Monday, August 23, 2010

Happy Surprises... Petrocosmea 'Keystone's Whipporwill'

Every day brings a surprise for the grower and hybridizer of plants. Since the cultivation and hybridization of Petrocosmea is still in it's infancy, I'm finding this genus, my favorite gesneriad genus, especially thrilling. If you have never tried hybridizing, you really must. I promise you that if I can figure it out, anyone can. I have no training in this stuff....I just started with an interest, then a fascination, then, some might argue, an obsession. I read everything I could find on the genus, (and I could find very little to read, let me assure you.) But, mostly, I observed my plants, and tried, and failed, and tried again, and failed again (repeat this ten more times....). Then finally one day, it worked! So, pick a favorite gesneriad or two (I guess to hybridize one would need at least two...)...and try it! You'll be in for an incredible journey!

So, what was today's surprise? Well, my hybrid from last year, is flowering again, only five months after it's first flowering...and it is flowering in the summer! Why am I excited about this? Well, for one thing, it shows great promise of having a Petrocosmea that will flower more than once extends the number of days in a year when the plant will be in flower! And, it extends the flowering season into the summer months...a time when, for most of us, our Petrocosmea plants are not in flower. The hybrid, pictured above, is P. 'Keystone's Whipporwill'. The parentage is P.' Asa Blue' x begoniifolia.
P. 'Keystone's Whipporwill' in its second bloom.... gets better with age. The original plant, pictured above, is growing in a three inch diameter, one inch deep condiment cup...the type used in restaurants to serve sauces, etc. The center leaves are tight and puckered due to my choice to switch my fluorescent lights to T8 bulbs about three months ago...resulting in a great deal more light...many of the Pets don't care for it. I will be reducing the hours/day that the lights are on to make the plants happier. But, other than that, the plant has performed well. It grows easily, has not suckered, so far, and has attractive deep green foliage with a bronzy/purple cast and underside. Foliage is reminiscent of the P. begoniifolia parent, but more heart shaped, and a bit softer, like the P. 'Asa Blue' parent. P. 'Asa Blue' is a remake of the cross which produced 'Momo'...P. nervosa x flaccida. It flowers several times a year, and has a high flower count. This cross marked the first success at using a Petrocosmea hybrid as a parent. So these hybrids have three species in the background.
With maturity, the pedicels are producing three to five flowers each, on the average. Prior to taking the photo, I removed six spent blossoms. There are still lots of buds coming underneath the leaves. This promises to increase the bloom count and extend the flowering season.

The lighting in the photo doesn't clearly show the attractive bright yellow stripes in the throat of the flowers...but they are there. The blue in the photo is pretty accurate. Flowers have the shape of the begoniifolia parent, and this is also where the yellow comes from. Flowers are larger than either parent too. Plant size seems compact so far.

Another characteristic that I selected P. 'Keystone's Whipporwill' for was the attractive purple flower stems and calyces. I felt that since most Petrocosmea stems and calyces are green, this added another pleasing characteristic to the hybrid. I have distributed a few leaves to close friends for testing. Now, with further evaluation, I will begin to distribute the plant more widely...guess I'd better put some leaves down for myself too...for insurance. More than two years in the works, I'm happy with the result and consider the effort well worth it!