Monday, May 30, 2011

Lost and Found - A Tiny Surprise

One of the first lessons I learned as a budding gesneriad grower was that the first thing one should do when acquiring a prize new gesneriad is SHARE IT! At the very least, propagate it and then share it. Why? Often, events in our lives can get in the way of the care of our gesneriads, or they simply may not like the care we have to offer them, and they die. But, fear not, if we've followed the first rule of growing gesneriads, and we've shared our prize plant, we often can get it back from the friend with whom we've shared it. That has happened to me more times than I care to remember, and recently I was reminded of how true that rule can be.

The story begins a couple of years ago when I wanted to test whether the "miniature" gene that has shown up in my hybrid 'Keystone's Bantam' would be passed along to its offspring. So, I crossed P. forresttii with pollen from 'Keystone's Bantam'. I used forresttii because it was the smallest of all the species I had grown at that time. A seedpod did indeed result, and sure enough, as those zillions of tiny seedlings began to mature, it was evident that something unusual was going on. They were all not only mini's but microminiatures.... the leaves remained the size of a sesame seed on all of them! I thought that was "too miniature" and that they were stunted. So, I repotted them... and began to fertilize them. They were all healthy, but just very tiny. After about a year and a half, I decided they were rejects and tossed them all out. But, I gave a couple of them to a friend who is known for growing spectacular, prize winning Petrocosmeas. I had forgotten all about them until recently when I was visiting that friend. We were making a Sunday morning sweep of the plant room when I happened to notice among the Pets, a tiny little plant. I picked it up and saw the label.... There it was, my tiny little Petrocosmea hybrid...still tiny! See the picture below, with the little plant beside a quarter for comparison. ...........

The plant was growing in a one inch pot, but appeared healthy and thriving....and under two inches in diameter. It is now almost three years old and it remains very small, with lots of tiny leaves in a neat little rosette. So far, it has never bloomed.

My tiny little hybrid Petrocosmea, sitting beside a standard P. sericea. Each of those little squares on the grid is 1 cm x 1 cm. This little guy proves the value of sharing plants AND the value of not being too hasty to make judgements about new hybrids that show new and unusual traits.

The genetics that are showing up within the genus Petrocosmea, as I am getting to grow out more and more crosses are amazing me! Who'd have ever guessed that mini Pets would have shown up so early in this adventure? The variation in flower coloration and extra petal lobes, ruffles, etc is also a wonder to see. I counted around fifty seedlings this morning in the Pet Cave that are yet to flower for the first time...and these from five different new crosses. My excitement with these seedlings in continually renewed.

A happy ending.........I'm delighted to say that my friend shared a dozen or so little leaves from the plant, and they are already forming tiny little babies in my prop box. Now, if I can just grow them on ....and see if they remain minis. I also still have a good supply of the seeds from that original cross in the freezer, so I'll be planting them again this winter. Lesson learned....again?!