31 May 2021

feisty little festivums

So . . . day before yesterday I went on an outing to the LFS 40 min away- much better place to buy fishes than the local chain stores.
It felt like an event, because of covid I haven't gone there in a long time. I really wanted to get a new paradise fish for my 33L. They didn't have any. They had every other kind of gourami it seemed- but no paradise fishes. No striped kuhli loaches, either. But a pair of young festivum caught my eye, every time I walked by their tank. They've caught my eye before (previous visits, other years) and I asked some questions- they can make very good tankmates for angelfish, are not likely to eat or destroy plants, live for a decade... Well, I bought 'em. And one green stripe severum. Which was maybe a mistake- I'm now having buyer's remorse about the severum:
It's just not as attractive a fish to me, whereas the festivum, I can't stop looking at these guys. They are so inquisitive, they have such a cool way of moving- a very smooth glide like a fox- and they almost immediately started exploring the tank. Cautious, but not terribly shy. I'm very taken with them already. These pics are from the first night when I released them in the tank with low light- I thought they would hide right away but nope. This is the larger one
the smaller festivum shows more spots, I think when it's nervous-
It also looks a tad bit bloated, and was holding the tail fin clamped sometimes, and I saw white fluffy segments of feces in its bag from the store- while saw the larger festivum pooping normal brown ones. So I think the smaller one has parasites, dang. I did a very large water change and dosed the tank with praziquantel (I'd rather use general cure which also has metronidazole but I can't find any- every place is out of stock, local stores and online).

I had the 20gal QT filled to about fourteen or fifteen gallons at first, but only refilled to ten with the wc, so I could dose the medication accurately. Here's the smaller festivum in QT, on the left:
and the larger one in the same spot:
The larger festivum is obviously dominant right now- and both of them constantly displace the severum, or nip at it- they don't go so far as to keep it trapped in a corner, but it is hiding more, staying out of the way. So that's one reason I didn't get as many pics of the severum, but also because the two festivum are just so engaging.
They're not at all camera shy.
I have a fish again that looks straight at me!
This is their final destination- to live in my 55gal with Miss Beautiful. I can't wait to see them in there.
Somehow I can't picture the severum with them, though. The more I look up differences between the two cichlids, the more I want to just keep the two festivum and take the severum back to the store... especially as together with the angelfish, I think they will ultimately get too big for this tank. 

I'm already mulling over names in my head for the festivum- 
Whereas I haven't once though of a name for the severum, hm. I even like this photo I got of the larger festivum all blurred. Name ideas: Bandit, Rascal, Sneaker, Foxface . . . 
But I will wait to see their personalities more clearly, as they grow. And cross my fingers they're okay in the planted tank. Already I've seen them mouthing and tugging at the hornwort and subwassertang bits in the QT. They're eating the snails. Which is okay- but I've read conflicting reports from other fishkeepers now- some have kept festivum that left all plants alone, others say they ate nearly everything green- vals, swords, crypts . . . my tank might get mowed down to just the anubias that would be upsetting. Also varying reports on how aggressive they can be. I don't know if the variation is by type from different localities, or just individual personality. I'm game to try keeping them anyway, I like them that much- but might have to change out what kind of plants I grow. . . or turn it back into a mainly driftwood scape.

But that green stripe severum, just the more I think about it and the more I read about them, he's gotta get returned. Sorry fishie. Better now than later when he's too big and gets destructive and I can't find a home for a 'monster fish'.

Side note: my instant QT setup went almost perfectly this time. I did as before- pulled all the 'extras' out of the back of my 55gal: two small sponge filters, one large piece of hydro sponge, a small bag of ceramic media, two plastic tube pieces, handful of live plants, handful of malaysian trumpet snails and ramshorns. Tested it a few hours after setup, before I put the fishes in, and the next morning. Zero ammonia, zero nitrite, around 10 nitrates each time. Perfect. Only issue I had was with the temperature- I had planned for a paradise fish so wasn't running a heater on it. Then when I got home with the cichlids, had to let the heater warm up it was over an hour before I got them acclimated and released, and I still had to make some temp adjustments after that. It's fine now.

30 May 2021

new fishes!

It's been a long time, but I finally went to the LFS just across the boarder into MD. Didn't find a paradise fish, which was my first choice, but brought these little guys home.
Two festivums and one little severum cichlid. To accompany my angelfish. 
More pics soon!

29 May 2021

houseplant growth

My solid-green spider plant has two new runners, the white flowers already starting to fade as the baby leaves grow on the end of the shoots- 
They're like tiny white stars.
Young monstera leaf unfolded!
The wandering 'dude' bolivian (haha) is looking better- and it even grew enough that I took cuttings.
I was surprised when I first read that this plant is closely related to the trandescantia zebrina- but realized when I took the cuttings yeah, it's the same in minature. The stems feel the same, the leaves have the same type of structure, only so very much smaller. So little, that I put the cuttings in a empty fish food can.
My peace lily and heartleaf philodendron have been in this new spot for a while- moved up off the floor by a window, to living on a table by the window. It was enough increase in light to make a difference- they both have new leaves growing.
Angelwing begonia still doesn't seem to get quite enough light- it retains the ladderlike upright growth habit, even though I've pinched it twice. There's the two younger angelwings below it.
I was thinking of cutting it in half, and rooting the top to double its mass- but then found this!
It's growing a new shoot at the base. I'm tickled pink.
Not pictured: pilea also has more new leaves, it seems happy now. And upstairs, my lipstick plant has a new shoot! it's the first I've seen that one grow in a long time. Looking forward to its flowers this summer.

28 May 2021

two things from outside in-

My tithonias still come in for the night sometimes. I'm waiting impatiently for it to stay above seventy, so I can plant them out on the very bare, second sunny sideyard now. Pleased to see since their repotting in better soil, all the ones that were doing poorly have recovered. 
Been cutting peonies to bring in the house. Sweet scents galore.

angel tank is beautiful

I feel it's finally reached a balance, with the new(ish) light. Last week I cleaned out lots of dead foliage from the giant vals americana, and trimmed browned tips off the twisty vals. Love seeing the cell structure in the big vals, but sad the two I clipped off runners and replanted, died. Next time I will just bend the runner into the place I want it.
Angelfish remains calm- no more startling, running into walls, twitching. I think I've actually got rid of the parasite this time. 
Hornworts got a trim- I'm still pretty happy with this system, of keeping them pegged down on ceramic rings. I don't mind the task of refastening a few each week on maintenance day.
Trying not to be excited about this, because what if it doesn't last- but my apnogeton capuronii seems to be finally growing again! There's a leaf visible in the middle. I've been pulling baby leopard vals out of the aponogeton's planter basket when they show up on runners, to avoid it having competition. 
Seems it was a good move to swap positions with the java ferns and anubias- all the patches of java ferns have new little fiddleheads now 
More new shoots on the anubias rhizomes, too (I didn't move them all). 
Kind of an overhead shot- from high angle outside the tank- of the driftwood side with java ferns, and twisty vals behind- 
the other driftwood chunk- mostly with anubias- and more vals. Still have this bunch of them just  weighed down in a gap. Every water change, whatever bits of substrate my siphon picks up off the tank floor, I drop back into this thicket. So far (weeks now) the vals are staying in place, and staying green. 
Miss Beautiful among the plants- 
I took this picture to highlight the lovely crypt balansae, but she got in the shot, too.
Now I just need to get a good current fulltank shot to show. I sit and stare at it sometimes and can't believe I have this tank. I'm really itching to get a second angelfish again, but dreading the likelihood of failure . . . 

27 May 2021

summer minnows

My white cloud minnows have been flirting again- and I've spotted two tiny fry among the hornwort.
See the fat squared-off female? More fry on the way!

26 May 2021

blistering thunderstorms

Super hot today- or at least it feels so to me. I find that if I start working outside early in the morning while it's still relatively cool, my body adjusts to the gradually rising temperature and I can get more stuff done. Today I was out all morning, until almost two pm, then came inside just in time before a severe thunderstorm due. Moved and planted a few things- crossing my fingers they make it, banking on the rain to settle them in. Moved the purple salvia out from under the flanks of the lilac (and thinking of shifting the smaller black-and-blue salvia from there, too). Dug a hole for the wormwood- at the patio end of the last garden bed. In both cases soaked the hole, mulched the plants and soaked well afterwards. Salvia wilted, wormwood did not. Also planted the three small alyssum- in a bed witih the tomatoes. 

Then I cleared weeds, grass clumps and whatnot from around the base of one tree where the ajuga is taking really well. Clearing the soil surface, so those runners can take hold. It's kind of amazing how fast they're filling in. The one 'rare' one I put under second hydrangea disappeared, and so did all those under the maple with a swing, but all those I dug up from around the doomed maple and replanted under the lilac (where others had died) are doing fine. I also carefully weeded out on the first sunny sideyard, grass and clover and stuff that was growing around and among the ajuga there. It's starting to look nice. And dug up two pieces of the large beautiful lamb's ears, replanted in a gap so now it's a nice tidy row in front of the gladiolas. 

Pictures soon.

25 May 2021

green indoors

Undecided where to plant the persian shield yet, so it's still on plant bench-
This coleus is so attractive I haven't put it outdoors yet but keep it inside to admire. It's so velvety.
I really do think my new strawberry begonia will do fine-
Potted up the new group of young aloe veras. And promptly trimmed a leaf to use on a burn (steam from the kitchen kettle hit my thumb). A few small rocks in there on top of the soil just to keep the aloes propped up, they were falling over.
Tiny new leaves blushing green all over my jade!

24 May 2021

in the mud

well excuse my little rant yesterday. I just feel bad having to take trees down . . . Today I got very tired and muddy- literally, my clothes were soaked- from planting in the rain. Finally got the mulch from the stump grinding moved to another spot, where it can sit to age, and raked up. Filled in some of the holes with rough topsoil, put better soil over that, planted some stuff in the area, gave leaf mulch surround. All on the top end of the slope where visible from the street. By the time I was done I needed to soak in a hot bath, and then it was dark, so no photos of the planting yet. But here's something before it went in the ground- gladiola bulbs! They were already sprouting in the bag.
There was one moldy and several felt dried out, but I hope the rest are okay. If even half grow and bloom, I'll be happy.
I also planted the salvia lyrata, clary sage and the new daylily. I replanted two of the hyssop that had been sitting in pots. Dug up all the turtleheads that were still by the garden, and moved them to surround the tree stump- or rather, the crater where it used to be, ha. The turtleheads made it immediately look like an established planting! Broke apart the old cherry stump by the garden where they came out- and disturbed a very fat skink that was hiding in there. I saw its coiled tail first, and thought it was a beautiful snake.

Also going to plant my tithonias in a patch just downhill of the gladiolas, and thinking about taller sunflowers as well . . . Well, it sure felt satisfying to get those few perennials in the ground! 

23 May 2021

tree dismay

It's hot. The cicada noise is overwhelming. I have to really raise my voice if speaking to my husband, standing right next to me, outside. Their noise is a higher pitch than last year. (I still don't find it as irritating as leaf-blowers, though). I didn't feel like taking photos today, but lingered outside in the yard this morning long enough (after watering all the deck pots) to knock cicadas off all my smaller shrubs- the hydrangeas, inkberry, bayberry, rose of sharons and lilac. 

Have discovered in my reading that the females like to lay their eggs in branch tips the width of a pencil. When the larvae emerge later, they clip the branches. No problem for a mature tree but can damage younger shrubs. Sigh. I ought to go buy mesh or cloth coverings (have seen several japanese maples wrapped in my neighborhood) but when I'm feeling restless, I just go out and make a round of the yard, shake a few branches, knock or flip the cicadas off with my fingers. It's not my imagination, I'm finding fewer on some of the shrubs each day- even though just as many empty skins (which I also knock off so I can guage at a glance how many cicadas have congregated there again). Hoping this disturbs them enough that they find other places to lay their eggs. Up on the maples, which won't matter and where I won't at all mind a trim!

Our sideyard maples are gone now. The stump was ground out- only because our HOA required it, which annoyed me. I could have planted turtleheads and other things around and in front of the stumps, masking it from view (the first maple we had cut down, in the backyard near the other fence, is already hidden this way). No, we had to wait for the stump grinding which got delayed and now it's nearly too hot to transplant the new salvias, daylilies and other sun perennials I bought to start filling in that area. I will try anyway. They can't stay in nursery pots all summer! I also bought a few dozen gladiola bulbs that were on sale (as it's almost too late to plant those, too). 

Meanwhile I still have to move all the mulch that used to be the stump- two great heaps of it. My husband helped with a shovel and wheelbarrow this morning, moved most of one heap. I'll still have to rake out what's left in the stump hole, then go buy a lot of fill dirt and topsoil, before I can start planting.

But the herbs, chamomile, marigolds, amaranth and benne we planted the other evening are doing fine- even as the temperature gets up over ninety. Last night I did the same with my cardinal climbers- planted them out before dusk, when the bed was in full shade, watered heavily and crossed my fingers. They are only a bit wilted this morning. 

My panicle hydrangeas that grew flanking the backyard maple are really taking off, now that the tree's gone. One is nearly as tall as the neighbor's red fence, which pleases me- and the other is stretching more upright now. It used to grow all to one side and had a lot of low branches, I think because was seeking sun. I took some shorter bamboo poles out there and propped a few of those trailing branches up. Looks better now.

Perhaps tomorrow I will feel like taking photos, or starting my last set of garden seeds, or heaving mulch to sit in another spot (where I'll let it age before using on the yard). Right now the heat and high-pitched droning of cicadas just saps my energy to walk outside.

Also, I am glum about the neighbor's tree. On what used to be the shady sideyard, there were those two huge maples on our side of the property line, and two much smaller crepe myrtles on the neighbor's side- not even as tall as their roof. I always thought the crepe myrtles were rather attractive and it's nice to have something between the houses providing shade and filling space- and definitely they're not a threat to anything- not nearly big enough. But apparently they saw us cut down our large maples and so felt inspired to take out their crepe myrtles, too. So now it's going to just be a large bare sunny hillside between- which I am anxious to fill with something growing, again. 

Maybe I will put my fig trees there. I've certainly seen others' in the area survive the winter fine. I'd like to plant a redbud, or a witch hazel. Or I might put the tithonias there, and plant a crazy lot of tall sunflowers. I still have seed from over ten years ago when I had a larger garden on another property- wonder if they're still viable.

22 May 2021

before the heat

My golden snap peas grew taller and flopped over. I stuck bamboo poles on one side to hold them up. Pulled a handful of beets for eating today- and they're beautiful. Helped my kid plant out his herbs, and I planted one of the beds with the benne and amaranth 'calaloo'. Nasturtiums went into planter boxes on the deck railings, and peppers into larger pots to sit on the deck. I carefully disentangled the cardinal climbers from each other and set them in place alongside the new trellis- will put them in the ground tonight. I've had to do most of this in the early evening, when the day cools off, it's getting too hot otherwise. 

Still in pots to be planted out (or moved up to grow more): asters, hollyhock mallow (zebrina), tithonia, a half dozen stunted marigolds I'm not sure if it's worth the bother to find spots for them.

21 May 2021

swallowtail caterpillars

Look happy enough on my rue
and lovage- they've all grown up to the next instar