maturing and slowly releasing pollen. Success depends upon receptive female flowers and the genetic viability of this particular Corpse flower to produce seed. This morning the Horticulturist collected pollen samples for distribution to other scientific institutions active in the study and breeding of Amorphophallus titanum.

On Monday, BOB will be returned to the warm production tropical greenhouse to conclude seed production (should we be so fortunate) and die back to the ground for a dormant period of 'rest'. The plant will continue upon a vegetative cycle of growth in producing leafy shoots and foliage while fattening up the corm until the next flower develops. When that will be, we can't say with certainty. It is part of the intrigue of this remarkable charismatic flora!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bob Hangs In There

Although the pungent aroma is very faint, Bob is still available for viewing throughout the weekend at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The death of a flower....

The Amorphophallus titanum at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, after a very short bloom, is showing signs of it's own death, the peculiar odor is very faint. It is starting to wither and collapse. It will stay in the Parlor for a few more days and then it will moved off display.

There is always something to see here!

WOW! What a day!

After a day of really emitting a nasty odor, this morning finds the Amorphophallus with just a little fragrance. There is the lingering smell of dead mice floating about the Conservatory but nothing as intense as yesterday. The smell still pulses from the base of the inflorescence. The spathe seems to have stopped opening and is already starting to wilt. There is actually pollen starting to be released! That is the next step in this flowering process. We hope to gather the pollen and send it to Gustavus Adolphus College soon so that it can be stored and made available to other institutions.

It had been hoped that there would have been a wonderful maroon colored "skirt" surrounding the center structure when we came in to work this morning. The time lapse camera did capture the slight unfurling overnight. If wishes always came true.....
If you visit the Conservatory today, BOB will be in the Parlor and available for viewing. We are approaching the end of this blooming cycle and the huge pot and accompanying pot with the tall leaf will be returning to the growing area possibly as soon as this weekend. The pot has been turned this morning so that the opening in the spathe is visible from the front. That opening was on the left side and a bit towards the back for the past week.

There has been wonderful media and visitor interest and attendance at this event! It has been fun to show off this wonderful plant!

It was well worth the effort and wait on our part! There were many lessons learned and the hope is that the NEXT time we get a flower, it will be bigger and better!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The end is close??

It has been a very busy day here at the Conservatory!! Lots of visitors stopping in to see and ssmell the tiny titan! This morning, the stench was almost overwhelming. Now, at almost 6pm, there are waves of aroma but it is not as strong and pungent. The smell has been described as : old diapers left in the garbage for days, a dead deer left in the sun for 3 days, old gym socks and just gross! The spathe has opened more and we are hoping that over the course of the night, it might fully expand. It is hoped that it might look like a tutu surrounding the large spadix in the middle. The color in the spathe is showing but the tips of the spathe are starting to dry out. We have been spraying the inflorescence with distilled water at intervals to try and keep it from drying out as rapidly.
Tomorrow may bring the end for this beautiful "flower". We really hope that it will open up and look similar to the photo at the bottom of our blog. No promises! After it is through blooming, it will stay on display for a more few days, then be moved back to the growing house where it wll go dormant and then eventually form a large leaf. And the process continues!
It was a great show today and we will see what tomorrow brings!


We checked on BOB this morning and found the telltale scent of the Amorphophallus titanum bloom filling the Parlor! The open back of the spathe has given us an early smell opportunity. The spathe has not even unfurled as yet but we can really see the maroon coloring on the inside of the spathe. The smell is fairly pungent.

Yippee! IT'S TIME!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Where is the sun???

It is another cold and dreary day here at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Saint Paul's Como Park. The lights have been on in the Conservatory all day and the windows have been tightly closed. The Amorphophallus titanum seems to be in a holding pattern--or is it just gathering its energy for the next burst of growth? We will know soon!
We are measuring the height of the inflorescence at 28 1/4", barely taller than yesterday. More of the spadix is showing today. The spathe is really starting to pull away from the base of the inflorescence. We can see more of the maroon color under the spathe where it grasps the tall looking center cylinder. Lots of words to say that it seems like we are continuing to move towards a much anticipated bloom!

We were fortunate to accept a timely donation today. A pot of what was identified as an Amorphophallus konjac (Snake Plant) arrived with it's keeper, wrapped in two layers of plastic and really stinky! It seems as if the plant had become an unwelcome house mate and needed a new home. It is now displayed next to the tiny titan in the Parlor, for all the visitors to enjoy! So if the smell of a dead mouse is appealing to you, there is probably another day to come in and enjoy!

Like trying to guess when a birth will occur, the day for this plant to bloom is also a guess. If we get some sunlight and warmth, maybe we could all be experiencing the Titan arum's exciting aroma towards the end of the week?

As always, stay tuned!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Monday Color

BOB is starting to show a little of his color, but we anticipate that we won't see (or smell) the full bloom until later in the week.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rainy Sunday

It was a rainy day today and the Parlor where the Titan is displayed seemed very chilly after the hot, bright and sunny days on Thursday and Friday. The temps in the room actually dropped into the low 60's but the humidity was in the 60% range. This wonderful plant is taking it all in stride! It seems as if we have been paying such close attention to the inflorescence that nothing seems to be happening. There must be alot going on inside that celery green looking spathe. The growth in height was only 1/2" today for a total of 27 1/2" tall. Does that mean that there is more energy being directed towards the developing spathe or is it because it has been so dark and cool and there is not much growth under those conditions? Questions, questions!

We do know that there continues to be a constant stream of visitors to the Parlor who are full of questions. As always, the number one question is.....when will it be stinky? That's a good question!! It seems as if the cool weather is slowing things down so it is going to be a few more days. We will keep an eye on this cutie for you and let you know as soon as we can. Keep watching that video and those webcam photos. And hope for sunny bright weather!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

There is more color!

It is the end of the day on Saturday and although there has not been any change in height in the spadix, there is definitely a change in the spathe! While adding water to the humidifiers this evening, a sharp eyed staff noticed that the inside base of the spathe had changed to a dark maroon color! We would not have been able to see this change but for the open back of the inflorescence. We are definitely getting closer to some event! We are guessing (and we really mean guessing!!) that this spathe could unfurl in the next couple of days. No promises, but based on conversations with those who have gone through this before us, Tuesday MIGHT be the day. It could also be Wednesday or Thursday too!! So keep an eye on the camera and learn along with us! YEAH!

It's a Tiny Titan!

There has been increased visitor activity in the Parlor today at the Conservatory. Thank you! There has been a little disappointment expressed by a few visitors, as they had hoped to see a huge flowering inflorescence. We are very fortunate to have a really cute and small inflorescence to watch this time. It is actually one of the smallest recorded blooms in the last 100 years! So come prepared to see a 27" tall structure when you visit today.

There have been many questions about why we used such a huge pot (44") to display the Amorpho. When the corm was repotted in October 2007, a decision was made to pot it into a very large pot so that the corm would have plenty of room to expand and not have to be repotted as often. In hindsight, that may not have been the best decision but it will be very interesting to see what happens!
There have also been many questions about the life cycle of this plant. There is a graphic available in the Parlor as well as in one of the links that explains that these plants either flower (occasionally) or leaf out (usually). In the Parlor, the there is actually a second terracotta pot that contains the leaf form of the Amorphophallus. Look for it behind the huge pot!

More shade was added to the Parlor today as well as the addition of two room humidifiers. The temperature in the Parlor yesterday was in the 80's and the humidity dropped to less than 15%! This morning, temperatures are in the upper 70's and the humidity is holding about 45%. It is still not greenhouse conditions but better than a few days ago!

There is more color in the spathe today! Could it mean that we might have the inflorescence opening in three or four days? Stay tuned!

Friday, April 4, 2008

There is a change!

The move of the Amorphopallus titanum seems to have gone well yesterday. The inflorescence seems to have survived the rough ride from the greenhouse! There is only a slight height difference today compared to yesterday--we are measuring 26" from the soil level to the top of the spadix. We are not sure the reason for the slowdown but will chalk it up to a learning experience. This whole adventure is a learning experience and practice for the future flowerings of this magnificent plant.

The humidity levels in the Parlor are at about 45% compared to the 75% levels in the greenhouse. We are going to place a humidifier in the room soon and see if we can get those levels a bit higher. The edges of the spathe are a bit brown but that seems to be farily normal.

We are noticing a slight brown/magenta color starting to show up on the inside of the spathe! This means that the plant is progressing as hoped! We still do not have a bloom date but we will keep everyone posted.

Guests to the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory have begun to view the flower and learning more about it.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

It's moved!!

BOB is in the house!! We have moved the Amorphophallus titanum to the Parlor!! The signs were completed and the staff were assembled to watch the big pot/little plant make it's journey from the greenhouse to the Parlor. This afternoon we used a palletjack to move the 44" pot.

We set the pot at a different angle in the Parlor than it was in the greenhouse. So the view from the webcam looks a bit different. BOB was 25 1/2" tall this morning. It will be interesting to see if the rate of growth changes now that the plant is in a different area. The Parlor area is less humid and gets a bit more sunlight than the greenhouse.

If you are wondering about the name BOB.....we received two pots with the Amorphos in them in June 2005. The gentleman who was responsible for the donation from Gustavus Adolphus College is Brian O'Brien. One of the Horticulture staff suggested the name BOB after Brian's initals! There is always a story!

So on this warm day in April, with the sunlight streaming through the windows, a new chapter in the life of our Amorphophallus has started! Until later

Almost there!

We have been working all morning getting the room ready for the large pot with the Amorphopallus titanum. There were azaleas to move out as well as bringing in a few new tropicals to brighten the room. Shade cloth was installed above the area to protect the inflorescence from the higher light conditions in the Parlor. We moved a large pot into the Parlor area before 11:00am. This pot contains a huge leaf---about 6 feet tall! The leaf is from a second corm that was donated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2005. This plant is the same age as the plant with the inflorescence but it is in the leaf stage. Potentially, this large plant could flower in the near future! Time will tell. The large leaf still needs to finish growing for this cycle and then dry down. At that time, we will transplant the corm from that large plant into another huge pot and get it growing!

We are very close to placing the pot with the inflorescence in the parlor! We are just waiting for some wonderful signage from our Education Department and then we will wheel the large pot into the Parlor! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Exciting day!

It was a busy day in the greenhouses and public areas again today! The feel of spring is definately in the air and the plants are really starting to perk up after all the dark winter weather.

We have been transplanting the seedlings for the summer show and spacing out the pots of annuals on the benches. Most of the first group of tulips in the Sunken Garden were replaced with the second set of tulips today. The tulips last about 10 days per group and there are three groups that are used in the room. A total of 10,000 bulbs are planted in the Sunken Garden spring flower show.

A few of the Hort staff went to the tear out on Monday night of the Macy's Floranova Spring Flower Show and brought back two van loads of tropical plants for the Conservatory and Zoo landscapes. We are busy finding homes in the greenhouses for all these lovely plants. Thanks to Mike Hibbard at Bachman's for thinking of us!

And the Amorphophallus titanum keeps growing taller! We are still days from the actual (and hoped for) bloom of this plant. It is now 24 1/2" tall. So it has now passed the height of the smallest blooming plant that has been recorded (a 1 foot, 11.5 inch plant bloomed in 2003 in Queensland, Australia).

It is difficult to try and anticipate what this plant is going to do! We are really enjoying each day as it changes and grows. But there is alot of anxiety associated with it's growth. It has already been 2 weeks since the inflorescence became apparent and there is still no burgandy color visible anywhere on the spathe. There are already some brown spots on the spathe that may be due to low humidity or physical damage. It is in a greenhouse at the moment but starting Thursday morning, the hope is to have it placed in the Parlor area of the Conservatory. The "Corpse Cam" was installed today and is already showing the empty spot where the pot will be sitting soon! This anticipated move has alot of folks stressing! There are more questions than answers at this time. The biggest concern is if we move the plant into the Parlor and the conditions are not optimal, will it stop in it's development of the inflorescence? We guess that we will all learn the answer to this question together!

We are not sure of the actual date of the opening of the spathe but will keep you updated as the event approaches. Enjoy the show!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

It's a flower!

Welcome to the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory blog! There are many exciting happenings here in the Conservatory! There is a riot of color in the Sunken Garden with blooming lilies, pansies,tulips and daffodils. The tropicals are full of new growth and reaching for the light. And there is a special plant that is slowly and quietly growing in a small greenhouse behind the public areas.

We have been watching our Amorphophallus titanum or corpse flower growing for a few years. We were fortunate to receive two plants from Gustavus Adolphus College in St.Peter, MN in the summer of 2005. They were in 7 gallon pots with a six foot leaf. The plants have been quietly growing and one has now started to form an inflorescence!

These plants were started from seed in 1993 in the Gustavus greenhouses. They have gone through a number of cycles of growth where the large leaf has grown, died down and then a new leaf has formed. In October 2007, one of the pots split and the resulting dormant corm was found to have split into a 25 pound and a 13 pound corm.The corms were transplanted into two large pots.

The largest of the corms started to show signs of growth in January 2008 and the tip began to emerge from the soil on Februay 19, 2008. By March 4, the emerging shoot was 6"tall. Today, it is 23"tall!! Not huge or even big by standards set at other botanical institutions but a great event none the less.

The inflorescence does seem to be a bit unusual in that the spathe does not cover the entire spadix. We can actually see the male and female flowers that are normally entirely covered at this point. So. there is alot of discussion as to what this inflorescence might actually look like in the near future.

So, this small but mighty plant is growing along. Hopefully, we will be able to get a webcam installed in the next few days so that folks can watch this little cutie. Stay tuned!