One Plant Nut Meets Another Plant Nut and Plant Nut takes on NW
During our recent trip to Florida, Glen, my formerly amiable partner : -),
and I made plans to visit with Dewey Fisk, THE PHILODENDRON PHREAQUE. What
an incredible collection of plants, row upon row, each more beautiful than
the last! (Naturally, the one I fell in love with was *not* for sale.
Hopefully, Dewey will produce some youngsters soon). Botanical names rolled
easily off the lips of Dewey and delightful his 90-year-old partner, Ralph.
Dewey was often heard to say, "Well most of all, I love that plant because no
one else has one!" I can relate to that.
We planned a potluck, and Julius and Susan Boos came up from West Palm Beach.
Jules brought eddoes (edible taro) prepared with his mother's T'dad recipe
and also fried plantains, both of which were a wonderful complement to the
Pacific Rim Tuna that we brought for the grill. The conversation was
stimulating and lots of fun. The lilt of Julius' and Susan's Trinidadian
voices will be long remembered.
Fortunately, the plants that I chose, (and Dewey's generous gifts), fit into
the rental car -- except for the large Amorphophallus titanum (oh, the devil
made me do it) -- that Dewey will send when it goes dormant. More about that
The challenge: getting back to Michigan on Northwest Airlines with 25 or so
plants from Dewey's, some fairly large, combined with my acquisitions of the
previous week at Maria Selby's annual plant sale -- some 15 or so orchids --
most of them in bloom!
Our annual trip to the Selby Botanical Gardens is a highlight of our Florida
trips, particularly if we can arrange it during the plant sale. This visit
was made more pleasant by the opportunity to have a long conversation with
Donna Atwood about the "Big Stinky", Arisaema, and other aroids. One
exceptionally large orchid I left with friends in Bradenton, FL. They will
enjoy the blooms, later cut back the two 1+ m. spikes, and in June they will
bring it by car to me when they come to their summer house about 2 miles
north of us.
The transportation of these new acquisitions was the part that particularly
tried Glen's patience. [I think he's recovered his sense of humor, but I am
also sure that I will *never* get to do this again! There is something to
that saying: "Don't press your luck!"]
My checked luggage included one large (custom made) box 24" x 42" x 12" --
weighing ??? lb., which held about 23 plants from Dewey's, including an
Alocasia loweii 'Grandis' and an Alocasia 'White Knight', both of which are
about 1 m. tall. A Homalomena rubescens, which is large and bulky was
packed in the box, together with most of the other plants from Dewey's and
also six of the plants from Selby. Most were packed in pots, although I did
bare root a few things, particularly as the box got full.
I also checked another smaller box that held a large Anturium lewellynii and
a couple of orchids. I hand carried a shopping bag with a large, bulky
Philodendrum hybrid cf squamiferum and a cattleya with two large blooms and
also a box the size of a case of beer (24 pack) containing 7 paphiopedilums
in bloom. Needless to say, I did *not* make friends among the stewardi or
among those travelers who prefer not to check their bags, as those two
carryons took up one entire overhead bin.
Amazingly, the only blooms that suffered in transit were those on the
cattleya. One of the paphs was also injured, but I think it occurred in
unpacking rather than traveling! The cattleya got some pretty rough handling
without any protection for the bloomsother than a few layers of newsprint.
Even I was surprised, in unpacking, that the leaves on the two large
alocasias, both of which were packed on the bottom of the huge box, (and the
leaves of everything else, for that matter), had not even a crease! [Baggage
handlers, I noticed, regarded the many carefully lettered "UP (arrows)" as
mere suggestions. I never did see that box during any portion of the trip
with the "TOP" side up.]
Even though I've never been able to get any grower to ship a living plant to
me up here in the tundra at the 45th parallel after November 1st, nothing
froze in transit. Anyone desiring information about my packing techniques,
learned by watching what professional growers do, is welcome to email me
Now, what in the world am I going to do with an Amorphophallus titanum? Well,
first of all, I'm going to enjoy it as long as possible. We do have a 20
foot high ceiling in the living room here, with skylights of both sides of
the roof from front to back to provide lots of light as we are located in the
middle of a dense beech forest. (There are 28 windows extending 42 feet in
length; each window is 3 feet long).
I wonder how the A. titanum would look as a Christmas tree instead of the 14
ft Douglas fir we usually have? Somehow, I just don't see lights on it or an
angel atop it, either. There will be a limit to how much misting I can do
inside the house.
When it outgrows our space, I've decided that I will donate it to the Lena
Meijer Conservatory in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Then, when it blooms, I will
only have a 2.5 hour drive to see it. The conservatory is incredibly
beautiful, five stories high, with 15,000 square feet under glass. It is the
largest glass conservatory in Michigan. There is a large walkthrough rain
forest, complete with exotic birds. The conservatory contains tropical plants
from around the world, including bamboo, palms, and a large collection of
alocasias in the Asian section, while the African area includes acacias, huge
traveler's trees, and the triangle palm. I recall seeing one or two small
Amorphophallus there, although I do not recall which species (not A. titanum,
You can view this conservatory at the following URL:
I tried to take the virtual tour, but the plug and play I downloaded isn't
working on this computer.
So, beware -- a trip to Dewey's can be expensive -- hard on the pocketbook,
and also a little trying to the patience of loved ones. Meeting Dewey,
Ralph, Julius and Susan was great, though, and I would recommend this jaunt
to anyone who happens to get Dewey's place (near Miami). Thanks, Dewey, for
your hospitality, and Ralph, Julius and Susan for joining us in such a great
Jeanne Hannah, Associate Plant Nut
"It's a disease, and it's incurable, but fortunately, it is not fatal (yet,
Traverse City, MI
USDA Zone 5b (at the 45th parallel)