Monday, August 24, 2009

Some Old Friends Return..........

Among my gesneriad collection, there are treasured varieties of species and hybrids that I will always keep. They are reliable old friends, who have proven they are worth the space and effort to hang around. I look forward to the arrival of their flowers every year. I have several rhizomatous gesneriads that are blooming now. The beauty of these rhizomatous plant is that they put up annual top growth and flower than die down to the soil level each year. Underneath the soil, they produce scaly rhizomes, that somewhat resemble little pinecones. They rhizomes remain dormant for a few months, and then re-sprout and produce a new season of growth the next year. So, it's like you have a new chance to grow them bigger and better each year, starting with a "blank slate" of little rhizomes.

One of my oldest and most favorite varieties is an intergeneric hybrid between Smithiantha and Achimenes called xAchimenantha 'Dutch Treat' It is an older hybrid made by a master hybridizer, Patrick Worley. I love it's deep bronzy foliage covered with bright red hairs. It stays small, given good light, and a four inch pot full of rhizomes will produce a spectacular display. it is doing for me now! Flowers look like little rusty red dime sized jewels with a bright lemon yellow center, striped with red stripes. It is literally covered in these little flowers when in full bloom. It is worth the effort to seek this older hybrid out if you haven't tried it.

xAchimenantha 'Dutch Treat' makes a beautiful display with masses of dime-sized little red flowers with glowing yellow throats over dark red-haired foliage.
Another favorite is also an intergeneric hybrid between the two genera Smithiantha and Eucodonia. xSmithicodonia 'Behavin' ' favors the Smithiantha parent in it's foliage characteristics. The plant bears dark bronze leaves with purple hairs. Flowers are purplish pink bells with ivory-yellow throats speckled with darker purple dots, produced in clusters atop the crown of foliage. In good light, the flowers have a glistening crystalline appearance. The plant blooms for a long period.

The lovely pink bells of xSmithicodonia 'Behavin' ' are a delicate crown of beauty atop the crown of bronzy purple leaves.

A new gem to my collection for the past three years is a charming little miniature species from Brazil that I grew from seed. It is not yet identified, but is given the name Gloxinia species 'Arcos'. The plant produces little clusters of brigh lime green hairy leaves atop of which sit the snow white little tubular flowers with a bright lemon yellow spot in the throat. Sitting among several plants on the windowsill in my bright sunroom, these tiny little plants never fail to capture attention when they bloom. My plants have never gotten more that two inches tall! They are easy to grow, if the soil is kept evenly moist. They produce lots of rhizomes each year. What more could one ask for? A welcomed and adorable new addition to our windowsills!

The glistening white flowers of the dainty little charmer Gloxinia sp. 'Arcos' never fail to attract attention.

A close-up view of little Gloxinia sp. 'Arcos' grown from seed, imported from Brazil.

I will always include the rhizomatous gesneriads in my list of favorites and my plant collection. They are easy to care for if given bright light and kept evenly moist while in active growth. The only caution is that drying out of the soil, often spells the demise of the plant. Rhizomes can be harvested and stored in ziplock bags in a cool dark place during dormancy, and replanted once they sprout next season.