February 28, 2011

Kohleria hirsuta at Lincoln Park Conservatory

Random photo day: Kohleria hirsuta at Lincoln Park Conservatory, Chicago, Illinois, April 2007.

February 26, 2011

Convention chatter and remembering Nell Hennessy

As I write this, it’s Friday evening and powerful winds have passed through the DC area.  I hope the damage hasn't been too bad.

I’ve been looking at photographs from The Gesneriad Society’s 2009 Convention and remembering Nell. Nell Hennessy. Looking back, most of my memories of her are at the Convention - chatting outside the show room, watching her run the logistics, talking over dinner.... I can’t say I knew Nell well or that I’d known her for many years, but I count myself among the fortunate for knowing her at all. And every future Gesneriad Society Convention will bring back memories of her.

This year's Convention will be in Philadelphia. (What better place to be for the week of July 4?) In anticipation of this "local" event, we’re revisiting some of the 2009 show entries and you saw the first of these posts this morning.

I am hoping that the Philadelphia Convention will be packed with gorgeous plants - new hybrids, big tuberous Sinningia, microscopically small (well, not quite) Sinningia, some of the less-commonly-grown species, larger growers that are a bit too big for your “average” home growing environment, bloom-packed plants and luscious foliage.... And I feel I should give specific mention to other genera, so let me clearly say I'm hoping for good representation from the Chirita, Petrocosmea, Columnea, Aeschynanthus, Kohleria, Saintpaulia, Streptocarpus, Drymonia, Nautilocalyx, Gesneria, Episcia, Alsobia and other camps as well. I’m also hoping that some of the plants shown in 2009 will make an appearance with two years of additional growth.

I'll leave you with a picture of a 2009 show entry: Sinningia muscicola (formerly known as sp. "Rio das Pedras"), exhibited by Paul Susi.  A small pot of micro miniature Sinningia was the last plant material that passed between Nell and me.

Sinningia sp. 'Rio das Pedras'

Saintpaulia ionantha ssp. grotei 'Silvert'

Part of a series highlighting some plants shown at The Gesneriad Society's 2009 Convention in Washington, D.C.

by Bev. N. 

Entry No. 257, Saintpaulia ionantha ssp. grotei 'Silvert', exhibited by Karyn Cichocki.
Commentary by Bev N. 

I was enamored seeing this plant at the show. I thought: What was that curious looking natural thing the plant was growing from?

Saintpaulia ionantha ssp. grotei 'Silvert'

I had been thinking about growing AV species for some time, something pure. So when I saw a small AV species for sale at our local show, grown by one of our members, I snatched it up, that was in June 2010. I repotted it from a 2 to 4 inch pot in August 2010, and now it needs to be potted up to a 5 inch. It is S. rupicola, and it is doing great. Maybe I can post a photo of it here.

In any event, does anyone know what material that plant was growing in? I would like to try that.

Yours in growing, Bev N.

Ed:  We asked Karyn Cichocki about the container and potting mix, and she was kind enough to respond:

Several years ago I purchased a Jankaea from a rock garden plant supplier and it came growing in a piece of Tufa rock.  The plant died but I kept the rock.  This is a very light weight rock that has lots of rough areas in it and it is quite easy to either drill or hammer out a hole in it.  After seeing a presentation on Saintpaulia species and that they grow on rocks, I decided to try growing one in the Tufa rock (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tufa) and chose the grotei ‘Silvert’ because it has a natural trailing habit and is fairly small growing.  I enlarged the hole that was already in the rock from the Alpine plant, then planted the violet in it.  I keep the rock sitting in perlite that I have in a Oyama pot so that it stays moist and the rock absorbs the moisture from the perlite.  I can’t believe that the roots manage to grow all the way through the rock and come out the bottom.  The plant really likes it.  As for the soil, I used my usual mix which is 1 part peat moss, 1 part each of course perlite & vermiculite.  Because the hole isn’t all that big, 3” deep and about 1.5” wide, there isn’t much soil in it.

When I show the plant, I take the rock out of the Oyama pot, clean the perlite off it and then set it in a green saucer.  I’ve attached a picture of it in the Oyama pot. 


February 25, 2011

Aeschynanthus longicaulis: fluffy seed

For the plant geeks: close up of Aeschynanthus longicaulis seed.

Aeschynanthus longicaulis

These seeds form in dehiscent long pods and are easily spread by wind.

February 23, 2011

Propagating Episcia from Stolons

I found this explanatory photo the other day - something I took ages ago but I still follow the same process for propagating Episcia from stolons. I like to use stolons with 2 pairs of leaves rather than more - these small cuttings generally grow to be a nice shape with the first set of leaves close to the soil surface. Any lower leaves are trimmed off: I keep about 1-2 inches of stem attached and discard the rest.

Episcia stolons root easily in humid conditions - very easily. I remove any flowers, buds, and stolons from each cutting because I am impatient when it comes to these - even though they are quick rooters. Stolons can also be pinned down to the soil surface while still attached to the parent plant.

A small stolon with 2 pairs (or even one pair) of leaves and a little stem is all that is needed to start a new plant. The cutting in the photo can be cut up into at least 4 rootable stolons. (For a new or rare plant, I would even root the red circled stolons.)

Here is a side view of the same cutting.

February 20, 2011

link love

Some blogs and a reference site for some fun reading:

The Twin Cities Chapter's blog (which also has has some orchid goodness)

The Indoor Garden(er), by one of our members and current co-editor of Petal Tones (the newsletter edition)

Some recent gesneriad-y posts at Plants are the Strangest People

All Andrew's Plants has a new post about an Episcia cutting in semi-hydro

And for the reference reading list: The Flora of Penninsular Malaysia Online newsletter archive of the Tropical Forest Biodiversity Centre

February 16, 2011

Sinnigia tubiflora tubers

Sinningia tubiflora is one of my favorite gesneriads.  It does better outdoors than on grow shelves, liking a bit more light and growing a bit taller than your "standard" shelf.

I bring the tubers indoors in late fall and store then wherever they land.  This season, that meant they stayed in their wet potting mix in a cold spot.  So it was with some trepidation that I opened the bag a few days ago - would the tubers be rotten through and through?

It turns out that a shoot had punched a hole in the bag, so there had been some aeration and a little drying.  It was wet, but not rotting wet. Judging from the larger tubers, the plants did ok last year too - despite living in shallow window boxes:

Sinningia tubiflora

The potato-like tubers of Sinningia tubiflora form underground - not near the surface like some other Sinningia.

Sinningia tubiflora

Easy to grow, easy to overwinter, white fragrant flowers. Propagate from tubers, cuttings, or seeds.

February 14, 2011

Gleanings, The Gesneriad Society's e-newsletter

I just read the latest issue Gleanings, the monthly online newsletter of The Gesneriad Society (that's our parent organization, the international society).  This publication is new (not quite a year old yet) and free, and should be on the required reading list for gesneriad growers.  Check out the February 2011 issue to see photos of Nancy Kast's growing areas and read about ongoing research on Diastema and Monopyle (two gesneriad genera). Also included is a reprint from Gesneriads, the Society's quarterly journal (for paid members), on different types of gesneriad seeds and how to collect and store them. We contributed with a few photos on the front page of Chirita 'Dreamtime', a big plant hybridized right here in DC.

February 13, 2011

In memoriam: Nell Hennessy

This Chapter will never be the same. Nell is gone. This may seem like an exaggeration but no one will deny it. She has been an integral part of our Chapter for decades. She would be the first to admit she wasn’t a grower but she was an important part of everything we did. Always friendly, she greeted visitors and made them feel we couldn’t go on without them. There was no job too big or small for her to take it on. We want coffee—she does it. We need to run a convention—done. Any problem—she would find the solution. At one show an exhibitor canceled a flower arrangement at the last minute and the niches were already placed. She denied having any talent but put a design together with materials she gleaned from others and won best in show. She didn’t do any of this for her own glory, she just did the work to get it done. It will be strange to run a show without her at the helm. She both wrote the schedule and ran the show. We have to make our own way now. Her calm and capable presence will be sorely missed.

-Laurene Jones

February 12, 2011

the Arboretum today

One of the joys of the National Capital Area Chapter of The Gesneriad Society is that we meet at the U.S. National Arboretum.  I don't always make time to walk around, but a quick walk through the herb garden? Why not? 

Although it was quite warm today, there was still some snow this morning:

remnants of snow

But spring is almost here:


We had a full meeting yesterday, featuring a presentation on growing gesneriads from seed (with a detour on Malaysian gesneriads).  I was reminded to repot the seedlings I got at the raffle table in December.  Also, why are my seedlings not doing as well as they used to?  Perhaps because I'd forgotten the sage advice I once received to add 2 or 3 pellets of slow release fertilizer to seedlings with roots - time to get back into that habit.

Speaking of sage, there is, of course, some of that in the herb garden:

Salvia officinalis

February 11, 2011

Petrocosmea formosa

Here I am thinking about tips for taking photos and what do I do?  Everything but!

- choose a good subject
- light it well (get the plant out from under the mixed Kelvin shop lights!)
- put the camera on a tripod or some other stable contraption

What I did:
- picked a flower that is obviously damaged
- leave it under the shop lights and direct a flash gun directly onto it with my left hand
- hand-hold a macro lens (equivalent to 210mm in 35mm speak) with extension tube in my right hand and stand with my body weight on one leg (Not Stable or Steady)

Result?  This photo won't stand up to printing. It won't even look ok on a big monitor.  The composition is blah. The flower is a bit ugly. There's a distracting stripe of light in the background. And this image is straight out of the camera and probably the color of the flower could use some adjusting. Oh, and the in-camera jpg is set to a lower-than-usual saturation because I was shooting reds the other day.

But... it'll do for illustrating a blog post, the point of which is to say that I have a soft spot for Petrocosmea formosa. I wish I could get it to set seed but so far no luck. I also wish I could grow it well, but no luck there either.  Still, if I could only grow one Petrocosmea, I think it would be this one. It's got an odd growth habit, sometimes sending out leaves on long petioles, a bit floppy and not as neat as many of the plants in this genus.... (And no, I didn't think to take a photo of the leaves!) 

Petrocosmea formosana

February 9, 2011

Grow gesneriads from seed!

That's the topic for our meeting on Saturday, February 12, 2011. Location: the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC. Doors open at 10:30 a.m., program starts at 11:00.

Various gesneriad seedlings:

seedlings tagged

February 7, 2011

Seemannia In New York

by Kenneth Moore

I photographed these red-blooming Seemannia sylvatica (as pointed out to me via this reference, these are formerly Gloxinia sylvatica, which is also what the label in this planting said they were) at the New York Botanic Garden, in the Bronx, when I visited on Christmas Eve. They were very nice as a groundcover in the humid conservatory! It's also nice to see gesneriads blooming en masse, although I didn't think to get a more landscape-y shot.

February 6, 2011

February Petal Tones Issue

The February issue of Petal Tones (PDF), now available on the National Capital Area Chapter of the Gesneriad Society's website!

This issue includes information on how to grow gesneriads from seed; a feature about the National Arboretum's plan to de-accession several collections, including the azaleas; the inaugural "Ask Mr. Gesneriad" column; a list of 2011 gesneriad events in the mid-Atlantic region; and more.

To sign up to receive the e-newsletter by email, e-mail the editors. Back issues are also on our website. If you're in the Washington, DC, area, be sure to come to the next chapter meeting at the National Arboretum on 12 February!

February 3, 2011

basket of blue

Thinking back to warmer days... or is it forwards?  Maybe it's time for a basket of Streptocarpella this summer. 

Streptocarpella (a subgenus of Streptocarpus) spotted hanging in the conservatory at Allan Gardens in Toronto:

February 1, 2011

Next meeting: February 12, 2011 in DC

Growing from seed! It's easy and it's the only way to get some of these gesneriads into your collection! Learn how at our next meeting at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC. Saturday, February 12, 2011, doors open at 10:30 a.m., program starts at 11:00. There will also be a plant raffle, as usual.

Pictured here: Sinningia pusilla growing among moss at the base of a bonsai. A tuberous plant from Brazil, S. pusilla is a wonderful plant for a terrarium. With mature plants around 1.5-2 inches in diameter, it is a true miniature. From seed, they can bloom in under 3 months.

Sinningia pusilla