December 4, 2013

Open House Saturday December 14, 2013

The National Capital Area Chapter of the Gesneriad Society (NCAC) is having an Open House on Saturday December 14, 2013, from 10:30 a.m. until 11:30 AM at The Behnke Nurseries (11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705).

We welcome members of the public to attend our open house and join us for light refreshments, conversation about the various plants in the gesneriad family, including African Violets, Gloxinia, Sinningia, lipstick plant, goldfish plants, etc.  There will be a plant raffle which usually includes a range of starter plants and cuttings of species and hybrids.

Come join us!

Kohleria 'Peridots Kitlope'
Streptocarpus 'Roulette Cherry'
Episcia 'Showtime'

October 31, 2013

Nov 9 meeting - repotting Gesneriads

The next meeting of The National Capital Area Chapter of The Gesneriad Society will be on November 9, 2013:

Topic: Repotting Gesneriads
Location: The Behnke Nurseries, 11300 Baltimore Ave, Beltsville, MD 20705 (on US-1, a couple of miles from I-495)
Time: Saturday November 9, 2013, 10 a.m. (doors open at 9:30 for setup)

This is a perfect opportunity to get tips on how to repot scraggly plants, pot up seedlings, re-pot a lopsided African Violet for better growth, what to avoid when repotting a Streptocarpus, and how to select a pot size for that Sinningia tuber. Also, many gesneriads can be propagated from cuttings in the winter, provided you have an appropriate indoor/greenhouse growing environment.

There will be some hands-on, as time and space allows.  Feel free to bring your pest-free disease-free gesneriad to the meeting to show it off or to get some expert advice.  (If in doubt, bring the plant in a clean SEALED bag.) Bring some tools and pots if you want to squeeze in some re-potting while at the meeting!

These two are good examples of things needing repotting:

October 14, 2013

Baltimore African Violet & Gesneriad Sale

Coming up this Saturday in Baltimore:

Where: The Shops at Kenilworth, 800 Kenilworth Drive, Towson MD
When: Saturday, October 19, 2013, 9:00am - 5pm
What: African Violet & Gesneriad Sale by the Baltimore African Violet & Gesneriad Club

Hundreds of beautiful African violets and other exotic houseplants will be offered for sale. The sale will also offer leaves, cuttings, and many growing supplies including soil mix, plant rings, self-watering pots and much more. Experienced growers will be there to answer your growing questions.

Sp Amour Elite

October 13, 2013

Streptocarpus species - October 26, 2013 meeting

The National Capital Area Chapter of The Gesneriad Society’s October meeting will feature a presentation by Bob and Dee Stewart on Streptocarpus species. If you missed their lecture at The Gesneriad Society’s Convention in July, this is a great opportunity to hear it.

Location: The Behnke Nurseries, 11300 Baltimore Ave, Beltsville, MD 20705 (on US-1, a couple of miles from I-495)
Time: Saturday October 26, 2013, 10 a.m. (doors open at 9:30)
Speakers: Bob and Dee Stewart
Topic: Streptocarpus species

Photo: Streptocarpus cooksonii

There are over 150 species of Streptocarpus known so far. They range from plants small enough to bloom in a thimble to plants with a single leaf over two feet long. The genus Streptocarpus has provided many beautiful, floriferous plants for our enjoyment. These plants have even become popular with the casual house plant grower under the moniker "Cape Primroses". Focusing on species of Streptocarpus subgenus streptocarpus, this program will discuss their growth habit, culture and provide a glimpse at a number of the very desirable species.

Streptocarpus have a very unusual growth habit. Understanding how they grow will contribute to understanding how to grow them. This program will review what's unique about the way Streptocarpus species grow throughout their life-cycle. Given that background, we'll discuss how to grow these plants successfully, including how to grow them without pots - nature's way! Along the way, you'll see many of the species that make this genus so popular.

August 7, 2013

Ramonda myconi in New Hampshire

From Larry S. come these two photographs of Ramonda myconi, growing in his rock garden in New Hampshire. This is a plant he acquired at The Gesneriad Society's 2009 convention in Silver Spring, Maryland. He says:
Every year there are more flowers, this May/June a total of more than 30 on a single plant. Note, the front flowers are very different, a mutation that resembles African violet flowers in the spotting. I am awaiting the fruits to ripen.

July 17, 2013

August 10, 2013: Stephen Maciejewski speaks on his trip to China

I received some wonderful news from our Program Chair: Stephen Maciejewski will be speaking at the August meeting of the National Capital Area Chapter of The Gesneriad Society. If you've never been to one of his trip talks, you're in for a treat. His trips are amazing, and he's an excellent and entertaining speaker.

When: August 10, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.
Where: the U.S. National Arboretum classroom, Washington, D.C. (use the entrance at 24th & R Streets, NE, off Bladensburg Road)

China:  Disappearing Mountains, White Bees, Venomous Caterpillars and Grandma's Primulina

Join Stephen Maciejewski from the Liberty Bell chapter in Philadelphia as he takes you on a 15-day journey into a seldom seen section of China. Follow him and Professor Wei Yi-Gang, author of Gesneriaceae of South China as they travel 3,000 kilometers in search of beautiful, rare and still unnamed species of gesneriads. You'll see plants never seen before: many Primulinas, other gesneriads and plants like the cave growing iridescent blue Begonia edulis. Plus spectacular scenery, including otherworldly karst mountains, caves larger than ball parks, elaborate rice fields and quaint villages.

And learn how a little caterpillar can have a major effect on your plans.

For those with a culinary interest, there's: a soup I won't mention here, white bees with ginger and green slime fungus with vegetables. A feast for all your senses.

May 2, 2013

Artistic Design Entries in Gesneriad Shows

The May 2013 meeting of The National Capital Area Chapter of The Gesneriad Society will focus on artistic design entries in a gesneriad show.  The meeting will be held at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC, starting at approximately 10:00 a.m.

There are several classes in a gesneriad show dedicated to artistic designs, and you can see the class descriptions in the 2013 Convention Show Schedule (direct link to PDF).

Here's an example from the 2009 Convention.  Class 56 (Arrangements of Fresh Cut Gesneriad Material) was entitled "Kite Festival" and the description stated: "Whether flown singly or in tandem, the multishaped fliers attract attention with their swooping and soaring. Your interpretation in a mobile design. Niche size: 24"H x 16"W x 12"D." This particular entry was by Judy Zinni and contains the following plant material: Saintpaulia 'Blue Mist'; Columnea 'Nelly'; Seemannia 'Chic'; Columnea microphylla; Columnea hirta 'Light Prince' (dried calyces); Nematanthus fluminensis (dried, contrived form)

Entry No. 181

April 3, 2013

African Violets & Gesneriads in Baltimore May 10-11

Spring is such a busy time for gardeners... so here's one month's notice that the Baltimore African Violet & Gesneriad Club will hold their 60th Annual Mother’s Day Show & Sale on May 10 and 11, 2013.

Let's recap that announcement. Did it say SIXTIETH? Oh yes!

What: African Violet & Gesneriad Show & Sale by the Baltimore Club
When: Friday, May 10, 2013 - Sales 9am-7pm and Show 1pm-7pm; and
  Saturday, May 11, 2013 - Show & Sale 9am-5pm
Where: The Shops at Kenilworth, 800 Kenilworth Drive, Towson MD.

What can you expect? Probably an exhibit of beautifully well-grown plants. And they say...: The sale tables will hold hundreds of beautiful African violet, gesneriads, and other exotic houseplants. Also available will be leaves, cuttings, and many growing supplies including soil mix, plant rings, self-watering pots and much more. Experienced growers will be there to answer your growing questions. This event is free to the public and is handicapped accessible.

Here's a random photo of an African Violet, Saintpaulia 'Rob's Calypso Beat':

Saintpaulia 'Rob's Calypso Beat'

April 2, 2013

Streptocarpus lilliputana

A couple from the 2012 Convention. 

Streptocarpus lilliputana, exhibited by Dee Stewart in Class 30:

Streptocarpus lilliputana

Streptocarpus 'Heartland's Baby Kisses', which is a hybrid by Dale Martens (S. meyeri x S. lilliputana), exhibited by Ben Paternoster in Class 31:

Streptocarpus 'Heartland's Baby Kisses'

Streptocarpus 'Heartland's Baby Kisses'

March 24, 2013

Titanotrichum oldhamii

Titanotrichum oldhamii propagules, germinating in a greenhouse while still on the flower stem:

Photograph used with permission.

February 21, 2013

How To Hybridize Sinningia

by Kenneth Moore

I've been growing gesneriads for a few years now, and I feel like the next step in growing plants is having those plants make babies. I've collected selfed seed from Primulina tamiana and Sinningia pusilla, but I had never intentionally pollinated my plants to make interesting crosses. Recently, my Sinningia reitzii and S. defoliata were both in bloom--I thought why not try to cross them?

Sinningia defoliata in bloom. Photo by Ken Moore

They didn't take.

After that recent disappointment, a thread on the Gesneriphiles mailing list gave me a few pointers, provided by hybridizer Dale Martens.

In response to a Gesneriphiles group member's request for information on how/whether to sequester Sinningia flower for pollination for a specific cross, Dale gave a run-down of the hybridizing process that was helpful to me and probably others looking to make their own crosses. You may notice similar advice to what she does when hybridizing Streptocarpus. [Text below is reprinted with permission. I added a link and an editorial note in brackets.]

First go to the internet and take a look at parts of a flower so you can learn the terms: pistil, stigma, style, ovary, stamen, anthers, pollen.

No need to isolate a flower that you want to use as a seed parent. The tricky part is to remove that flower's pollen-producing anthers so it does not pollinate itself. For a Sinningia, the female part is the pistil (ovary, style, stigma) and it is not usually at its full length or readiness when the flower first opens.

You need to study stigmas of Sinningia flowers that just opened and compare them to flowers that have been open for at least three to five days. Miniature Sinningia have very obvious differences between a stigma of a just-opened flower and one that's from a flower that has been open for five days. When the flower just opens, the stigma is small. When it's receptive, the surface appears almost fuzzy and an obvious opening in the center is seen.

The anthers should be removed right away as soon as the flower opens, or even while it is in a bud stage if you want to be very careful. I do this by splitting/cutting the flower or bud open, then first hold onto the calyx end of the flower followed by using a finger and thumb to grasp the anthers and pull. Grasping the anthers helps to prevent them from scattering pollen in the air. Another way would be to split the flower open and then cut off the filaments that hold the anthers. Jiggling anthers often causes pollen to spray.

Then one needs to wait at least three to five days for that stigma (the tip of the pistil) to be receptive. [This is where I failed!]

Rub pollen from another plant directly onto the stigma either by using a tweezer to hold the filaments behind the anther so a direct rubbing of pollen can be done... or use a fingernail or small artist's brush to remove pollen and transfer it onto the stigma. Take a look at the photo I attached. The pollen is on the left and is about to pollinate the stigma. Push/rub the pollen firmly onto the stigma. Pack it on.

Photo provided by Dale Martens

You'll see a pod develop within a week. Within 30 days (usually!) the miniature Sinningia pod will ripen by turning brown and splitting. Check each morning around day 27. Fold a piece of 2 inch by 2 inch paper in half and hold that under the pod while you cut off the pod with a small pair of scissors. That way you'll catch the seeds.

You will need to identify who the pollen parents are. There are many methods. Mine is to put a dab of colored acrylic paint on the calyx of the mother and use that same color on a plastic plant label. I write the name of the pollen parent next to the dab of color and I write the date. If you go to a place like WalMart you can find in the craft aisle a plastic "string" of different acrylic paint colors for around $3.

The hardest part of hybridizing is throwing away those that are not different enough from named Sinningia. Also be heartless when it comes to negative attributes like weak flower stems, brittle leaves, poor blossom count, and susceptibility to powdery mildew. I probably throw away 99.5% of my seedlings.

I certainly welcome more responses from others who hybridize.

My S. defoliata and S. reitzii aren't mini Sinningia, like Dale was talking about, but the techniques are still applicable--and my plants are still flowering. So next time, I'll get the timing right and hopefully successfully cross these plants and others I have blooming!

February 5, 2013

Some musings about maximizing space, budget, and time

by Andrew Norris

If having 5 light stands and attached shelving unit, filled with plants, in a one bedroom apartment sounds like your idea of insanity, then send in the white coats! If it doesn’t, consider that the ambient humidity is 70% and that I work a 50 hour work week, in addition to my hobby (err... addiction). If this still seems normal to you, consider yourself in good company, but also know that the white coats might be knocking on your door soon as well!

I am always seeking ways to include more plants, without adding more stands and lights. I also am always trying to streamline things to make watering and grooming easier, as well as more occasional chores, like repotting, separating young plants, and washing the leaves. It isn’t easy when your space, time, and finances are miniscule, but your desire for plants -- and large growers at that -- is gargantuan. Here are some accommodations I have made.

Photo of the old set up.

First, with watering, I will tell you what I had been doing and why, then explain what I do now.

I have always grown my plants on individual reservoirs. I have used pint containers and 8 oz deli containers, with a hole in the lid. I liked this method a lot, because it forced me to look at each plant at least weekly, kept the spread of insects down, and also afforded me the needed space between the shelves for lower light plants and taller ones as well.

The problem arose when I went from 2 stands to three, then to three stands and a shelf on the wall, and finally 5 shelves and a wall stand. It took 3-4 hours to fill all of those containers!

Being far too financially limited to purchase over 100 Permanest trays at about a $700 price tag, I opted to use the black, liner trays that come with 6 packs. The material is thinner and not as durable and is a challenge to move with water in them, but they are far less expensive, darker in color (shows less algae and residues), and work for what I need them for. I did not want to raise the plants on egg crate because I hate fighting to get the wicks back through the grate, with a shelf full of plants, and it cuts too much space from between the stands. My solution? I used the 8 oz deli containers I already had a ton of, bought a cheap soldering iron, and went to work, melting holes in the bottom of each one and placing the plant back on these, but sitting in the black, liner trays. Now, I fill the tray, which fills the deli containers, and everything is watered much quicker -- with far less hassle and expense -- than the egg crate and Permanest tray method. I bleach the deli containers and trays occasionally in the bath tub, or even the washing machine in the case of the deli containers, and I have a neat, clean looking set-up. I also didn’t lose the precious distance between the shelves.

My next dilemma was what to do with my hanging basket plants since the bar hanging across the window, with a light over it, was far too full and very hard on the eyes. The solution was delightfully simple. I already had one of those wire shelving units converted into a light stand. I moved that in front of the window, hung either a 4-tube fixture or two 2-tube fixtures from a shelf, and then moved an empty shelf directly under the lights. It was a breeze to hang all the plants from the wire shelving, without tons of chains, hooks, and related hassle and paraphernalia. The improvement was instant! It is also much easier to water, turn, and accommodate the varying light needs on the plants.

Another issue was lighting the tops of stands without drilling holes into the ceiling to hang lights from. I was rather delighted with myself when I managed to take some ½’’ PVC pipe, and with a few measurements and cuts, I used the available elbow and “T” joints to make a simple stand that could be zip-tied to the top of the top-most shelves. It worked great and was inexpensive.

Related to this was limited floor space to put up more stands. I saw a need for shelving affixed to the wall, not only for my plants, but as a sell to the landlord for allowing the attachment of the shelves to the walls: I would leave the shelves in place and they could function as storage space for future tenants.

The landlord was ok with the idea and I chose finished wood shelving, available at LOWES. Using simple brackets, a stud finder, drill, and some screws, it was not a difficult task to set the shelves in place, though I had someone do it for me because I am convinced I am woefully inadequate with such things, even though I really am not. Using four 4 foot by 1 foot shelves side by side, and one in front of the other, I had tons of additional space for at least 30 plants and the results are decorative; once I leave, being finished wood, any collectibles can be displayed there or items stored.

Then there was the issue with storage. My bottom drawer of my clothes dresser was a stash of plant pots, fertilizer, plastic bags, support rings, pesticides, and assorted supplies. I needed the space for clothes and it wasn’t at all very accommodating. While there is no substitution for organization and simple reduction, I had done all I could at the time and cut back my collection of plastic containers, and other things to as few as possible. I finally decided to simply set up an additional stand and commit to leaving the tops of at least 2 of them open for pots and repotting supplies. The things are easily seen and accessible, and I have my drawer back, for its intended purpose.

Next Meeting Rescheduled to Feb 16, 2013

Our next meeting has been pushed back by one week due to the Arboretum's move back into the Administration Building.
The February 16, 2013, meeting of The National Capital Area Chapter of The Gesneriad Society will feature a presentation by Andrew Norris on diagnosing pest problems and cultural problems. Attendees are encouraged to bring in examples of plants showing symptoms such as tight crowns, stippling, leaf curl, and pest damage. Plant material must be SEALED IN PLASTIC BAGS. (If you ever wanted to encourage some mealybugs, this is your opportunity!)

As usual, our meeting is open to the public.

Location: the U.S. National Arboretum Administration Building in Washington, D.C.
Date and Time: 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 16, 2013.

probable mite damage

February 2, 2013

spot the gesneriads

Can you find the gesneriads in this photo?