Friday, December 20, 2019

In Search of Small Things, at Emily's Place

First of all let me just warn you that my photos do not do this set-up justice. Emily has created an indoor wonderland of plants. It's pretty amazing...

So many plants in a small space...

Which of course brings me to the name of her blog, and her business, In Search of Small Things. Perfect, right?

What do you see when you look in this case? If you're like me the dark pleated leaves caught your eye, well, maybe the slice of banana too.

Emily told me the name of the plant when I visited, but of course I forgot it and had to email her. It's Dicranopygium sp. Black, and she wrote about it here (lots of interesting info). At least I'm consistent in my ability to forget, I also commented on that blog post back in May of this year.

She shared this: "Dicranopygiums flower for only one day, sometimes only half a day, and you can smell them (even when they are sealed behind glass) immediately when you walk in the room. The smell is somewhere between an overripe fig and a sickly sweet lilac. They explode white tendrils in all directions and the first time I ever saw the flower (I'd not seen photos of the flower before) I was genuinely startled and thought for a split second that there was a strange creature in the terrarium. They do not usually produce seed each time they flower, unfortunately, but when they do, hundreds of seed are projected in a circumference around the plant and germinate a week or two later. They are very slow, and the year-old seedlings I have are not taller than 1cm."

In the same tank as the dicranopygium is this adorable little fellow. Dendrobates leucomelas, a poison dart frog. The slice of banana is there to attract food for the little guy.

I knew she had frogs, but I was completely unprepared for how cute they would be.

In the past Emily has had babies for sale (here).

There were other frogs in other tanks, I saw one with red markings, but sadly it was too small for me to get a decent photo of. Also I saw tiny babies in a small container. It was really interesting to not just see the plant life but little amphibians too. My garden seems rather empty by comparison...

I remember watching this terrarium take shape, perhaps on Facebook (you really should follow her there). Even so I was amazed at it's size, much bigger than I thought it would be.

Dischidia platyphylla

Note the frog graphic on the wall, I really should have got a photo of the entire thing.

Emily is propagating a ton of begonias, many of them quite rare. Asked to name what's growing here she says: "species include Begonia metallicolor, U400, B. darthvaderiana, B. promethea, B. susaniae, B. metachroa, B. minutiflora, B. red pteridiformis, sp. Menukung, and sp. Muara Wahau.

Did you catch that name Begonia darthvaderiana? It's those sexy dark leaves with the lighter, creamy, edge, beautiful right? Here's a blog post of Emily's with more info about them.

Small plants are a definite plus when you're cramscaping inside containers.

Check out the cork on the walls in this tank. Emily said it's a product composed of two pieces, the front part, which you see in this photo is the 'intact' cork bark, and the back part, which is a compressed cork product that's flat and so attaching to the glass with silicone is very easy—intact cork is very uneven and would be difficult to glue to glass. It can be found on amazon (here).

Now we've left the first plant room behind and are en-route to the second. Of course I have to stop and admire this grouping by the window.

The small green leaves are Dinema polybulbon; "a wonderfully resilient miniature orchid that does equally as well as a houseplant as it does in a terrarium.  It also flowers often and seems to be faster growing than many orchids."

Emily recently undertook the project of changing out her plant pots to terracotta from plastic, I can't imagine how long that must have taken.

Okay maybe not all of them.

She puts one of these nifty vents in the top of each of the plastic bins she's got filled with plants.

Hoya retusa, pretty cute right?

I asked Emily how long these begonia leaves have been here and how long it will take for babies to appear. Her answer: "The leaves were clipped around October 15th, and all those are rooted. They should produce small plants by early spring. Most Begonia species can be propagated with single leaves to be well rooted with 6-20 leaves in about six months time. Of course the more difficult species can take longer, but it seems like if they are happy, they are fast too, but the trouble is keeping them healthy for that entire time. There are many African species though that take much, much longer, in the 12-18 month range. I have no idea why they are so much slower."

Another bin, more treasures. The dark leaved beauty in the center is Arthrostemma parvifolium, a Melastomacea that occurs from Mexico to El Salvador. Emily thinks that large green leaf on the right is an Acranthera from Borneo. 

From her "suitable as houseplants Begonia bin" (as opposed to those who want the terrarium or vivarium lifestyle) are Begonia 'Karl Foster' (the one with the high contrast pattern) and the dark one bottom right is 'Red Doll', both hybrids.

How cute are the baby plants? (very)

Back outside and heading home I snapped a couple photos of Emily's front garden, even though winter isn't showing it off to it's best—I hope she'll forgive me. I love this vertical planting she did with sempervivum.

I forgot to ask what the cute floppy ear rhododendron is, perhaps R. sinogrande? It looks pretty happy.

Last week Emily came over to see my garden and overwintering set-up, I think she's trying to make me into a begonia lover as she brought this adorable Begonia versicolor baby (some of you might remember it as the spiky begonia from the end of this post).

And this adorable U512 (U = Unidentified Species). She also sent me home from her place with a cutting of Hoya linearis. She's as generous as she is smart. Thanks Emily for letting me visit, answering all my questions, and the plants!

Weather Diary, Dec 19: Hi 57, Low 38/ Precip .52"

All material © 2009-2019 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. Her terrariums look like fascinating glimpses into tropical jungles. I love fancy leaved begonias and have had fun propagating them from leaf cuttings. Sadly they don't do nearly as well as Emily's. You did a great job photographing her mini worlds.

    1. You summed it up quite well with “fascinating glimpses into tropical jungles”...

  2. OMG, this post was just an absolute orgy of fascination for me! As soon as I saw the fog on the glass of those terrariums, I figured I might see critters inside. I would have been plastered to that glass watching the frog, waiting to see if it ate some bugs (yes, I'm horribly bloodthirsty, bet you never figured that, did you?)

    Emily has some wonderful plants, I'm very jealous of her Begonia collection. And that enormous open-topped glass terrarium is drool-worthy, I've had a hankering for something like that for a few years now. Something about the size of a coffee table would do me fine, but I don't think I get enough light in my living room for one. I see she has a lamp directly over hers.

    Thanks so much for this wonderful post!

    1. I’m really glad you enjoyed it Alison, the whole thing was quite magical and I could have grabbed a chair and just sat in front of each of those glass boxes and stared at the plants for fascinating!

  3. "this adorable little fellow... a poison dart frog". Gulp. I wonder if there is danger handling this colorful cutie. Hooray for miniature gardens (luckily, no fairies in site :-D). I can see how Begonia could be addictive; the black leafed one with creamy center is to die for. Hoya retusa is surprising (not my grandmother's Hoya), and I love the cork installation idea.

    1. Loree, I hope it's ok to comment on this, please let me know if not!

      Chavliness, dart frogs that are born and raised in captivity do not produce the toxins that they would ordinarily in the wild. It is their diet that determines toxicity, primarily ants, mites, and spiders, that enable them to produce toxins. In captivity, their diet of springtails, flies, and isopods, do not allow for it. If you take a wild frog and raise in captivity for 6 months, it will lose its toxicity. There are additionally varying degrees of toxicity, and there are very few dart frogs even in the wild, that warrant safety precautions while handling, namely, Phyllobates terribilis.

    2. Hopefully Emily’s comment has you feeling a little different chavliness, I know I felt the same way until Emily explained there was no danger. And yes I agree, that Hoya is HOT,

  4. Incredible! At the start I expected just a couple of terrariums, which would have been impressive enough. I love the addition of the frogs. thanks for the introduction to her blog.

    1. I’ve learned so much reading her blog. Not all of it has stuck, but some of it is bound to.

  5. I meant creamy border (not center) ;-\

  6. This was great to see, because I'm "online friends" with Emily but have never visited her home in person, or seen many behind-the-scenes photos. Really cool. Emily is a knowledgeable and skilled grower and is very generous and kind. I've got some of my favorite plant species from her (I am a rare-miniature-plant addict, too).

    1. Good to know you feel the same about Emily. I feel so fortunate to know her.

    2. Thanks for the kind words, both of you. I feel the same way about both of you, and have learned so much from your blogs, both in growing technique (Matt, your vents and osmocote use especially), and Loree, your readiness to test what we think we know about plants and experiment, and how to effectively grow lots and lots of trees in a city lot! I hope to one day have a garden half as wonderful as yours.

  7. A true plant lover to have such a marvelous jungle. I wonder if those frogs sing at night? That would be really cool!

    1. Eliza,

      The dart frogs are diurnal, but, I have some glassfrogs that call at night, and weirdly, during the day sometimes too (they are nocturnal). Unfortunately, I have kept nocturnal frogs in my room or right next to it since I was 12 so I don't even really notice their calls anymore. Every so often though I do, and it is sooo nice!


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