Sunday, December 8, 2013

Blogging on the learning curve

Isabella, waiting for her own chance to blog

In case you couldn't tell (and my blog being just two months old should have been a hint), I'm not terribly experienced with this newfangled blogging thing.  I tried blogging several years ago with a blog I called Darwinblog but I didn't have a particular focus and never really found my voice.  I blogged about evolution, about weird plants, and about gardening, but guest blogging by my cat turned out to be the most popular posts.  I eventually lost interest and the blog petered out but when I was out of work a few months ago (thanks to the shutdown of the federal government), I decided to occupy my time by blogging again.  I've finally decided that garden blogging is my niche but I won't rule out a cat post or two!

Please bear with me while I play around with the blog's format and layout.  I've switched to black print on a white background, and added a new background image.  One criticism I've already received with the current setup is that the background image is too busy and distracting.  What can I say?  I love the image.  It was the result of playing around with an old image with IrfanView.  I got it by applying the "edge detection" effect to this photo:

Elephant ears

In another version, I first applied the "explosion" effect, followed by "edge detection":

Playing around 2

So how about it: what do you think of the new format and layout?  What am I doing right?  What could I be doing better?  What should I be blogging about?  I'm open to any and all suggestions so please post your constructively critical comments below!  And if you're on Facebook, please "like" my DC Tropics page to be notified of new blog posts!


  1. The style is decent least in my book. There's room for improvement of course...there's always room for improvement...but I can't think of any specific suggestions off the top of my head. If I think of any I'll let you know...given that you're interested in feedback.

    I'm particularly interested in reading about your efforts to select for cold tolerance. As I mentioned in my other comment...I'm just starting to select for cold/drought tolerance. I'm probably in zone we're quite a few zones apart.

    For some time now I've had the idea of zone stations. When a plant survives my winter selection trials...I could put its seeds on a "train" which would take it to the next zone 9a. Whoever was at that station would then conduct their own selection trials. In this way the plant would go as far as it could.

    Not sure if the train analogy is the best way to describe it. Maybe assembly line would be better?

    In economics...the division of labor is a solid concept. Breaking a complex process down and having people focus on specific tasks can definitely increase productivity. In economics and biology...hedging your bets is a solid concept as well. The more zone 9a stations I could send my seeds to...the better.

    The zone designations are hardly perfect though. Central Florida has a much higher average temp than Southern California...but it tends to get way colder. So perhaps in some situations the train could go both directions?

    In any case, there's definitely more than one way to attach an epiphyte to a branch.

    I definitely love the idea of people in colder areas having a larger selection of plant options to choose from! Hopefully your blog can help inspire others to participate in the process of expanding the selection.

    A while back I told an expert that I wanted to select Anthuriums for cold tolerance. His response was "why?". It really surprised me! Of course I failed to effectively articulate "why". It's one thing for an idea to be perfectly formed in my mind...and it's another thing entirely to perfectly communicate that idea to others. I think it would be awesome if you could grow 100 different Anthuriums outdoors year around. For me it's a self-evident truth. But it doesn't seem like there's really much effort in this direction. Do you know of any other blogs dedicated to the topic of selecting for cold tolerance? There's been a few books dedicated to (sub)tropicals that can be grown in colder climates...but not much (at least readily available/accessible) with regards to expanding the selection of tropical options for colder climates.

    I've been a member of Growing on the Edge for a while...and I can't think of a single post where somebody said..."I left 5,000 seedlings of Echeveria rosea outside during winter...and 200 survived."

  2. Thanks! I'm definitely (in theory) selecting for cold tolerance, but only among hybrids that have genes recombining from two or more species. I suspect there's a lot less wiggle room in the genome of any one particular species, unless you're working with populations at the extremes of its range. I don't know of any sources for selective breeding specifically for cold tolerance but I think it's a field ripe for exploitation and worth exploring because there's much more to "hardiness" than simply cold tolerance: e.g., ability to regenerate when damaged, number of growing points, depth & number of propagules (deeper & more = better chance of survival), resistance to rot during cold and wet winter conditions, etc. These may be things you can select for but again, I think working with hybrids involving two or more species will greatly expand the possibilities.

    Once I have some hybrids ready for trialing I hope to have growers in several different regions and climates test them for me. I've had some promising results so far, but I'm at least a couple of years away from having anything ready for trialing. And I'd like to test them through a proper winter first because my last 3 winters have been unusually warm.

  3. I love the looks of your blog! Easy to read, the pics are crisp and clean, all the same size, and most important, good content! My only comment is to have a header or background under your title DC Tropics so that you can read it better, or so that it stands out. I use Wordpress, so I know how to do it on that platform, but not BlogSpot. Another thing, commenting is so hard on BlogSpot!

    1. Thanks for the feedback! To make commenting easier, for now I'm leaving comments open to anybody and without moderation. But from what I hear, if my blog becomes the least bit popular it will immediately start getting lots of spam.