Saturday, May 23, 2015

Gesneriads at the Missouri Botanical Garden

The Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the most well-kept botanical gardens in the US with premier plant collections and one of the best non-university botanical research institutions in the world. To me, the best feature of the garden is the Climatron, a futuristically designed greenhouse that encloses a very nice collection of plants.
I recently visited family in St. Louis and one of the must visit places is the botanical garden. This time, I kept my eyes open for gesneriads. This is a shot (not of gesneriads) but still a pretty view from the inside looking up. The plant is Clerodendron splendens.
 A prominent and beautiful feature in the garden is a large rock from which a waterfall pours from above. Visitors walk beneath part of the rock and be greeted by the sounds of rushing water, feel the cool mist, and a beautiful vine of an Aeschinanthus species hanging from above.
This vine seems to be in perpetual bloom, no matter what time of year I visit! 

Seemannia sylvatica hanging off a rock as they would in their natural habitat. How cool!
A closeup of Seemannia sylvatica.
 An unknown species of Nematanthus. I wonder what it is?!
Aeschinanthus 'Greensleeves'. It look me a while to find this plant because it was hidden behind a bunch of other plants. I suppose since it isn't a species, they did not want to display it prominently.
Looking right into the face of Aeschinanthus 'Greensleeves'.

Well folks, there you have it! While it was nice to see these gesneriads in the Climatron, I don't quite understand why more gesneriads are not featured. They would be so easily maintained in greenhouse conditions such as these and would thrive. Note to botanical gardens out there: add more cool gesneriads to your collection!


Guest blogger
Nhu Nguyen

Monday, May 11, 2015

Greetings from the wild!

It's not often that a person gets to go see gesneriads in the wild, but if one does, it's pretty cool. About a decade ago, I was doing some research on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. The island was once the top of a mountain, and when the Panama Canal was dug, the area was dammed to create Lake Gatun. All the lower lying areas were flooded but the top of the mountain that we know as Barro Colorado Island today remained. The whole island is a research site for the Smithsonian Institution and many scientists visit the island each year to study this lush tropical ecosystem.

Mind you, back when I was visiting, I wasn't a gesnerophile, but rather a mycologist studying the yeasts that live in the gut of beetles. But my inner gesnerophile (even before I knew I was one) shone through as I could not get over the amazing plants that grew on the walls of one of the mostly abandoned buildings at the main research station. I didn't even know that the plant was a gesneriad, but recently when I saw it in a show, I realized that the plant I saw about a decade ago was Chrysothemis pulchella.


It's just a typical selection, not any one of the fancy ones that we see in cultivation today, but had I had my eyes out for cool plants back then, I could have looked for more interesting forms. Oh well, next time.

Nhu Nguyen
Guest blogger

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Walter Says....

Walter says, "Have you found us yet on Facebook?"

The Twin Cities chapter of the Gesneriad Society is now on FACEBOOK AND TWITTER!

Please come on by and type in Twin Cities Gesneriads on Facebook to see our fun posts. We would also really love it if you would click "Like" on our page!

You can also follow us on Twitter @TCGesneriads too!

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Show in motion!

Just when you thought you had missed the whole thing. We made a recording so that you can catch up if you couldn't make it to the show or just want to see all the cool plants and displays again. See the larger size here.



Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Expo! And Extravangaza....

Welcome to the 2015 Twin Cities Chapter of the Gesneriad Society's Spring Display at Bachman's Garden Center 6100 Lyndale Avenue, Minneapolis, MN.
March 27-28, 2015.

There will be sale plants!
 There will be Gesneriads, carnivorous plants and other companion plants on display that our members love to grow.

The Carnivorous Plant Society also joins us at the display.
There will also be "help" for those that need it. :)

Come and join us Friday and Saturday 9 am to 5 pm March 27-28, 2015 in the Bachman's Heritage Room at the back of the garden center.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sinningia cardinalis Makeover, Get Ready for Spring Shows!

 This is a Sinningia cardinalis mess. It's been growing and doing its thing for months and it looks shabby. Time to trim up some shoots, groom the plant and get it looking sharp for the spring season.





All of this stuff laying on the table are overgrown shoots and sagging foliage. There are browning leaves and stems too. Get the scissors!

 Some of the old stems have even died back and just pop off with a gentle tug.... note the word gentle. If it isn't loose, don't rip it off, you don't want to damage the tuber.
 Look at all the stuff in the foreground of the photo. That is all material that got trimmed away. If there are some better looking tips from what you've taken off, they can be rooted to make more Sinningia cardinalis'.
 It still might be too large, but all the shoots that are left are fresh, and dark green and healthy. After getting to grow for a month or so, it should look much better and be ready to display.
Almost all the shoots have some good looking buds.

Don't be afraid to trim. Plants usually respond well to being groomed. You can also get material to share with your friends and other club members too.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sinningia sp 'Itaguassu'

 Last post for 2014 I guess....

This first shot is property of Mauro Peixoto. It's the only photo of Sinningia 'Itagaussu' I could come up with.

Last week I planted some seeds and one of the packets was this Sinningia.
 Of all the 18 varieties of seeds I planted this was the first up. It's the middle one to the left.
 Here's what they look like magnified.

I'm hoping that they grow well and that I can get some of those flowers to happen. That combination of orange and the dark leaves is awesome.
I had to blow up the photo a little more. The red bits are the seed coat from the seed I think. They are pretty tiny right now. I hope I can take a photo in a week or two to update their progress. The only other of the 18 varieties to germinate is a Microchirita of some sort.

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Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

How to Harvest Rhizomes from Gesneriads

Hi!
By now your Achimenes or Eucodonia etc. should have gone dormant for the year. Here is what to do with them.

One way to proceed is to just let the pot dry and do nothing till spring. Or, you can harvest the rhizomes and store them until spring. I'm showing how to do the harvesting!
You can see that my plants were still growing in tiny 5 oz. Solo cups. When you mail order for new varieties sometimes you only get one small rhizome to start with and a small pot is good enough. But you'll see that if things go well, you'll produce more rhizomes and need larger pots in the spring!

Here's what the pot of Achimenes looks like dumped out.

I dump out the plant, soil, and perlite and get rid of the old material AFTER I sort through it and pick up the rhizomes from the pot.

I also refill the Solo cup with new perlite (the white layer on the bottom) and new soil mix. There isn't much left for a new plant to use in the old mix.

You get in the soil with your fingers and find the little rhizomes. Look to the right of the photo, see the green ones I've already gotten out of the "dirt"? This plant hasn't produced a large amount of rhizomes, but it has made more than the one I started out with in the spring.
I've searched thoroughly a couple of times (you don't want to toss out any rhizomes) and I'm placing them into the solo cup with the new soil mix and perlite. It has a wick for wick-watering next spring. That is not used this time of the year.
 A trick of mine is to put PINK on the pot if the pot has either been checked or I've put rhizomes into it. I won't be confused and think a plant has simply died and toss the whole pot into the compost. You might be surprised how easy it is to be on a clean-up kick and toss out a whole pot of rhizomes. This way I know that even though the pot looks dead or empty, there are treasures under the soil!
Here is a DIFFERENT type of plant. This is a Eucodonia and the rhizomes look somewhat different than the Achimenes from the previous photos.

Also, this plant produced a really great bounty of rhizomes, perfect for sharing or making a very large hanging basket for the porch in the coming spring.
 The plant has wilted and browned. It is SUPPOSED to do that. It's also made some rhizomes on the top of the soil. That's okay too.
 Here is the Eucodonia pot dumped out and you can see the rhizomes crowded in abundance along the side of the pot.
 Wow, that is a nice bunch!
 Again you take your fingers and remove any rhizomes or parts from the old soil. If they break that is FINE, they grow from pieces of rhizome, a whole rhizome or even an INDIVIDUAL SCALE from the rhizome. All the bits will grow happily in the spring when they break dormancy. That is typically when they darn well feel like it ... just so you know.
 ONE little 5 oz. Solo cup had this many rhizomes in it. YAY!
 I once again put the rhizomes in the pot. I do cover with a bit of soil so they do not sit out and dry out. I mark the pot with a bright color, ... I use pink... and they are set to store.
Not all rhizomes look the same! Here are some that are part pink and part yellow and green. Some are teeny tiny and some are as huge as an angle worm. They are all just modified plant stem material that is used by the plants to reproduce itself. They aren't seeds but a different way the plant can insure it survives and reproduces.
I store my harvested and cleaned cups on the bottom-most shelf on one of the plant stands. They are not under lights and they do not get a regular watering like the plants on the shelves above it.

They are kept a TINY bit moist occasionally so they do not shrivel up and dry too much, bu they also aren't kept wet. If too wet they will rot. Pretty much, you leave them alone and in March or April watch for any signs that some of them are starting to grow. When they show any signs of growing in the spring take them off of the dark shelf and water them well. Then put on the light stand under the lights so they will start to grow strong and non-spindly. If there are an abundance of rhizomes in the little Solo cup, leave one or two in the small Solo cup (if you choose) and put 3-5 rhizomes into a larger pot (or pots) depending on how many rhizomes of that variety you have. Remember to label all the pots, it's so easy to forget that and not know what variety it is.

When the rhizomes begin to grow they look like any other seedling. Small and green and in need of being kept nicely moist but not drowned. Keep them in bright light (under the plant lights) so they don't get long and "leggy". If you keep some plants outside in the summer remember to keep these in partial shade and transition them to the brighter outdoor light and partial sun gradually. Enjoy!

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Monday, December 22, 2014

How to Plant Gesneriad Seeds

Gesneriad seeds are a little bit different than some of the garden-type seeds many people are familiar with.

They have some particular requirements for success, so here is a little tutorial for you about how to plant the seeds.

First tell your plant-room helpers you will be working with tiny, delicate things.

Sometimes your helper will be listening intently. Now is a good time to explain that tails in the dirt, sweeping the seeds and pots off the table and stepping in the project isn't helpful.
First, get your materials on hand and organized. You need: a clam shell clear deli container, small pots with drainage, perlite, soil, milled sphagnum moss, spray bottle of water, wicks for the pots (optional), a Sharpie marker, scissors and a white sheet of paper.

Set up your pots now. I like a small layer of perlite in the bottom of each pot with the wick already placed and then the MOIST potting soil on top of that. I see how many of the little pots fit into my clear deli container and make up that number of pots.

Get your seeds ready. Take notes (if you wish) to record what you're planting and note any interesting facts you might want at a later time. You won't remember a fact like which seed was smaller than another in a month.
 Some people really strongly believe that a very light layer of milled (shredded) sphagnum peat moss on the top surface of your pot will help keep any of the bad fungal problems, such as damping off, from killing the seedlings. I find that since the sphagnum holds about 20x it's weight in water, it helps the micro seeds keep evenly moist. It certainly has never seemed to hurt the seedlings or stop any germination from happening.

As you can see, the pots have some perlite in the bottom, the layer of potting mix next and then a little sprinkling of milled moss on the top. Spray that with some room temperature water and get it all evenly moist. 
 The Gesneriad seeds are very tiny. They NEED LIGHT TO GERMINATE. You do not cover them with additional soil after you distribute them on the soil surface. They are also very light weight and will blow away with any breeze. Remove the helper pets at this time, turn off the fans and close the windows if they are open.


The white paper will let you SEE the seed and also let you distribute it around the pot so you don't get a clump of 59 seeds all tangled up together. The seedlings are super tiny and even more delicate. If you don't try to spread the seed out when you plant it, it is very hard to spread out the babies without hurting some of them.

Folding the paper in this manner lets you control where the seed goes. You can get the seed to slide down the crease by gently tapping the paper. Tap very carefully.

Some of the Gesneriad seed is even smaller than the normal micro-size. It's very micro-sized, almost like dust particles. The seeds do not contain much protection or nutrition for the newly sprouting young. This is why you take such care when planting and then when they are first growing out. They are indeed delicate.
 After you put each type of seed in a WELL LABELED pot, put the pots into the tray. When full, close up the tray. The moist soil and moist sphagnum moss on the top of the pot "should" be just damp enough to allow for germination and growth. What IS damp enough? Damp enough is moist to your touch, but not dripping out of the bottom of the pot. Also, when closed and under the lights, the clam shell should get a little moisture building up on the interior surface. If it's not, then add a small amount of water in the clam shell and let the pots soak up what they want. Don't let them sit in a puddle of water. Don't drown your tiny seeds and seedlings!

When all done put the containers under some lights. BE CAREFUL if you try putting them in a window. I cooked all my summer seeds this way. Under lights is a much safer and more satisfying route for getting the expensive, rare little gems to grow for you.

Wait a couple weeks to a few months (depending on the varieties you plant) and enjoy. Don't throw away the containers or pots if nothing happens in a month or two. Believe it or not, some of the Gesneriad seeds can take MONTHS to decide to germinate and grow.

Questions??
Comments???