March 31, 2011

Titanotrichum oldhamii

Random photo day:

Titanotrichum oldhamii propagules

These are propagules of Titanotrichum oldhamii, a rhizomatous gesneriad that is hardy in the Washington, DC area. These propagules can form on the flower spikes: although they are not seed, they can be sown like seed. T. oldhamii can also be propagated from cuttings or rhizomes.

This is what the flower looks like:

Titanotrichum oldhamii

And it can be seen here in DCTropic's garden next to (and slightly above) the hosta:

chez DCtropics

(The pots on the steps are Seemannia.)  T. oldhamii is hardy in the Washington, DC area, and does well in moist shade in the ground.

March 28, 2011

April meeting: photo workshop and photo judging

The next meeting (April 9, 2011) of the National Capital Area Chapter of The Gesneriad Society will be on photographing gesneriads, and one part of the session will be dedicated to how photographs are judged in a Gesneriad Society Show.

What better way to learn than to have your photographs judged? 

General Guidelines:  The photograph must be no larger than 8” x 10” and the final presentation must be no more than 12” x 14” (if matted and framed).  An easel must be provided to hold the photograph up for viewing.

Four Classes:
1)   A color photograph of an entire plant
2)   A color photograph of a part of a plant
3)   A monochrome photograph of a whole plant or any part of a plant
4)   A plant photographed in nature

For more information, refer to the Schedule for The Gesneriad Society's Convention.

Entries in a Show are anonymous, so the photographs judged at the April meeting will also be anonymous.  So... no reason not to bring one in, right?

As for the other parts of the April program, there will be general discussion, Q&A, and some hands-on time, so bring a plant to shoot and/or your camera too.

P.S. It is aquarium donation day too.

P.P.S. I suppose there should be a photograph to go with this post....  Would this qualify as a part of a plant? 

Sinningia {(Tampa Bay Beauty x self) x ?}

The seeds of Sinningia ('Tampa Bay Beauty' x self), which likes growing outdoors in the summer, and some of which have nice open red flowers, while others have somewhat closed red flowers.

March 25, 2011

resuscitating Drymonia serrulata

A couple of months ago, I found this in a tray of winter-dormant plants:

ever hopeful

Dead?  Not quite.  See that bit of leaf in the lower left? I found a few of those, so I tucked them (with about an inch of stem) on a bed where I was rooting Episcia stolons.  After a few weeks, they looked like they were growing so I pulled them up, trimmed off dead material, and potted them up. A few weeks later:

Drymonia serrulata 'bronze'

Hopefully this time around I won't almost-kill them again.

March 23, 2011

better African Violet care

One of the side effects of being in a plant club is the frequent nudging to grow plants better.  (And to grow more plants.  And more different plants.... ) And so it was that after our last meeting, my few African Violets got a bit of attention. 

I repotted these one from their square pots to round pots, to encourage more even leaf growth.

20110312 square av

[Why do I have square pots anyway?  I like to start seeds and cuttings in square pots, because they can be neatly crammed into a rectangle until the foliage grows over the rim.]

I also decided to grow this one better:

20110311 slanted av

It had been growing under some other plants and consequently developed a slant and a neck.  I had intended to let it keep growing this way, but how could I do that after a meeting on growing for show?  Off came some of the root zone, and it's now re-rooting with the main stem centered in the pot.

[By the way, those yellow things on the left are chopsticks used to handle seedlings - they are Japanese style with the pointy tips.]

Many thanks to Diane Richardson - President of the Baltimore African Violet Club and past-President of MAAVS - for coming to our meeting and giving a wonderfully entertaining and informative presentation. 

March 18, 2011

Sinningia 'Tomorrow'

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

Entry No. 164, Sinningia 'Tomorrow', exhibited by Peter Shalit.
Commentary by Kyoko Imai.

This is by far the entry I remember most:

Sinningia 'Tomorrow'

It has a couple of traits I happen to like - a stocky habit and a visible tuber. An additional characteristics that make this plant stand out are the upward-facing flowers, which I think are just perfect for a plant that caters to humans - easy to see, easy to pollinate, and a nice profile:

Sinningia 'Tomorrow'

The coloring of the flower and the markings inside are also distinctive:

Sinningia 'Tomorrow'

After finding only limited information on the plant online (here and here), I asked Peter about the plant. It turns out we were very lucky to see this in bloom in Silver Spring, MD. As you can see below, it can have a long dormancy and has a determinate flowering habit.  Also, it traveled a long way to that Convention - we can add to the human-friendly characteristics the ability to travel on its side for several hours at a time!

Here's a summary of Peter Shalit's commentary on this plant:
The parentage is:

  S. 'Bewitched' x (((S. cardinalis 'Skydiver' x S. bulbosa) x self) x S. conspicua)

The {(S. cardinalis 'Skydiver' x S. bulbosa) x self} was a white peloric selection.

I grew S. 'Tomorrow' for several years before naming it. After entering it in local shows several times I decided to release it. It is far from perfect but is pretty unique so I felt others might want to grow it.

Its positive features:
  • flowers are very peloric (stand straight up) and the limb is flared;
  • very interesting and unique flower coloration: orange on the outside, purple on the inside
  • nice stiff stocky habit
  • makes a nice interesting tuber
  • very long-lived; the plant at the 2009 Convention was at least 10 years old
But its negative features:
  • often a long dormancy period
  • not that floriferous
  • determinate; each crown makes 8-10 flowers max and that's it
Neutral features:
  • it makes no pollen - i.e. is male-sterile  (this can be an advantage when hybridizing)
Sinningia 'Tomorrow' is heterozygous for the yellow-flowered gene from the Sinningia conspicua.  [What is the significance of this little sentence?  Read on.]

About the yellow flower color: in my experience the yellow color of S. conspicua is a standard recessive gene. So: S. conspicua x 'Bewitched' = all offspring have orange flowers. The yellow gene is there but the effect is hidden by the dominant gene for orange flowers. Then if this is backcrossed to S. conspicua, 50% have yellow flowers. They all get one copy of the yellow gene from S. conspicua, but only half of them get the yellow gene from the other parent; and to have yellow flowers, they need two copies of the yellow gene. Or if it were selfed, 25% would have yellow flowers.

With Sinningia 'Tomorrow', when crossed back to S. conspicua, half the progeny have yellow flowers. It is pollen-sterile so does not self, but is female-fertile. I have hybrids derived from it that have yellow peloric flowers and am working further with those for more colors, larger flowers, more flared limb, more floriferous, less dormancy, propagate by seed. The peloric gene is recessive which makes it a little harder.

I cannot thank Peter enough for the detailed responses to my questions, and for sharing some of the care and planning that goes into a hybridizing program.

A couple of further reading suggestions:

March 17, 2011

the Arboretum herb garden circa March 12, 2011

While the DC area's gesneriad society met indoors, spring was well underway in the herb garden of the U.S. National Arboretum.

Prunus mume 'Peggy Clarke' (Japanese apricot)
Prunus mume 'Peggy Clarke'

Cornus mas (Cornelian cherry)
Cornus mas

Abeliophyllum distichum (Korean abelia-leaf)
Abeliophyllum distichum

Tradescantia xandersoniana (spiderwort) shoots - I have a soft spot for these shoots every year.
Tradescantia x andersoniana 'Zwanenberg Blue'

I was saddened to see that the big Chionanthus retusus var. serrulatus (Fringe tree) has been cut down. Last month, there were a pile of leaves under it - as documented:

Chionanthus retusus var. serrulatus

This was the tree in May 2009:

Chionanthus retusus var. serrulatus

and now there's just a stump.

March 16, 2011

new Gleanings issue

At our last meeting, someone asked about a Kohleria hybrid that was not growing true from rhizome. Guess what? The latest issue of Gleanings might contain the answer. Check it out: it's an excellent read. It's monthly, it's free, it's got pictures, and sage advice. Published by The Gesneriad Society (that's our parent organization, the international society), you can find it here (and while you're there, you might want to subscribe via email).

March 15, 2011

seed stash

I was going to order some seeds from The Gesneriad Society (while simultaneously feeling guilty about not being good about collecting seed last year), but then remembered that I have 3 plastic containers of seed in the fridge.  Here's the pile:

a handful of seed paks

They are mostly gesneriads. I knew in the back of my mind that some are now several years old, but it hadn't registered that some are nearing a decade in my home, which means they may already by 10 years old from harvest.  It's time to sow them all, I think.

By the way, The Gesneriad Society's seed fund is a gem, but it depends on donations.  Look around and see if you have any plants with accurate IDs, tag them for controlled pollination, and send in some seed.  (I don't think you have to be a member to donate, but purchasing seed from the seed fund is limited to members.)

March 13, 2011


Many gesneriads grow more beautifully with a bit of pinching.  Episcia, for example, will grow larger leaves if you pinch off extraneous stolons. After the main crown has had time to grow, you might want to let just a select number of stolons to grow from it - this will help produce a nice bushy cluster.

pinched tips

Columnea and Achimenes are other examples - pinching will encourage branching, and branching means a bushier habit and more flower potential. 


Spring is a great time to do some judicious pinching - and the larger pinched tips can be turned into propagation material.

March 12, 2011

local gesneriad sighting: River Hill Nursery in Clarksville, MD

Jim Roberts spotted these Chirita 'Aiko' at River Hill Garden Center in Clarksville, MD.

Apparently they were not named but it's a distinctive hybrid: its parents are C. lutea and C. subrhomboidea.

March 11, 2011

what does a beautifully grown African Violet look like?

Like this Saintpaulia 'Ness' Satin Rose', which was Best in Show at the Mid Atlantic African Violet Society Show in 2008:

Sp Ness' Satin Rose

and this Saintpaulia 'Ness' Jesse', which was Best Old World entry at the 2008 Show of the National Capital Area Chapter of The Gesneriad Society:

Saintpaulia Ness' Jesse

And both happen to be hybridized by the late Don Ness.

our presenters on Saturday

This just in from Brian Connor about the Saturday program on growing Saintpaulia for Show:

Diane Richardson is coming to give our program along with Marie Burns who will assist Saturday. Diane is President of Baltimore African Violet Club and she was a former President of MAAVS. I once brought a plant (Ma's Turncoat) to a show that somehow wasn't quite a nice rosette but had potential. "Gimme that," said Diane. She ripped off 6 or 7 of the lower leaves to achieve symmetry. Her little hands flew while I cringed. "But now it has a neck," I complained. Diane promptly yanked the plant out of its pot and pressed it down deeper. No more neck. The plant won a blue.

Marie has won so many African Violet awards over the last 30 years it is an achievement. Even today, though she has cut back showing plants a bit, African Violet Magazine seems to often feature photos of her plants at some show or another. She manages to grow some very perfect AVs; I think she is very consistent and pays attention to the details. She told me you should spend a couple of minutes everyday on each plant you intend to show, which is hard for most of us to manage. I don't know how she manages to do that and still lead an active life. But she does.

March 10, 2011

over at Hort Log

Did you see the post on giant gesneriads over at Hort Log?  We don't get to see photos of things like Paraboea all that much. The post also includes a photo of a Rhytidophyllum tomentosum at a botanic garden in Europe. Do any of the U.S. botanical gardens have larger gesneriads on public display?  I saw a young R. tomentosum at the Tsukuba Botanical Garden a couple of hours outside of Tokyo:

Rhytidophyllum tormentosum

Rhytidophyllum tormentosum

Anyway, if you haven't seen it already, check out the Hort Log post.

meeting reminder: Saturday March 12

Just a reminder that our next meeting is Saturday, March 12, 2011, at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC. Doors open at 10:30, program starts at 11:00. The topic is growing Saintpaulia for show.

Barbara S. sent in this photograph of her Saintpaulia rupicola: "It is a good 24 inches in diameter.  It is one of my favorite species."

S. rupicola is a multi-crowned standard or bushy trailer native to the lowland area Kaloleni (near Mombasa), Kenya.

March 9, 2011

Sinningia at the Banana Alligator Garden

Random photo day: Sinningia growing on a wall among mostly bromeliads at the Banana Alligator Garden, Atami, Japan, January 2010.


March 8, 2011

native azaleas - local Azalea Society meeting

With the National Arboretum's azalea collection recently in the news, I thought I would pass on the info that our friends at the Ben Morrison Chapter of the Azalea Society of America will have a presentation by Don Hyatt on native azaleas at their spring meeting on March 12, 2011 at the Cheverly Methodist Church, followed by a discussion of FONA's efforts to replace lost funding for the arboretum. Doors open at 1pm, presentation starts at 1:30.

Here is the only native azalea photo I have: I'm assuming a pinxter (Rhododendron periclymenoides) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia:

planning for the Convention yet?

Yes, yes, it's still only March, last frost hasn't passed, and July seems like a long long way away.  But it's time to start planning entries for The Gesneriad Society's Convention in Philadelphia.

The first deadline to note is:
All plants must be grown by the exhibitor and have been in the exhibitor's care for at least 3 months prior to the show. That means the cut off is very early in April.

Early registrations must be made online by midnight of or postmarked by April 15, 2011 to take advantage of the 10% discount on meals, activities, trips and purchases. Also, entry to the sales room is in registration order so the earlier you register....

Reservations are required for the artistic and arts entries, as well as commercial and educational entries.  Although the deadline is June 20, 2011, space is limited. These are the arrangements, terrariums, plantings, photographs, and other arts and crafts representing gesneriads.
For details, check out the various PDFs on The Gesneriad Society's Convention page.

Class 64 Tray Landscape (under 12") entries in 2009:

Entries No. 502 and 271

March 6, 2011

Niphaea oblonga

by Barbara S. 

I brought my fairly leggy plant of Niphaea oblonga to our meeting for some advice on how to grow it well, since I was unable to find any information on line.

After consulting The Miracle Houseplants, I learned that it is a rhizomatous plant native to Mexico and Guatemala. It grows 8-10 inches high and has beautiful burgundy veins on bright green foliage. It is a small plant which might be interesting in a container garden or artistic arrangement (which is probably why I bought it). I have not seen it bloom, but it produces white flowers with bright yellow anthers. It has a short blooming period before going dormant.

My plant looked like it would make a nice hanging plant if there were multiple plants in a pot. However, I was told that it is an upright grower, which means it would need to be staked. The stem on my plant is quite thin and twisted and not very sturdy, so I am now rooting some cuttings. It didn’t travel well and the stem is broken at the bottom, but I now have buds on it. I am looking forward to seeing it bloom. I suppose it will go dormant after blooming. After following the discussion on Gesneriphiles about storing rhizomes, I am wondering if these rhizomes should be stored damp or dry.

by Barbara S.

Editor's addendum:

In addition to The Genera of Gesneriaceae and The Gesneriad Reference Web webpages on Niphaea, there is also a 2008 article "A Review of the Neotropical Genera Amalophyllon, Niphaea, and Phinaea (Gesneriaceae-Gloxinieae)" by John K. Boggan, Laurence E. Skog, and Eric H. Roalson. Selbyana 29(2): 157–176 (2008).

For growing information, comments by ten growers were compiled by Peter Shalit in the article "Growing Niphaeas" in The Gloxinian, Vol. 52, No. 3 (2002). Members of The Gesneriad Society can download the issue from the members' area of the website. One grower said that the stems can be buried for sturdier growth and one said that the rhizomes can be stored dry. (It's a fun read, and a good reminder that plants grow differently in different conditions and for different people!)

March 4, 2011

plant photography by Stephen Buchan

Ah, yes, it's Friday.  Already almost a week since our mini-mini photowalk at the US Botanic Garden, which, by the way, I thought was a perfect-sized group for a photo-focused visit.  I hope all the participants got something out of it.

A quick reminder to you and me to pick up and put down those young gesneriad seedlings - remember that most will grow faster if you do this about every two weeks.

And without further ado, on to the main point of this post.  Today, I am sending you off to see some gorgeous and educational photographs of plants (and fungi) by Stephen Buchan of Scotland. No, they're not gesneriads.  Some aren't even plants.  Yes, there are lots of mosses and lichen and things like that. There's even an album of winter twigs. I hope you enjoy :)

Like I said, gorgeous - and educational too.  At least, I think so.  What makes them so good?  Is it the gear, the photographer, the "models", the lighting, the composition, the underlying knowledge of the plants?  Food for thought in advance of our April meeting, which will be about photographing gesneriads.

March 2, 2011

Next meeting: March 12, 2011 at the National Arboretum

Our next meeting is Saturday, March 12, at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC. Doors open at 10:30, program starts at 11:00. The topic is growing Saintpaulia for show.

This one is Saintpaulia 'Zima Ulybaetsia', exhibited at the Mid Atlantic Violet Society Show in 2008:

Sp Zima Ulybaetsia

When are our future meetings? You can find the dates online. Info on the next meeting is on our website and more detail is in the newsletter, Petal Tones (the PDF edition). A list of all dates for the year are on this page and also on this Google calendar. (The Google calendar might be importable into your computer/smartphone - there aren’t that many dates on it so it won’t overwhelm your calendar.) And finally we usually post here on this blog and tweet the meeting dates too.