Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Back at work.....

Greetings! One never knows what life is going to toss at us. The last couple of months have been a bit tough with an unexpected illness and surgery. Three hospital stays and a few weeks to recover and everything is fine now...things seem back on track. The past couple of weeks have seen me able to get back among the beloved Petrocosmeas....I've missed them~! But, as they always do, they banished my duldrums with the annual start of the flowering season. The earliest to bloom for me, P. formosa, was in all of her glory when I made my first visit back to the basement plantroom. What a welcome!

While P. formosa most typically blooms in pale orchid purple, a fellow Petrocosmea enthusiast in New York gave me a peek at his white P. formosa. Not sure where he acquired the plant, he did not recall it being given to him as a white form...however, that's what it has produced for the past couple of seasons now. He observes that the flowers remain pure white with the typical yellow base to the upper corolla lobes. I did note, that the yellow blotch in this form is more lemon yellow whereas the yellow blotch in the typical purple form that I grow is more orange-yellow. I have a large leaf form and a small leaf form and both produce purple flowers with orange-yellow blotches. I'm hoping this one remains white.... a lovely flower it was indeed!

Getting back to the Petrocosmeas just as they are producing this years flush of growth made me restless to get things groomed, repotted and "back in order". This photo shows an assortment of species Petrocosmeas in the matt-lined trays in which I grow them. The larger plants in the foreground are in 5 inch pan pots and are a couple of years old now. They were groomed of old outer leaves, the top quarter inch or so of soil was gently washed away and they were top dressed with systemic insecticide granules and fresh soil mix. The mats were washed in hot water, detergent and bleach and repositioned in the bottom of the trays, where they were dampened to provide humidity. These mats are cheap acrylic blankets cut into 22x22" sections, folded once to make a double thickness to line the 11x22" nursery trays. As the plants come into bud in the fall, the trays are covered with a plastic humidity dome to increase the humidity for the flowers....which aids is successfull pollination when I hybridize them. Last the plants were watered in with dilute fertilize water. And, for good measure, I told them how beautiful they were and encouraged them to grow up to be big and strong....

I've often been asked "How do you find new Petrocosmeas?" Admittedly, they can be a challenge to find. I am very fortunate to have great plant friends who know my love for the genus, and when the acquire new selections, the share them with me. The box above was a generous gift from a dear Canadian friend who brought them across the border to me last March when I attended the Buffalo, New York gesneriad and violet show. The included a new unidentified species labeled P. sp. 'Chinese #3' and a new form of P. rosettifolia with nice bluish lavendar flowers...(this made my fifth form of P. rosettifolia...all distinctly different from each other, but all clearly, the same species.....of course DNA analysis helped me to prove that!) How exciting to have five forms of the same Petrocosmea species! So, my advice to those wanting to build a collection is to get the word out to all of your plant friends......Gesneriad lovers are among the most generous people in the world!
Once home, I dutifully put down leaves from each of the new Petrocosmeas in the box above, partly as insurance again loss, and partly to be able to distribute them to others. That is one of the best nuggets of advice I ever got from a wise gesneriad grower.....Whenver acquiring a new gesneriad...PROPAGATE IT!!! That has saved me from losing a precious new acquisition so many times!
It feels good to be back. I'll do my best to post to the blog more often now!