Monday, August 24, 2009

Some Old Friends Return..........

Among my gesneriad collection, there are treasured varieties of species and hybrids that I will always keep. They are reliable old friends, who have proven they are worth the space and effort to hang around. I look forward to the arrival of their flowers every year. I have several rhizomatous gesneriads that are blooming now. The beauty of these rhizomatous plant is that they put up annual top growth and flower than die down to the soil level each year. Underneath the soil, they produce scaly rhizomes, that somewhat resemble little pinecones. They rhizomes remain dormant for a few months, and then re-sprout and produce a new season of growth the next year. So, it's like you have a new chance to grow them bigger and better each year, starting with a "blank slate" of little rhizomes.

One of my oldest and most favorite varieties is an intergeneric hybrid between Smithiantha and Achimenes called xAchimenantha 'Dutch Treat' It is an older hybrid made by a master hybridizer, Patrick Worley. I love it's deep bronzy foliage covered with bright red hairs. It stays small, given good light, and a four inch pot full of rhizomes will produce a spectacular display. it is doing for me now! Flowers look like little rusty red dime sized jewels with a bright lemon yellow center, striped with red stripes. It is literally covered in these little flowers when in full bloom. It is worth the effort to seek this older hybrid out if you haven't tried it.

xAchimenantha 'Dutch Treat' makes a beautiful display with masses of dime-sized little red flowers with glowing yellow throats over dark red-haired foliage.
Another favorite is also an intergeneric hybrid between the two genera Smithiantha and Eucodonia. xSmithicodonia 'Behavin' ' favors the Smithiantha parent in it's foliage characteristics. The plant bears dark bronze leaves with purple hairs. Flowers are purplish pink bells with ivory-yellow throats speckled with darker purple dots, produced in clusters atop the crown of foliage. In good light, the flowers have a glistening crystalline appearance. The plant blooms for a long period.

The lovely pink bells of xSmithicodonia 'Behavin' ' are a delicate crown of beauty atop the crown of bronzy purple leaves.

A new gem to my collection for the past three years is a charming little miniature species from Brazil that I grew from seed. It is not yet identified, but is given the name Gloxinia species 'Arcos'. The plant produces little clusters of brigh lime green hairy leaves atop of which sit the snow white little tubular flowers with a bright lemon yellow spot in the throat. Sitting among several plants on the windowsill in my bright sunroom, these tiny little plants never fail to capture attention when they bloom. My plants have never gotten more that two inches tall! They are easy to grow, if the soil is kept evenly moist. They produce lots of rhizomes each year. What more could one ask for? A welcomed and adorable new addition to our windowsills!

The glistening white flowers of the dainty little charmer Gloxinia sp. 'Arcos' never fail to attract attention.

A close-up view of little Gloxinia sp. 'Arcos' grown from seed, imported from Brazil.

I will always include the rhizomatous gesneriads in my list of favorites and my plant collection. They are easy to care for if given bright light and kept evenly moist while in active growth. The only caution is that drying out of the soil, often spells the demise of the plant. Rhizomes can be harvested and stored in ziplock bags in a cool dark place during dormancy, and replanted once they sprout next season.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Basics - Pots and Soil

It's amazing how often people will tell me that they have never even tried to grow a Petrocosmea because they "look hard to grow". Once when I asked one lady why she thought that, she said that anything the has such perfect symmetry has to be difficult. For me, they've always been simple to grow. Now, growing them WELL, that's another story, but I've never found them challenging. The secret, I think, is understanding the plants needs. But, isn't that the trick with every plant??

Over the years my techniques have evolved as my conditions changed. I must say, that I am more of a collector, than a grower, but it's hard to be much of a collector of plants if one can't keep them alive, so I have been forced to learn to grow them pretty well. I thought for this post I'd focus on the basics of soil and the pots I've found successful.

The number one thing I recommend to everyone who asks about Pet culture is "shallow pots, shallow pots, shallow pots!!!!" Recently, when I was overheard preaching that, a lady came over and laughed in my face, saying that she grows them perfectly well in standard pots. Yes, they can be grown beautifully in standard pots. But, in general, I feel that most people who fail with Pets lose them because of rootrot. And, the roots rot because they cannot get air. Shallow pots give a wider surface area for the soil which means greater evaporation of moisture after watering, and greater evaporation of moisture means more air gets to the roots more quickly. In nature, Petrocosmeas grow on rocks that are covered in moss or in crevices or even on the trunks of trees. All of these environments mean that when it rains, the roots get wet quickly and when it stops raining, the water drains quickly and the roots get air. On the rocks, the moss and detritus from the forest make a shallow medium of soil and debris. This does not stay sopping wet, but rather moist and cool, and with lots of air. Think about that for a minute........ Now, standard pots are designed for plants that sink their roots deeply into the soil and seek moisture. That is NOT Petrocosmea! I have carefully peeled and washed the soil off of mature Petrocosmeas in order to see the root is shallow and wide...sort of like an umbrella. Shallow pots, shallow pots, shallow pots!!!

This photo shows a tray of my young plants having just been potted up into shallow 5" pan pots and placed in the 11x22" nursery tray on an acrylic mat made from a section of a cheap blanket.

This is a photo of a happy, healthy Petrocosmea rosettifolia #1 in a 5" diameter pan pot that is only two inches deep.
I use a variety of shallo pots for Petrocosmea. Starting from the point where I pot the young plantlets up into individual pots after dividing them from the mother leaf. They go into 1 once condiment cups that I purchase from a restaurant supply store. These little cups are only an inch deep. I keep the plants in these pots until the plant's rosette reaches about three inches in diameter. At that point, I pot the plants into a two ounce condiment cup. Again, this cup is only one inch deep. The plants stay in this pot until they are about four to five inches in diameter. At that point, if I want the rosette to stay sort of small and compact, I'll pot into a four ounce comdiment cup. If i want a larger rosette, I'll pot the plant into a 5" diameter pan pot. The condiment cups have no holes, but I take a scissors and snip slits along the lower edge of the cup in two or three places. This gives great drainage. I really love these little cups as pots. They are cheap and the black colored ones look really classy.

This photo shows the pots I use on the left beside a row of standard pots for comparison on the right. I DO NOT use standard pots for Pets. Note the differences in the height of the pots...the standard pots are more than twice as deep and the pan pots and condiment cups. In the center is a "salvaged" desert tray from a frozen single serving desert. They are 4" x4" square and only one inch deep. I snip holes in the bottom and use these little trays as my community pots for seedings for my hybrids.

For rooting leaves, I love these little craft boxes from WalMart. They allow light in, and are just the right size for a few leaves. I can tuck them in among the plants on the light stands. They sell for less than a dollar each and last forever. When I empty them, I rinse them out and stick them in the dishwasher before reusing them.

For planting seeds, I use these little transparent snack bowls made by Ziplock and Reynolds. They come in boxes of about six and are cheap. They let light in, and are easy to clean in the dishwasher for reuse. I stick a mailing label on the side to write the name and planting date.

People are always asking about my soil recipe. It's pretty simple actually, and it has evolved many times of the years. This is what works best for me in my conditions. But basically, any soil mix that is light and airy will work great for Pets. My mix is two parts potting soil (I use Scotts basic potting soil), one part medium to coarse perlite, one part course vermiculite, and two parts chopped milled sphagnum moss. Some people who've seem my mix say it is a "dirty moss mix", if you are familiar with that term. Anyway, it drains quickly and is very light and fluffy. I moisten the mix lightly prior to potting. When I repot, I do firm the mix lightly... I do not recommend firming the mix into the pot firmly...that makes it too dense. Again, think about the substrate Pets grow in on the rocks...moss and dead leaves...that stuff is pretty light and nature, no one runs around tamping the soil down around Pet roots, so I don't recommend it in cultivation either.
Once potted, I do not water the plants for about three days. I place them on a moist mat inside a humidity dome on the light stands, but I don't water for a few days. This gives any damaged roots time to recover and prevents them from rotting if the are sitting in a wet mix.
The last point I'll make is that Petrocosmea like a humid environment. That is lots of water in the air, but not as much on the roots. Reversing that can be disasterous for Petrocosmea. So, I feel that using the moist matting inside the nursery trays helps to keep the air around the plants humid. In my basement, the humidity is between 50 and 70 percent most all year.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Beautiful Mess or Identity Crisis ?

Those of us who love to collect Petrocosmea are faced with a mess. Our beautiful Pets are currently saddled with some very "un-beautiful" names. Some are not even labeled with a name at all but a series of letters and numbers such as Petrocosmea species #5 or Petrocosomea 'Chinese #2' or Petrocosmea species 'HT-2'....certainly not the names one expects when one encounters such a beautiful new plant. All of these letters and numbers are now starting to create a number of issues and the number of species in culitivation begins to expand. To make matters even worse, over the past decade, as China was opened to plant collectors, new species have been collected and incorrect names have been attached by the dealers in China. Often, the same plant was sold with two different names attached to the same plant. So, those who were importing them have distributed the plants with the names as attached. As these have become more widely grown, we are beginning to realize that the names as applied are erroneous. Most of the species we currently have in cultivation are most certainly mislabeled or misidentified. The photo of the lovely Pet flower above is a perfect example. This flower was produced on a plant labeled Petrocosmea floribunda. There is NO published Petrocosmea species with that name. So, where did it come from? Then, it gets even worse, a second plant in my collection bloomed with identical blooms..... that plant is labeled Petrocosmea duclouxii! Obviously, one or both names is erroroneous!

One of my missions, as I focus on the genus, is to begin to sort out all of this muddled misidentity for my beloved Pets and the growers who treasure them. These lovely plants deserve to be correctly identified. So, about a year ago, I began sorting through the botanical descriptions for all of the species within the genus Petrocosmea as published in the Flora of China. Immediately, a number of problems arose. The Flora of China was published several years ago, and most of the species we are currently growing have been collected and introduced within the past 8 years or so. So, there are almost certainly some new, or unidentified species in the mix right now. But, it was a place to start. It is slow and tedious work. First, I have to have fresh Pet flowers, so I have to wait for each species to flower. Then, the flowers must be dissected, and each tiny part identified and measured. Even the hairs have to be measured!!! It takes me days to do each species. But, I am learning so much about the similarities and differences in the anatomy of these plants. Fascinating!!

Study the photo at the right. It shows four of my plants, all different species, growing on my lightstand in the basement. These are all young plants newly potted. In this photo, though, are three clones of what may well turn out to be the same species. They are all labeled differently.
The photo shows (clockwise from top left) P. sp. 'G25KC00' (rosettifolia); P. minor, smooth leaf form; P. menglienensis (likely another form of rosettifolia); and P. rosettifolia. Look at how diffferent the two plants at the bottom and the one at the top left are.... and all are likely the same species, but are currently labeled very differently!

This photo at the right is a blooming plant of Petrocosmea species #5. Others are growing the same plant as Petrocosmea minor veined leaf form. I have gotten the same plant from different sources with both names. DNA are showing that it is closely related to minor, but may indeed be a different species. To make matters worse, the description of P. minor in the Flora of China describes something very different from this plant or the other plants we grow as P. minor...all are likely misidentified.

Another issue with the labeling of Pet species pops up when a newly collected plant comes into cultivation. If the plant is clearly different from the other species we have in cultivation, the grower is faced with the dilemma of what to pot on the label as one begins to distribute cuttings among other growers. This is often where the letters and numbers come from. Below are two photos of newly introduced species. The first is a photo of a newly collected Pet that was just introduced into the US last winter. I have the plant in my collection at present. It is indeed different from anything we currently grow, and it most closely resembles plants labeled P. sericea and P. sp. 'HT-2', but it is definately different from those. A lovely plant, with very flaccid, very soft, felt-like silver leaves. An exciting and beautiful new introduction, whatever it turns out to be.
Note the very dense and long silvery hairs on the calyx lobes at the base of each flower....lovely!
The last photo below, shows a plant that I imported from China in 2005. It came labeled P. forrestii, but is clearly not the same as the plant we currently grow as P. forresttii. So, I labeled it P. species 'China 2005'. It makes a lovely, small rosette, and the flowers are a very different blue-purple color with a contrasting white throat. Pedicels often have a purple blush to them. It bears single flowered cymes, and last year, was very reluctant to cross with any other species in my hybridizing attempts. It did finally cross with P. forresttii and I have five seedlings nearing flowering size now. DNA is showing that it is closely related to the other plants that we grow labeled P. it may turn out to be another clone of that species. A charming plant, nonetheless.

The contrast between the clear crisp white throat and the bluish petals is very nice!

So the taxonomy within this genus is a mess, to say the least. The genus is badly in need of some work from taxonomists. Currently, I am honored to be participating in some DNA studies being done with a university and this may help to sort out some of the confusion, but will not do a lot to ensure that the names on are labels are properly applied. Until that day comes, I carefully label each plant and each leaf I distribute from each plant with the name on the label when I acquired it. I don't change anything until the proper science is applied. Then, I just relax and enjoy growing my beloved Petrocosmeas!
One of the greatest pleasures of a life filled with plants is when treasured plants finally bloom. If the plant flowers only once a year, it is an even more special event. Often, the flowering of plants that were acquired as gifts from friends and acquaintances trigger fond memories of times spent with that person. Raphiocarpus petelotii is such a special plant for me.

This plant is, to me, a beauty. It grows to about a foot tall, it's tall succulent stems are topped with an umbrella of deep bronzy purple leaves, with bright wine colored undersides, all covered with bright, long purple hairs. In late summer, into early autumn, the plant flowers, producing dangling butter yellow tubular flowers with striking, bright purple stripes proceding down the throat to the mouth of the flower with two bold, raised dark yellow lines. The flowers are born alone on hanging pedicels the make the flowers seem to "drip" from underneath the dark leaves. All a lovely, and dramatic display to my eye. I delight in the flowering of this plant every year.

It was given to me nearly ten years ago, and with each move, I have carefully transported a cutting along with me, so that my new home would always be graced by this exotic beauty.

The lovely, butter yellow flowers of Raphiocarpus petelotii grace make their
annual appearance!

I find the contrast of the butter yellow tube and the wine-purple stripes set against the foil of the plant's dark leaves a beautiful combination. This is nature at it's best, to me.

The flowers of Raphiocarpus petelotii peek out from among the dark, hairy, red-backed leaves.

Raphiocarpus is a small genus of about 11 species. The name comes from the greek words for "needle" (raphis) and "fruit" (carpus), referring to the plant's long, slender seed capsule. It was formerly included in the genus Didissandra and is closely related to Didissandra and Ridleyandra. Only a couple of species are in cultivation in the US. R. petelotii comes from the Lao Cai Province of Vietnam. It is found in mountainous regions, growing in damp and shady areas among streams and rock crevices. The plant grows about a foot tall, and the stems tend to lose the leaves along their lenght, leaving a dense cluster of leaves at the top of the mature stems. It forms underground smooth rhizomes and produces annual shoots from these rhizomes.
My plant grows well among the low light and cool conditions I give my Petrocosmeas, in my basement, under lights. It likes to stay moist, so I water often, and I grow it sitting on a mat that stays damp constantly, inside a nursery tray on the lowest shelf of my lightstand. I find that it also thrives under raised plastic humidity domes that I also use on my Petrocosmeas. It roots quickly and easily from single leaves put down like African violet leaves to root, or from tip cuttings.
My favorite way to grow Raphiocarpus is outdoors in the summer, in large pots or urns, in a shady location. In this manner, it quickly produces a large "shrub" that has many growths and lots of flowers in late summer. I take cuttings when the weather cools, as this plant is not hardy in my USDA zone 5 garden. These cuttings grow well inside during the winter and I have plenty of plants for potting up and sharing next spring. I makes a great unusual conversation item in the pots on the porch each year and people always want this plant when they see it on the porch. The one caution I would add to growing it outdoors is that slugs can and will devastate a plant in one use slug bate when you pot it up!!!
R. petelotii is a wonderful example of the rare beauties within the Gesneriaceae family. It is sad that this plant is not more widely grown and appreciated, but for me, I am delighted that it made it's way into my home and my heart!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The "Pets" Have Their Day!

If you've never been to a plant show or plant society convention, and you love plants, you simply must make a point to attend just one in your lifetime. For plant lovers, the chance to see choice and rare specimens grown to near perfection, is a truly memorable event. The highlight of my year is each July when the annual convention of the Gesneriad Society rolls around. It is traditionally held during the week of July 4th. This year, the convention was held in Silver Spring, Maryland from June 29-July 5th. Gesneriad lovers from all over the world descended upon the hotel to hold another week of good times among good friends and to showcase our beloved gesneriads. The convention includes a judged show, several lectures, a plant sale, and other social events such as banquets, luncheons, classes, workshops and tours of local botanical venues.

As I said, I look forward to this event for a whole year. I've been attending them whenever I could for the past nine years and always have a wonderful time. For me, it is a chance to reconnect with friends who I may not have seen since the last convention. This year was a special year for my favorite genus, Petrocosmea. The show included an unusually high number of entries for this genus. There are a number of classes in the show, in which Petrocosmea could be entered. Since most Petrocosmea are winter bloomers, a summer show usually means that most Petrocosmea entered will be entered in the horticultural class for "Petrocosmea- not in flower". This year, that class was very large. So large, in fact, that the class was split into several smaller classes in order to give each plant entered more of a chance to win an award if it scored well. This made the class a tough one for judges to judge.

Judging Petrocosmea not in flower places a LOT of emphasis on the plant's "ornamental value". Petrocosmea, not in flower, can be quite uninteresting to many judges. Others, however, assign a good degree of merit for ornamental value to Pets that are tight, symmetrical, unblemished, flat rosettes. A debate often ensues about the amount of skill required to grow a Petrocosmea in such a manner, since the genus has a natural tendency to produce growth that is flat, symmetrical, an a tight, round rosette. That being the case, some judges say very few points should be assigned to such plants, since the grower had little skill invested to accomplish such a result. Obviously, I see a Petrocosmea, not in flower, as a very beautiful thing. I love them in or out of flower and I think they are among the most ornamental of gesneriads. But, being a Master Judge, I am obliged to give merit to the counterpoint that says this is plain and uniteresting and does not show a lot of ornamental value. As a judge, I tend to demand a little more from a Petrocosmea entered into a show if I'm going to give it high points for ornamental value.

Nonetheless, this years show being only four hours drive away from Pittsburgh, allowed me the rare opportunity to drive to convention and therefore, take entries for the show. I took 15 entries this year. Four of those were Petrocosmea. When scoring was completed, I was thrilled to see that all of my Petrocosmea had scored above 90 points, and my entry of Petrocosmea rosettifolia #3 had won a first place ribbon in it's class, and Best Petrocosmea!!! I was proud of all of my ribbons, but winning Best Petrocosmea in a convention show with so many Petrocosmea entries was the highlight of my year!!

My entry of Petrocosmea rosettifolia #3, which won first place in it's class and Best Petrocosmea for the show!!!

Petrocosmea almost always feature prominently in the Collection classes. This year, there was a beautiful presentation of five Petrocosmea grown by Paul Kroll, of East Aurora, NY. Paul is an expert grower of all gesneriads, and he never fails to deliver some stunning examples of Petrocosmea grown to perfection. The choice of a brown, earth tone, cloth to unify the collection was most attractive. The earthtones complimented the colors of the foliage, in my opinion, and were a welcome change from the more common use of black cloth for such a purpose. I particularly liked the silvery foliage on the plant of P. 'Shortnin' Bread' in the front against the brown cloth. This collection, starting with the plant in the back and moving clockwise includes, P. parryorum, P. sericea, P. 'Shortnin' Bread', P. sp. 'Yumebutai' and P. sp. 'HT-2'.
A very well grown and floriferous Petrocosmea begoniifolia , which won first place in the Petrocosmea in flower class. This is not my plant, but I wish it was!!

The class for Petrocosmea -Not in Flower was so large that it was split. There were enough entries of the new Pet hybrid 'Shortnin' Bread' that it has a class all by itself!!

A PARTIAL view of the table holding all of the Petrocosmea Not in Flower entries at this year's convention show. It was the largest class for Petrocosmea ever!!!

Did such a large increase in the number of entries for Petrocosmea represent the degree of interest in this popular genus of gesneriads? I hope so. I was certainly thrilled to see so many examples of Petrocosmea in one show. The large number of those entries which were in the "not in bloom" sections, however, I think tells those of us who are working with hybridizing within this genus that the need to produce new hybrids that are floriferous, that bloom in the summer or year round, and the have more interesting foliage characteristics must be a major focus. Judges are going to very soon start to demand much more from these plants with regard to flowering and ornamental value. Hhhmmm, "note to self".........
If you did not make it to this years convention show, plan to attend in the future. If you cannot make it to a convention show, seek out the nearest local chapter shows of gesneriad and African violet clubs, and seek out the Petrocosmeas!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Petrocosmea barbata flower

I'll start my posts about Petrocosmeas with the species that often is the first to begin blooming for me each autumn. This year, all of my Pets are blooming earlier than usual, and P. barbata once again kicked the season off in grand style! Petrocosmea barbata is one of the newer Petrocosmea species brought into cultivation only within the last ten years or so. While it's flowers are not the showiest or largest of the Pet species, it does hold a certain charm and "daintiness" that the other species lack. It has a number of characteristics that set it apart.

P. barbata forms a smaller, and less symmetrical rosette than most Pets. The leaves are unique in the genus in that they are reniform, or fan shaped...much like a ginko leaf. The center of this species can be a tight cluster of cupped and curled young leaves, covered in silvery hairs, giving some who grow African violets the impression that the plant may have a cyclamen mite infestation. Often, the outer leaves will yellow and wither, leaving only this tight little cluster of green center leaves throughout the late winter and early spring season. Then, in mid to late spring, they open up and start to enlarge, and the plant will quickly form a larger, more open rosette. It tends to bloom in late summer or early autumn for me here in Pennsylvania. The flowers often open white, and may darken to a pale lavender purple color with a pale yellow spot at the base of the throat. The photo above is a good representation of the typical P. barbata flower. Flowers are short lived, only lasting five or six days before dropping.

Two years ago, one of several little plantlets that had formed from leaf cuttings of my only plant, began to grow larger and had larger leaves, of a slightly different shape from the mother plant. I set this little guy aside as a "keeper". As it bloomed, there was hardly a normal flower on the plant. All of the flowers either had extra petals or were peloric (rounded, radially symmetrical). The flowers were slightly smaller than normal, but the plant flowered more heavily and the flowers also had a larger and deeper yellow blotch in the throat than the mother plant. I've kept this clone now for three bloom cycles and have decided it is indeed superior in several respects to it's mother. I've given it the cultivar name 'Keystone'. Below is a photo of a single flower, and of the whole plant in flower this season. The plant forms a rosette that is noticeably fuller and larger than it's mother and also has leaves of a different shape, often irregularly shaped. I find it easier to grow than it's mother also. I hope that the new cultivar will be a popular addition to the collections of Pet lovers! I am propagating it now for distribution.

Petrocosmea barbata 'Keystone' single flower

Petrocosmea barbata 'Keystone' whole plant in flower
My hope is to also use P. barbata 'Keystone' in my hybridizing program with the goal of getting more yellow in flowers, perhaps even solid yellow flowers, and flowers with extra petals or doubles. It's tendency to be a heavy bloomer will also support my hybridizing goal of Petrocosmeas that bloom more heavily and with a bloom season that starts earlier and lasts longer. This plants tendency to bloom in August, when many other Pets are not in flower, may help extend the bloom season for the genus.
Discovering this gem among the plantlets that propagated from the leaves of the same plant was a good example of why it is important to watch young plants closely for those that "behave" differently. Keep those, as they may grow up to represent a new mutation or sport.
I'm delighted with my new addition to my collection!
Good growing!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Next "Step".....

Hello! Welcome to my blog!

I have started this blog to share my enthusiasm for the genus Petrocosmea with others who have an interest in them also. While most of the posts will be about various aspects surrounding the cultivation of Petrocosmea, I also have a large collection of other gesneriads and assorted favorite plants, so I expect there will be posts about those too.

My passion for Petrocosmea really started when I attended my first convention of the American Gloxinia and Gesneriad Society (now the Gesneriad Society) back in 2000 in Tampa, FL. There were several new species in the show, and the growers of those plants shared leaves with me after the show. Soon after returning home, I got a box of about ten Petrocosmea species from Mary Bozoian, who was known as the "Petrocosmea Lady". The generosity of those people back then started me down a path that has led to the creation of this blog.

About two years ago, my focus on Petrocosmea really intensified. I wanted to learn more about them, so I wrote to Dr. Larry Skog at the Smithsonian, asking if he knew of any botanists who were currently working on the genus. He replied that he didn't know of anyone, and felt that someone should start the tremendous work of sorting out all of the species within the genus and trying to assign proper identities to them. He suggested that since no one else was doing the work, I should do it!

Now, I am not a botanist, or taxonomist, or even anywhere close. I just loved these plants and had an intense interest in knowing more about them. Dr. Skog supplied a list of botanical references and the first and second revisions of the genus done many years ago. He referred me to the Flora of China, which contained the botanical descriptions of many of the species in the genus. And he began to talk me through the process of dissecting the plants, studying all of the minute, microscopic little anatomical parts within the flowers, and how to measure each part. So, I began the process. I have learned so much about these plants. I have collected over 40 different species and varieties of each species along with more than a dozen hybrids. And I began to hybridize Petrocosmea. This has all been fascinating to me!

As a small boy, growing up in the countryside of northern middle Tennessee, I spent many hours following behind my grandfather as he worked in his garden and fields. He often cultivated his garden with a plow, pulled by a mule. With each step he took, he would leave his footprint in the freshly tilled soil. I would try to step into each one as he lifted his foot.... He always seemed so knowledgeable and wise about every plant in the garden,....every tree in the woods, and I always wanted to know as much as he did about all of the plants on his farm. I always asked for seeds or seedlings from every plant he planted and then would take them and plant them in the little corner of his garden that he had given me for "my garden". I tried to grow them all as well, or better than he did. That inspiration from my wise and wonderful grandfather has grown into a hobby and passion that sustains my soul up to the present day. So, I hope to share that with passion and any knowledge I have gained about Petrocosmea and gesneriads, and gardening in general, with others through this blog.

My grandfathers footsteps have led me here....and this is the "next step". I hope that you will enjoy sharing this journey of knowledge about Petrocosmea with me.....