Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Few More Baby Pictures.....

Well, you know how it is with proud parents and pictures of the "kids"...... I found a few more photos from the same P. 'Asa Blue' x begoniifolia cross. The photo above shows a large flower, very full petals, a pinkish coloration and some ruffling in the petals. The slight yellow marks in the throat are still there, and this one has some spotting in the throat. The peduncles on this seedling were also nice and compact, which helped to support the large flowers. This one was also kept for further evaluation. (Sorry that the photo is not in focus.)
This photo shows the flower from the first photo, beside of a sibling which has the more typical flower shape for the cross. I took this photo to show the difference in the roundness and fullness of the petals. The leaves also has a nice purple border, which came from the begoniifolia parent. P. begoniifolia is the only Pet that I've seen that has burgundy red underside to the leaves.

The first seedling to flower....... Wow, was it a surprise and was it different! It has ruffled petals, extra petals, yellow and green in the throat, and white splashed all through the petals. It kept these characteristics in the subsequent flowers to open....but was not as floriferous as I had hoped...I have kept it for further testing...hoping that with maturity, it will prove to be more floriferous.

And one that I kept calling 'Froggy' since it has an odd shape, and lots of green in the flowers..... This flower has four, white, yellow and purple! Of course, I kept this one to test further too......

Finally, as shot showing the foliage from a seedling...this plant, 'Keystone's Belmont' (photo of flowers in the previous post), was awarded 96 points in the New Gesneriads class at the recent show in Bufflalo. It won a second place ribbon in competitive judging, nudged out of first place by my other Pet. hybrid 'Keystone's Bluejay'. This hybrid shows a bit more of the P. flaccida grandparent in it's ancestry...which is one of the parents of P. 'Asa Blue''s mother.
I've been quite happy with the results of this cross. The variation has been stupendous and I am anxious to see the seedlings which I have selected as they flower in the second season this fall.

Baby Pictures - My Petrocosmea Seedlings

Now that spring is officially here in southwestern Pennsylvania, the sun is brighter, the hours of daylight are growing longer and the temperatures are warmer. The plants can certainly sense the changes. I am seeing strong, and rapid growth from the Petrocosmeas, as well as most of the other gesneriads. Today, I spent several hours in the basement growing area repotting seedlings, grooming last years older, yellowing leaves from the outer rows of the Pet rosettes, putting leaves down to root, and dividing those Pets that have formed offsets.

As I worked, I found myself working with the trays of seedlings from last year's most exciting cross...P. 'Asa Blue' x begoniifolia. I raised around 40 seedlings from that cross. As I worked wtih the seedlings in these trays, I was reminded of the flowers on each one as I picked them up one by one to scrutinize them and groom them. No offsets on any of them....Good!!! (I am choosing seedlings that show a reluctance to form offsets, since I feel that offset formation often ruins a beautiful showplant and spoils the flat, symmetrical contours of the rosettes.) The variation in the flowers from seedling to seedling was fantastic, and I was continually amazed at the different markings and shadings on the flowers. This cross gives me high hopes for the future of Petrocosmea hybridizing. I decided to share some photos that I took from some of the more exciting seedlings......

The photo above is a seedling from this cross. There were four seedlings that showed the extra petals in the center...which surprised me. Most flowers took the form of the petals from the begoniifolia parent, as well as showing the two yellow spots that the white begoniifolia flower exhibits. The seedling above is, so far, unnamed. I've kept it to test for another season of bloom and to test for offset production before deciding whether to name it.

There were a couple of realy odd flowers. This one shows lots of yellow in the throat as well as touches of yellow on the lower petals. I kept this one just to see what it does in the second season. The flower is not necessarily attractive, but it might be helpful in getting more yellow into the petals of future hybrids. This one also hints at striping in the petals....reminded me of chimera African Violet flowers.

I loved this one! The coloring is so delicate and the lower petals retained the greenish coloration seen here. I also liked the cupping of the petals...and the bell-shaped flower apperance. Again, I kept it, but have not named it so far.

The flowers above, were the first to show extra petals, and the deep blue coloring with the white center halo was consistent as the plant continued to bloom over a long season. Flowers were numerous and large. One additional nice thing about this seedling was that as it had finished it's round of bloom, it put up a second round of bloom about two months later...all of this on a seedling that was at that point, only eight months old. I named this one 'Keystone's Belmont' in honor of my college alma mater in Tennessee. The school's colors just happened to be blue and white also!

A trio of siblings from the cross....showing variation in coloring and shading. I kept all three of these. The one on the left was named 'Keystone's Barnswallow' in honor of the barnswallows that I remember so fondly from my childhood on my grandfather's farm.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Petrocosmea flaccida - Part II - Hybrids

In Part I I discussed the two clones of P. flaccida in my collection and the history and culture of this species. In this post, I'd like to begin to showcase some of the hybrids which have P. flaccida in the background. To date, P. flaccida may be the most widely used species in hybridizing. I can recall at least five named hybrids that have P. flaccida parentage or ancestry.

The oldest P. flaccida hybrid and the oldest Petrocosmea hybrid, for that matter, is P. 'Momo', made by Nagahide Nakayama of Japan, by crossing P. flaccida and P. nervosa. The plant, for me, grows very much like a large P. flaccida and is perhaps, a bit more floriferous, with slightly larger flowers than P. flaccida.

A couple of years ago, Mr. Nakayama did a remake of the same cross that produced P. 'Momo' and released two of the resulting seedlings. Those seedlings, named P. 'Asa Blue' and P. 'Imperial Butterflies' are improvements, in my opinion, over P. 'Momo'. I grow both of them and really like them. I have been successful in using P. 'Asa Blue' in one cross with P. begoniifolia.

P. 'Asa Blue' an improvement over P. 'Momo', was the result of a remake of the same cross that produced P. 'Momo'. The plant flowers several times a year, and the flowers are large and show. The plant also shapes very nicely.

The photo above, shows the flowers of the parents of P. 'Asa Blue' - P. flaccida, and P. nervosa. P. 'Asa Blue' is incredibly floriferous and flowers are larger than either parent with improved form. This hybrid is also fertile for further breeding. Seedlings inherited it's early, free-flowering nature.

Another hybrid, boasting P. flaccida as a parent is P. 'Short'nin' Bread'. This cross used P. forrestii as the seed parent. P. 'Short'nin' Bread' is a vigorous, attractive hybrid which can be grown quite large with good culture. It flowers freely at a young age, although generally only once a year, for me.

A sibling to P. 'Short'nin' Bread', P. 'Fluffer Nutter' has the same silvery felt covered leaves, but a more compact and neat leaf habit, seeming to take this from it's P. forrestii parent. This hybrid, sadly, is not free flowering, and is the only Petrocosmea in my collection which I have never flowered, even after several years of growing. Still the foliage is attractive.

A flower from one of the selected seedlings from my hybrid cross using P. 'Asa Blue' crossed with P. begoniifolia. These seedlings have been quite free flowering at a young age. Almost all have been attractive and selections have been difficult due to the large amount of variation I've gotten from the cross. (I wanted to keep them all!) I have so far, selected five or six to grow on for further evaluation. The seedling above is unnamed at this point. It inherited a nice deep blue color from P. 'Asa Blue' with flower shape and the white /yellow throat from P. begoniifolia.
P. flaccida is a wonderful old friend among Petrocosmea admirers. If you don't grow it, you should. It's flowers are among the darkest purple of all Petrocosmea species and it is a good bloomer. These characteristics are passed along to it's progeny in hybridizing, which gives it a secure spot among our growing list of Petrocosmea species and cultivars.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The First Show of Spring

The first gesneriad show of Spring! What better way to welcome Spring than to spend a weekend among plants and friends. And if those plants are gesneriads, even better. AND, if those gesneriads are PETROCOSMEAS then it's joyful indeed! I was priveleged to spend my first days and the first weekend of Spring among wonderful friends and wonderful gesneriads while attending the annual spring gesneriad show of the African Violet and Gesneriad Society of Western New York, held in Buffalo, NY. I have attended and judged this show for the past three or four years and it is always a superb time. This year was no exception.

While driving up to Buffalo from Pittsburgh, the promise of Spring was dampened somewhat when I approached Lake Erie near the borders of northwestern Pennsylvania and Southwestern New York. In the photo above, those white clouds in the background behind the vineyards are NOT CLOUDS...but the still-frozen Lake Erie!
Of course, once I arrived at the show, the frozen lake was a faint memory as the abundance of skillfully grown gesneriads took over my visual senses. I love, and grow many plants, many gesneriads too, but my heart always draws me to the Pets! The show this year has number of beautiful Petrocosmea among the entries. This year, I was able to both judge the show as well as enter some of my own gesneriads. I brought three of my new hybrids to enter in the class for "New Gesneriads". The only collection in the show, pictured above, was a spectacular collection of Petrocosmea hybrids and species grown by a master Pet grower...Paul Kroll. His collection won a first place award...not because it was the only collection, but because it also scored greater than 90 points. When exhibiting a collection, the pressure is on the exhibitor to showcase several well-grown plants that show the diversity among the plants within the genus. Pauls collection did a nice job of doing both. I felt that the choice of brown fabric complimented the green plants well.

The Petrocosmeas grown for the ornamental qualities of the foliage had a nice representation as shown here. The public was repeatedly drawn into the table with the Petrocosmea entries. For some reason, the foliar habit of Pets seems to mesmerize people.

A nice surprise this year was that an eductional exhibit entry also showcased some recent and ongoing work studying the Phylogenetic relationships of the species within the genus Petrocosmea! This exhibit was presented by a professor from Niagara University and showcased work being done there. I was quite familiar with the work as I have been honored to have been a small part of it through contributions of plant material, hybridizing data, and morphological information. The authors of the work are hoping to finish the study this year.

One of my entries, a selection of my hybrid cross between P. sericea and P. minor veined leaf form named P. 'Keystone's Bluejay' was honored with a first place award as well as selection for Second Best in Show! The comments and feedback from the judges were quite kind and welcomed. I was very excited to see such enthusiastic support and appreciation for my new hybrids. This is the only plant selected and named so far from that cross, which flowered last year. I have kept four other plants for further evaluation. Judges loved the silvery curls in the center of this plant. I was able to make several distributions of leaves from this plant, and hopefully, will see others exhibiting it in the near future.
The show had a number of spectacular gesneriads, designs and natural gardens. The artistic section of the show was especially nice this year. Petrocosmeas showed up in several of the natural gardens and terrariums this year too. It is great to see a growing interest in my favorite genus.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Petrocosmea flaccida - Part I - An Overview

In this new series of posts, I decided to focus on a species that for many of us was the first Petrocosmea we grew, Petrocosmea flaccida. I want to include an overview of the species and it's history, characteristics, varieties or clones available in cultivation, it's culture, and finally it's influence upon it's several hybrids.

The photo above, taken by my friend Julie Mavity-Hudson, illustrates the obvious ornamental qualities of this species. The charming deep violet-purple flowers, which are perhaps the darkest of any Petrocosmea species in cultivation, crowing the silvery, flaccid gray-green leaves.
The photo above was taken by Ben Paternoster of his beautiful, expertly grown P. flaccida in a five inch pan pot. He sent this photo to me a few months after he had potted the plant in a shallow 5" pan pot, following a discussion where I advocated using shallow pan pots for the culture of Petrocosmea. Ben's skill as an expert grower likely contributed to this magnificent specimen much more than the pan pot did. This specimen was grown in his basement, under lights, in Long Island, NY. A beautiful example of the results possible with this species.
Petrocosmea flaccida was initially discovered in Southwestern Sichuan, northwestern Yunnan, China growing on rocks, in thickets at between 1830 and 3000 meters above sea level. Described by Craib in 1919, it is placed in Section : Petrocosmea. This section contains species considered to be among the most primitive species of the genus, based on the reproductive structures. The upper and lower corolla lobes are roughly the same length. Anthers are seperated on either side of the ovary. Flower color is deep violet purple, with small white "fang like" marks at the base of the upper and lower petals. The peduncles are thin and wiry, sometimes with a purple hue, and single flowered. The pistil of this species is also dark purple in color as opposed to the white color of most Pet pistils.
The leaves of the species are pale gray-green, covered in silvery hairs and are flaccid, hence the name. The rosette of this species tends to be very flat, and on a large plant, outer rosette leaves will droop, due to the weak petioles. After flowering, the outer leaves will tend to yellow and die off, leaving a very tight, silvery green center of new growth which tends to sit in "suspended animation" until warmer weather when a growth spurt will occur. Often, the plant will form offsets after flowering also.

Petrocosmea flaccida's flowers are among the darkest colored of any Petrocosmea species. The upper petals tend to stand upright, and the rouned shape reminds me of Mickey Mouse ears.

For many years, there was only one clone of P. flaccida in cultivation. Recently, a new collection from the Atlanta Botanic Garden has brought a new clone into our collections. The older "traditional" clone is pictured on the left, with the smaller, ABG clone on the right. The plants in this photo are of the same age and are growing in the same size pot, having been grown side by side on my light stands to test whether the new ABG clone was smaller due to culture or genetics. It remains noticeably smaller than the "traditional" clone, and thankfully, does not produce offsets as readily. Flowers of the smaller, ABG clone have less white in the base of the petals also. Flowers are about 1/3 smaller than those of the "traditional" clone. I have crossed these two clones and got very few seeds, with two seedlings that germinated. The seedlings remain too small at this point to comment on them.

The new P. flaccida clone from the Atlanta Botanic Garden remains quite small. Shown here in a three inch pot, it appears "over potted". I am hopeful that it will prove useful in producing miniature Petrocosmea hybrids.

Culture of P. flaccida is pretty much as it is for all my other Petrocosmea. I give it a cold and dry winter rest. New growth resumes in spring with longer days and warmer weather, when I increase watering and fertilizer. Both clones propagate easily from leaf cuttings. This species is on of the "deciduous" Pets...(a term I have begun using to describe those species that tend to loose outer leaves after flowering and seem to want a drier, colder rest. A central crown of small, tight, very hard new leaves develops and remains in "suspended animation", doing nothing until the warmer weather of spring, when new growth comes on rapidly. ) This trait is also seem in may of the hybrids with P. flaccida parentage.

A Glimpse of Spring and a Gesneriad Show

AAhhh, those massive piles of snow are finally melted. After the snowiest month in recorded history here in southwestern Pennsylvania, I was most anxious, and happy, to be able to attend theNational Capital Area Chapter of the Gesneriad Society's spring gesneriad show this past weekend in Washington, DC at the National Arboretum. The four and one-half hour drive was worth it for the opportunity to shed the winter cold, visit with some great friends and be among a multitude of gesneriads. This chapter always has a great show, and this year was no exception. While I did not enter any plants in the show, I did help to judge the show. The quality and quantity of plants was excellent. The number of genera represented in the show was quite high also.

Of course, I always have to scope out the Petrocosmea entries whenever I attend a show. There were a few Pets entered in the "Grown for Foliage" classes, and one entry each in the "New Gesneriads" class and the "Gesneriads in Flower" class. I was reminded, as a hybridizer of Petrocosmea, how badly we need an extension of the flowering season among the new introductions. Being strongly seasonal bloomers, most Pets are in flower in the winter. Most gesneriad shows are in Spring, Summer and Autumn, so Pets are rarely seen in shows, in flower. Often, sadly, when they are shown in flower, they are not at their best. The new hybrids MUST bloom heavily, for longer periods, and during the warmer months of the year....this must be a goal for anyone hybridizing Petrocosmea.

The Pets entered in the Foliage class were only six in number, and relatively young plants. Still, a bit of variety among the genus ,and well shaped for young plants. Many of these plants shown, were grown by a younger, new member of the host chapter, who has only been growing Petrocosmea for a year!!!! He is obviously off to a great start!

One lone Petrocosmea entry in the New Gesneriads class, and the only Petrocosmea hybrid in the show, was the spectacular new hybrid, P. 'Imperial Butterflies' from Mr. Nakayama of Japan. It's parentage is P. flaccida and nervosa. This hybrid is vigorous and produces large, double flowers with ruffled petals on a mature plant. I grow this plant, and love it. The entry won a blue ribbon for First Place. This plant shown, was also grown in leca stones and hydroculture!

The most exciting Petrocosmea-related story from this show was that the Best In Show entry was a collection of Petrocosmea grown by a young man who has only been growing Petrocosmea for a year! This display was exhibited with the plants clustered on a rock..... I found this a charming way to unify a collection of Petrocosmea, since the genus name Petrocosmea means "pretty little plant on a rock". This was a collection of pretty little plants on a rock! From top row left, moving clockwise the species in this collection are: P. sp. 'HT-2', P. parryorum, P. kerrii, P. rosettifolia, and P. minor veined leaf form (exhibited as P. sp. #5). Additionally, this entry was voted by the public who attended the show as the winner of the "People's Choice Award" for the public's favorite gesneriad in the show! The public continues to love the sight of a Petrocosmea in a show. I wandered around the showroom listening to visitors to the show as they commented on the Pets. It was great to hear how excited the sight of a Petrocosmea makes people. But then, I am certainly in agreement with them!

So, keep growing , and showing those Petrocosmeas!!!!! The public demands it!!!!!