July 27, 2012

Nine weeks until the Mid Atlantic Regional Show

After posting at the 10 week mark, I finally started focusing on what I might have to show. The Streptocarpus I had as a candidate is pretty much out of the running:


So, I started to think out loud. On Twitter. It went something like this:

Me: How long for Kohlerias from sprout to full bloom? Should I even bother for Sept 29 target date?

Peter Shalit: +/-12 weeks, depending on rhizome size, variety, growing conditions. With the right variety it might work but that’s cutting it awfully close.

Me: Thanks! We might be getting desperate.... I might try one on the balcony - Sunshine bloomed @ 6" tall last year. Of course the weather is a bit whacked this summer..... Sinningia 'Tampa Bay Beauty' (F??) went out a week ago - it loves the heat. There's only room for a few more. Got a few gesneriads to grow for show on the balc, but not hopeful they will survive wind & pests. Might make an "educational" exhibit LOL

Ken Moore: leaf spots and stuff are okay, right? I have a nice reitzii (it lost its main growth during a storm, but the side shoot is awesome)

Me: Leaf damage would be points off.

Ken Moore: LoL I know. But that's probably the best I'll be able to offer. :-/

Me: Yeah, really. Kohleria was so beat up, it didn't make the show last year. Episcia did better... but then the Episcia got cold damage a few days b4 the show. Maybe the 2 wk earlier date this year will be good.... 

Everything on the balcony already has ragged leaves, so unless I grow them inside a windbreaker (!?), they are not going to be show-worthy. That means I’m back to the light shelves, and will be taking a long hard look at them this weekend. Most of the space is taken up with propagation and non-gesneriads, so this is going to be tough.

What are you growing for the show?

July 24, 2012

those native pitcher plants....

[Note: This is a local interest post unrelated to gesneriads. LOTS of links and photos below.]

If I needed a reminder, I got one. In the form of GIANT RED pitcher sculptures in front of the U.S. Botanic Garden.

Sarracenia sculpture

I started writing this post months ago, but it sat in draft form while I gradually added information.  It's now a very long post, hence the "Note" up top.

What we -- gesneriad enthusiasts in the Washington, DC area -- don't get to do is write about native gesneriads. Why? Because there are no gesneriads native to this area.  If you go as far as Hawai'i, you might find a few Cyrtandra species, and of course there are some gesneriads in Puerto Rico.

We've got some spectacular natives, though. For example, there's a prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa) that grows throughout a huge range including the DC area.  There's also a passion flower that's native around here: Passiflora incarnata.

And then there are carnivorous pitcher plants, Sarracenia purpurea and friends. Sarracenia blooming season is around May in this area, and you might have seen a few at local botanical places.  The U.S. National Arboretum reportedly has Sarracenia leucophylla, Sarracenia elata, and Sarracenia 'Dixie Lace', as well as Dioneae muscipula (Venus Fly Trap). Here's a photo of a planter several years ago at the Arboretum:


But let's get back to why I started writing this post. Just before blooming season, Kenneth Moore and I went to visit Meadowview Biological Research Center. The headquarters is a little house outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia, with a small greenhouse and some propagation beds. Their activities, though, include conservation efforts and habitat restoration in a nearby area as well as the Joseph Pines Preserve south of Richmond, Virginia.

Wetland conservation and restoration runs counter to the short and simple "plant more trees" message we so often hear: wetlands are threatened by encroaching trees, as well as drainage. Trees bring shade, nutrients, and less water - all detrimental to a wetland ecosystem. So what does wetland restoration entail? Often, it means cutting down trees, blocking drainage ditches, and controlled burning.  On the slopes behind Meadowview, restoration of spring seeps by filling drainage ditches and removing trees is taking place:


In his book Pitcher Plants of the Americas (The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, 2007), Stewart McPherson identifies three main causes of habitat loss: artificial drainage (for agriculture); fire suppression; and commercial tree farming. In addition: urban expansion, highway construction, and fertilizer/pesticides/chemicals. Both this book and another on my shelf, Carnivorous Plants of the United States and Canada by Donald E. Schnell (2d ed. Timber Press, 2002) discuss habitat loss and conservation issues in detail, although the bulk of both books is information on various species.

I wanted to show you in situ photographs of S. purpurea, but my search found them growing wild in the Lake District -- yes, that's across the pond in the northwest of England, and no, it's not native there. Sarracenia2 on Flickr has a set of in situ photographs of various species, like this field of S. leucophylla in Alabama.

Back to Meadowview, here are some photos of propagation:

Sarracenia propagation

and flower buds in the outside beds:

Sarracenia beds

Sarracenia is being introduced back into the restored spring seeps behind the house:

Sarracenia planted on the slopes

and here are some in flower on the bank:

Sarracenia on the bank

For more information on Sarracenia (and other carnivorous plants), check out the two books above. On growing these plants at home, there's an excellent short article on Plant Delights' website, as well as a section in Peter D'Amato's book, The Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants (Ten Speed Press 1998).

July 21, 2012

10 weeks until the Mid Atlantic Regional Show

It's now 10 weeks until the Mid Atlantic Regional Show.  Exhibitors/attendees who need overnight accommodations should make arrangements as soon as possible. Don't forget to register for the event, and mark your calendar with the September 1, 2012 deadline for reserving spots in the artistic classes.  The registration form and show schedule are contained in the brochure (PDF), and the entry form for the show is available here (PDF).

Need inspiration?  Check out the awarded entries at the The Gesneriad Society 2012 Convention.

I'll leave you with a couple of photos from Seattle. This is the Belltown P-Patch, a little community garden -- shot at an angle to keep a couple of cars out of the picture.

Belltown P-Patch

It was packed completely full, and yet neat and happy:

Belltown P-Patch

You can read about the Belltown P-Patch here and here.

July 6, 2012

Gessies In San Francisco

by Kenneth Moore

I vacationed in San Francisco during the last week of June. Of course, it was beautiful weather, low cloud cover notwithstanding. Even better was that half of my vacation involved touring the wealth of public gardens in the area. I know that the DC area is pretty darn competitive when it comes to amazing gardens, but it's still hard to come back to the east when there are still so many plants I don't own from the west.

I didn't end up acquiring any gesneriads from the west coast, but I did spot a bunch during my touring--although, just like last year's trip, I didn't spot as many as I would have expected. I missed the local chapter's annual plant sale by a few weeks, unfortunately.

I did spot some beautiful plants at nurseries and botanical gardens--but there were a lot more Agave and Aloe laying around.

I spent a good chunk of time looking for gesneriads planted in the Asia and South America sections at the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley, but I found only one Aeschynanthus sp.

After Asia and while skirting South America, I discovered a horticulturalist in the Old Roses area. We started chatting, and within minutes he was proudly showing me an almost-flowering Sinningia tubiflora patch--well, no, it wasn't a patch, it covered almost an entire hillside. Turns out, the Sinningia tubiflora I have growing in my community garden plot comes from his collection. Small world!

I didn't notice any other gesneriads, even though I followed the little stream through all of Asia and wandered through all the greenhouses. I didn't pick any up any of the gesneriads for sale at The Berkeley Botanical Garden, either, although I do think I got a nice haul.

Sinningia tubiflora

Kohleria 'Longwood'
At the San Francisco Botanical Garden, I spotted a couple more gesneriads. All were at the sales area that's new since my visit last year. There was a ragged Streptocarpus on a propagation table in the employees-only nursery area south of the succulent garden, but I didn't see any planted gesneriads--I didn't have time to go to all of the likely areas.

Aeschynanthus radicans

A. radicans flowers

Streptocarpus floribundus

S. floribundus flowers

Last in the post but first visited, Cactus Jungle, a cactus nursery in Berkeley, sported gesneriads for caudiciform enthusiasts: more Sinningia tubiflora, mostly. I spent almost as much time at this small nursery as I did at the San Francisco Botanical Garden--almost two hours, wandering back and forth in excitement looking at all the plants. I've decided I want a large Pachypodium at some point, but in the meantime, here are some gesneriads.

Sinningia tubiflora with tubers showing.

Streptocarpella saxorum in bloom. Smaller starter plants were available too.

July 3, 2012

Sinningia sellovii In Bloom

by Kenneth Moore

I was convinced to stick a few Sinningia tubers in my community garden plot. It didn't take too much convincing, to be honest. Tons of sun, quickly drying, and plenty of heat. Some Sinningia can take it--others are more of a test. It's all a test for me--I've never grown gesneriads outside (or tomatoes or corn, for that matter: It's my first real garden plot!).

The other day, I noticed S. sellovii in bloom. It wasn't open, and by the time I went back, the flower had already fallen off. But I think it pollinated itself (no other Sinningia in my garden was in bloom, and I doubt other folks are growing any in their own plots!).

I wouldn't expect this plant to survive over winter [EDIT: I've been told it probably will here in DC!], but I'm sure it's happier here than in my cold basement apartment. This particular plant is still adapting to the outdoors, but it has a cluster of new growth coming up from the tuber. I expect it to give quite a show in the coming months!

The flower is a bit purpley to be the standard variety, but I'm not sure how being out-of-doors affects bloom color. I'd be quite happy if this were 'Purple Rain' instead of the standard form--I'll have to wait until my plant provider gets back from the national convention in Seattle to learn what it bloomed like before!