Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Parryorum's are in bloom.....

Single flower of Petrocosmea parryorum.

For me, the blooming of Petrocosmea parryorum is a thrilling event. Well, for me, the blooming of any Petrocosmea is a thrilling event, however, this one is a particularly special event. P. parryorum has always been a tough species to flower in my conditions. I've never figured out why. Others bloom it easily, but that is certainly not the case for most of us. So, last week, when those first few flowers started to open, I began to check my plant several times a day, in anticipation of it's coming into full flower. The time has arrived!

When researching P. parryorum, one of the first things I noted was that it was not listed in the Flora of China....then it hit me. P. parryorum is not FROM China, so that is probably why. P. parryorum was found in India and Burma by Cecil Ernest Claude Fischer (usually written C.E.C. Fisch.) in 1926. I have been unable to find much more than that on either the plant or the man Mr. Fischer. The plant, was not listed by Craib in his first revision of the genus done in 1919, because it was not known then either. So, one is left with the scant information in Wang's Second revision of the genus done in 1926, where it is called the "Indo-Burma Petrocosmea". It is placed by Wang in Section Anisochilus, noted for the top two petals of the corolla being approximately one half the length of the lower lip of the corolla...which they are.

Scant information, however, does not diminish the beauty of the plant in my eyes. It is a favorite plant for me. This species is often maligned by judges when it is entered in the "not in flower" classes for being "just a plain green plant". I would argue that it is green and it is a plant, but it is far from plain if one takes the time to know it. All parts of the plant are densely covered in long silvery hairs that give the plant a "frosted" or silvery appearance in the correct light. These hairs are often more golden in color near the base of the plant of the base of the petiole. The leaf surface is pebbly and the leaf is heart-shaped. If given proper culture and good light, the plant can be quite attractive. But the event of it's flowering is wonderful. Tight clusters of buds emerge from the crown of the plant to unfold into silvery furry clusters of lavendar flowers. The color of the flowers against the silvery hairs is lovely indeed, a feast for these Petrocosmea enthusiast's eyes!

A cluster of P. parryorum flowers emerging from the silvery, hairy crown of the plant....

This photo, by Julie Mavity-Hudson, shows the many attributes of P. parryorum...the glossy sheen of the pebbly leaf surface. The silvery hairs grab the light to give the plant a "frosted" appearance.

So, how did I get it to bloom? P. parryorum has been in my collection for about ten years...maybe more. It has only bloomed twice...last year with one spike of five flowers and this year, when it has more than a dozen inflorescences with multiple buds on each. I am not sure what I did differently. I grew the plant enclosed under humidity domes, for the past two years...which I have never done before. Also, I used to repot Pets about twice a year. And I never let the plant get very large before I would restart it as a leaf cutting and grow a new plant. I was in my African violet period then and thought that frequent repotting was the way to go....for Petrocosmeas, I am now convinced it IS NOT the way to go. My Petrocosmeas that I have allowed to remain in the same pot for four or five years now definitely perform best. I am now convinced that allowing Pets to mature is a secret to success. My plant is in a 5 inch pan pot where it has remained for four years now. It is quite rootbound. I remove the top of the soil about twice a year and place fresh soil with systemic pesticide granules mixed in. This is the only pest control that I use and I have never seen any insects on my plants. It grow it in the basement of my home, where temperatures the past two winters have gotten down to 38 degrees F. The Petrocosmeas loved it. I keep many of them enclosed under humidity domes and the ambient humidity in the room is usually greater than 50%. I allow P. parryorum to dry out at the root a bit between waterings. I use a variety of liquid fertilizers and alternate them at random. I fertilize about twice a month. Light on the shelf where P. parryorum grows is quite dim by most light gardener's standards. The plant sits below two tubes of light at a distance of about 16" from the leaf surface to the light fixture.
I had hoped to take photos of the mature plant in flower, however I dropped the plant while cleaning the shelves and broke off many of the leaves. That was not a good day to say the least, but the plant seems to have suffered no ill effects other than being mis-shapen and bruised. I am already attempting to make crosses using P. parryorum.
So if you haven't tried P. parryorum, you must! But be patient. It is worth the persistence and the wait.