The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory recently was awarded a $400 grant from the Mid-America Orchid Congress (MAOC). The receipt of this grant is based on our active efforts to promote orchid conservation and awareness. The classes, talks, and displays we offer provide examples of primarily neo-tropical (Central and South American) specimens. Our weekly Gardener Talks on orchids are also an opportunity for the public to ask questions, see our plants up-close and learn more about the Conservatory's collection. Since 2003, The Conservatory has been a designated Plant Rescue Center through a program administered by the U.S. Fish and Willdlife Service. In doing so, we provide a site for the care and conservation of illegally imported orchids, among other tropical plants. These plants remain a part of our collection, and will not be sold for profit. Our participation in this conservation effort, combined with our non-profit status and the educational experiences we offer has made us eligible for this grant. The MAOC is an organization of orchid societies and works to promote worldwide orchid conservation. We appreciate their consideration of our institution and are honored to receive their grant. This money will be used for the purchase of additional orchid species that enhance the diversity of our orchid collection.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
This time of year many of our plants outside are either being cut back to the ground for winter, or some tender, non-hardy plants are taken inside to be saved for next year. One example of a plant we save is our Echeveria. Echevaria is a large genus of succulents with many drought tolerant species. These plants form rosettes of succulent leaves on a fleshy stem.
We use about 50 flats of these Echeveria in our display at Gates Ajar every year. These plants work great to form the detailed symbols on the Gates. When we plant them in the wall we cut all of the roots off and just stick a little stub of the stem into the soil. These plants quickly form new roots and attach themselves to the wall.
We harvest the Echeveria off of the wall by simply pulling them out. Once back to the greenhouse, staff and volunteers clean up the old leaves, cut the roots off, and stick them in flats of soil to grow in the greenhouse until we need them outside next spring!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
If you haven't already noticed, the leaves are changing into their beautiful fall colors, and many have already fallen to the ground. Do you know why the leaves change color in the fall? There are a couple of things happening as the days shorten, and the fall nights get cooler. The production of the large amounts of food, or sugars the plant was making throughout the summer begins to slow down. The chloroplasts that make this food are what gives plants their green color. Once these cells shut down, the green color on the leaves slowly fades away. What is left are some other pigments that have likely been in the plant the whole time, but masked by the powerful chlorophyll. These pigments called anthocyanins, and give a nice red or purple color. Other pigments form other common fall colors. The orange colors come from carotene and the yellows from xanthophyll, other common plant pigments. This year we have had perfect weather for brilliant fall colors. Dry weather with warm sunny days, and cool nights enhance this process, and therefore enhance the colorful pigments we see.
The leaf 'stem', or petiole is also going through a change this time of the year. There are certain cells that are found where the leaf attaches to the tree that start to break down, and eventually the leaf falls off. That's when our job begins (after we enjoy the color of course), and raking and bagging leaves become a big part of our fall clean up. Hopefully you have had the chance to get out and enjoy the beautiful fall we have had!