Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fertile Forresttii Does It Again!

Little Petrocosmea forrestii is a mother again! While there are still some species that refuse to hybridize at all for me....like P. parryorum, and P. kerrii, and P. sp. 'China 2005', the species P. forrestii is taking up the slack for those species. So far, P. forrestii hybridizes more than any other species...having served as a mother in at least a half-dozen crosses for me. This year, I'm watching buds on P. forrestii crosses with sericea and minor.

The first of the forrestii x sericea seedlings flowered this week. I only got five seedlings from the cross. All five seedlings are showing buds. Foliage shows variation with some leaves narrow and cupped, like sericea and others showing rounded, flat leaves more like forrestii. All are quite small so far. I have them growing in two inch condiment cups, that have a capacity of two ounces...(I think.) Most are about the diameter of the cups...around two inches, with the largest, the first to flower...being about 2.5 inches in diameter. This seedling basically looks like a tiny P. sericea, with rounder leaves and very little of the cupping seen on sericea.

See the first flower to open below:

The first flower on P. forrestii x sericea..... can you see both parents in the flower? The flower is about the size of P. sericea, with a bit more of an upper lip to the corolla. A prominent white spot on the three lower lobes clearly comes from P. forrestii...although, sadly, none of forrestii's yellow came through. The dark purple blotch seen deep within the throat of P. sericea did come through in the progeny, and is just visible in this photo. Lower lobes are a bit more narrow and longer....more like forrestii.

The first seedling to flower from the cross looks much like a tiny P. sericea, although leaves are not as cupped as sericea.

This photo was a challenge....and my lack of photography skill didn't help anything. But, here is my best effort to show "MOM"...P. forrestii (left), "DAD", P. sericea, (right) and the seedling in the center. A side by side comparison shows the characteristics of both parents in the first flower.
I wonder, and wait, for the flowers on the other four seedlings. (P. forrestii x minor is just now showing buds peeking above the foliage.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Petrocosmea 'Keystone's Bluejay'

"Just living is not enough - one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower". Hans Christian Andersen

I'm enjoying a beautiful day at home, with brilliant sunshine outside, and the beginning of Petrocosmea's peak bloom season inside. My spirits really got a boost this morning when I went down to my basement growing area to find the second flowering of one of my hybrids in full glory underneath the lights. The hybrid was one of the most challenging to produce. The only seedling that I kept from around tewnty that I grew from a cross between P. sericea and P. minor veined leaf form. I have named this hybrid Petrocosmea 'Keystone's Bluejay'.

P. 'Keystone's Bluejay' is one of my largest hybrids, and certainly one of the most challenging to create. P. minor had been particularly reluctant to hybridize. This cross was my first success with that species as a parent. The large blue flowers show an attractive ruffled texture, are significantly larger than either parent's flowers, and are distinctly fragrant. The scent is a spicy rose fragrance to my nose.

The plant is large, with rounded glossy leaves overlaid with a frosty silvery hair from P. sericea. The plant looks like a very large, frosted version of P. minor veined leaf form. The plant in all of its characteristics, is larger than either parent. The plant shown above is two and one half years old, growing in a five inch pan pot, with outer leaves 2.75" in diameter. The flower count is a nice surprise, since both parents can be shy bloomers with regard to flower count. The outer leaves are showing the yellowing of both age and neglect, which the plant suffered during this past summer. It tolerated the neglect well. Once flowering is complete, the plant will get some fresh soil and a little more tender loving care as a reward. Some dimensions on this plant are as follows: Total diameter of rosette is 11.75" (30 cm). Largest leaf diameter is 2.75 " (7 cm) and flower width is 1.25" (3 cm).

A close-up of a flower shows the ruffled texture of the flowers. The coloring in the photo is accurate and was taken in natural light.

This photo, from a previous blog post, shows P. 'Keystone's Bluejay' as a younger plant, when it won Second Best in Show and first place in New Hybrids' at the African Violet and Gesneriad Society of Western New York show last March in Buffalo, NY. I have been really happy with the performance of this hybrid. The extra effort was worth it!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Here they come!!!! The Year's Crop of New Hybrids Begin to Bud

"Take thy spade...it is thy pencil. Take thy seeds, thy plants...they are thy colors." William Mason

When it comes to artistic talents, as the quote above implies, I definitely have to rely on my little collection of plants to showcase my "creative" talents.... Assuming of course, that I have any talents. But, for reasons not fully understood, Petrocosmeas have finally decided to hybridize for me. After ten years of attempts and struggling to get even a single seedpod, or a single seed for that matter, the last few years have allowed me a bit of luck.

Last year, I harvested seeds from 14 different hybrid crosses. Of course, I don't have the space to grow them all, but I did plant a few, and the rest are stored in the freezer for another season. The cross which I am most excited about is shown below...P. forresttii x P. minor smooth leaf form.

The largest, and first, of eleven plants from the cross to make buds! P. forresttii x P. minor smooth leaf form was a cross that I made with the goal of getting the round, glossy leaves of P. minor on a small, neat plant like forresttii. So far, the plants look a lot like P. forresttii, but the leaves are rounder, and that lovely glossiness of P. minor is certainly showing up in varying degrees among the seedlings. A couple show very little of it...and look much more like P. forresttii...but the majority do show the clear influence of P. minor in the leaves. Some are staying quite small, others growing larger. The largest, pictured above, is now 4.25 inches in diameter.

While the seedlings are showing great promise of meeting my goals for the foliar characteristics hoped for in this cross, the final test with this, as with ALL of the P. forrestii crosses so far is.... "will the inflorescences, or pedicels, be short and strong, like P. minor (lets hope!!!) or will they be long, wiry and untidy...as with P. forrestii ( boo, hiss, hiss...) . P. forrestii, unfortunately, has proven to be dominant with regard to the thin, wiry, messy, tangled pedicels. While I do like the individual flower characteristics of P. forrestii's flowers, I am clearly NOT a fan of the habit of those pedicels it produces. One last concern for this cross will be the flower count. P. forrestii can be quite easily flowered, and quite floriferous, while P. minor often can be a bit shy to produce a heavy bloom count. Thankfully, both of these species very rarely produce suckers, so that standard goal of my hybridizing program will hopefully not be an issue with these youngsters. Still, one of the joys of hybridizing for me has been....that....one never knows what the combination of genes from two gesneriads will produce.
I'll keep you posted!

Petrocosmea parryorum....an update....

"A garden is never so good as it will be next year." Thomas Jefferson

The quote above, by one of my favorite American Founding Fathers, reminds me of my experience in studying the genus Petrocosmea for the past few years now. And, P. parryorum is a prime example.

I posted a couple of months ago, how my original specimen of P. parryorum, which has spent a decade with me now, is still teaching me lessons and revealing its secrets with each new season. This year, it bloomed twice...once in January and again, starting what has been a very long and productive season of bloom in August. It continues to flower its last few remaining buds, three months later. That means that to date, this glorious species has been in flower for me nearly one half of the year! And, it is still going!

Pictured above, the now quite ragged and tired plant is still supporting the last few buds, remaining on the final 11 inflorescences. Here's the progress report so far.... it began with a rosette of leaves that was well over 14 inches in diameter when the first buds opened. Now, it has dropped the outer ring of leaves...likely due to the redirecting of energy into the flowers. It has produced 14 inflorescences, with as many as 57 buds on each inflorescence!!! Yes, that's correct...I removed one, pictured below, so that I could count the buds and also to preserve it in my private little "Petrocosmea herbarium" where I press and dry the various structures of each species Petrocosmea in my collection. SO, at around 50 buds each...I estimate that this plant has now produced around 500 flowers in one flowering season!!!! I've been amazed at this plant!
A dried Petrocosmea parryorum inflorescence. Some of the buds in this photo are underneath other buds, and a couple accidentally broke off, as can be seen on the left of the photo...but this one, and one other that I removed, each sported over 50 buds...the one above had 57, the other 54. I would surely love to get this influence incorporated into some Petrocosmea hybrids, but alas, I have not yet found a single flower on the plant that had pollen!! Attemps to pollinate it's flowers with other Petrocosmeas has resulted in no success. I have to wonder if the fact that it flowered during the late summer, when we were quite warm, might have affected the pollen production. I've consistently had better pollen production and better success with hybridizing in the middle of winter when temperatures were quite cold.... The flowering of this plant last January did produce pollen in the flowers.

A close up of a few of the current inflorescences on the plant above...showing a mix of spent flowers, open flowers, and a last few remaining buds.
I wonder what next year will reveal about P. parryorum...the Petrocosmea from India.