... growing and hybridizing all kinds of plants in zone 6b Maryland since the 1980's.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Backyard Peanuts

Got a packet each of 'Black' and 'Bramling Pink' peanuts back in the Spring and gave them a try. [bought them from "Sand Hill Preservation Center"] They didn't seem like they were doing much all summer other than making nice healthy foliage, but when I dug them up... they surprised me with just how many peanuts they had snuck down into the ground. If you didn't already know, that's how they do it - each little yellow flower falls off and then the seemingly naked stem grows downward until it buries itself. Then it forms a peanut. I let them dry for a day in the sun and now have them hanging in the garage drying/curing.
First two pictures are of 'Bramling Pink'
Second two pictures are of 'Black'
I'll try to post more later of the shelled peanuts.

Three more mum seedlings

Here are three more interesting mum seedlings from self-sown seed. The white one has an especially strong, sweet scent and the coral-pink single has some of that sweet scent too. The double orange has more of the typical mum scent.

"White Clubhouse" strawberry and pomegranates

"White Clubhouse" strawberry still fruiting... ate five little fruits yesterday and it's got more blooms opening. Look how quickly these clumps of rooted runners (that were in two milk jug bottoms) have spread to fill this space. What a nice groundcover, especially if you don't mind it trying to go everywhere! I could hardly complain though since it keeps bribing me with the sweet little strawberries. Just remember this area was bare dirt back in late July.

Also third picture shows the last two fruits harvested from that Russian pomegranate. At $2.00 -$2.50 a piece in the local grocery store, it won't be long before this bush pays for itself. I need to get better at rooting, so I can have a hedge of these!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Iris Experiment

I'm not going to go into the exact details for these just yet... if warranted I'll get around to that in due time. But I'm excited and hopeful that something REALLY COOL might be happening here! By all conventional thinking, these seven seedlings should just be simple crosses of two Miniature Tall Bearded (MTB) irises. But they're from an unconventional "anomalous inheritance" experiment, which might just be the reason why three of them are so unusually vigorous. The one in the lower left (circled in yellow) is especially so - it's showing 18(!!!) increase fans of various sizes. Compare this to the four normal-looking siblings with 2 or 3 increase fans visible.
The second picture shows that most extra-vigorous seedling closer-up. It's supposed to just be 'Bach Fugue' X 'Astra Girl', that is unless... [stay tuned next Spring (maiden bloom) for the conclusion to this story]

Mum seedlings

I honestly never had any intention to hybridize Chrysanthemums. Many years ago, I would admire the extra sturdy, pink, daisy-type mum I'd occassionally see in landscapes. Then, in the bargain section of a local hardware store, I saw a small nearly dead specimen clearance priced 75 cents. How could I pass that up! So I've had this unlabeled cultivar of what I think is a Korean Mum for over 15 years. It's the first picture below. I brought it with us to the new house along with a few other old double-flowered mums. In all those years, I never noticed any seedlings from any of the mums, but I think something got started when we got a cute little house-warming gift - a mum called "Stacy'. All of the sudden the front flowerbed started filling up with self-sown mum seedlings. I didn't have the heart to yank them out, so now it's starting to get ridiculous.

In the second picture, you can see "Stacy" in the background. It's the white with pink edges. I think the big robust pink in the center came from pollen of the Korean. There's another smaller plain pink also trying to peep out.
Third picture is one of my favorite pastel orange seedlings.
Fourth and fifth are of my overall favorite - a huge pale yellow. Notice the yardstick almost disappearing down in that clump picture. By the way, this one has a sweet fragrance that carries on the breezes so you smell it without even stooping over.
Sixth picture is a starkly white seedling. And the seventh picture is a new fire-engine red semi-double. This one had to have come from one of the old, red doubles.
So, even though I didn't actually do a single cross myself - insects did it all - I guess I'm going to be a mum hybridizer after all.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Anthocyanin tomatoes again

Might be starting to sound like a broken record, but these tomatoes with purple-black anthocyanin pigment are fascinating to me. Unlike the many so-called "purple" tomatoes in commerce that are really just pink/green blends, these actually really have purple anthocyanin type pigment. Granted it's fairly dilute in the yellow, golf-ball sized offspring of 'White Wax', but in it's tiny-fruited pollen parent [a derivative of 'Brandywine' X Lycopersicon hirsutum] the pigment is so strongly expressed that the top half of the fruit is nearly black. I have already rooted a piece of that especially dark one and am going to try rooting the yellow offspring. Maybe it would be best to try backcrossing. I probably wouldn't get the white background color of 'White Wax' back, but a black and yellow tomato might be really cool anyway. The last picture shows the insides of these two tomatoes. The little green hirsutum derivative has a funky hirsutum taste to go with its hirsutum appearance, but the yellow offspring is pretty tasty.

Two more unsprayed roses

I don't spray anything and disease pressure is pretty high here in general. At this time of year, even Rosa fedtschenkoana and 'Home Run' show a little spotting.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Anthocyanin blushed tomato

The cooler Fall weather is really bringing out the purple anthocyanin in these tomatoes which are derivatives of Lycopersicon hirsutum (Solanum habrochaite). The first picture shows the two parent lines with the offspring. The pollen parent last year was the half-purple / half-green little tomato in the upper left and also one single fruit on top of the 'White Wax' which was the seed parent. The two yellow round tomatoes in forefront are the offspring - note they have some of the purplish pigment of the papa. That purple/green one is derived from a cross of 'Brandywine' with Lycopersicon hirsutum that I did many years ago.
The next two pictures are of two individual clones that I'm going to try to root and keep alive over the winter. I'm hoping I can get a bigger harvest of seeds from these two (next year) so that I can grow a fairly large population the following year. I also plan on growing a bunch next year from this season's seeds and see if I can find some with white background fruit color combined with good purple pigmentation.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A few unsprayed roses

Just a few shots of Fall foliar disease (or lack thereof) on a few roses here. Typically this time of year, Hybrid Teas would only be bare stems with maybe a few of the very newest leaves left at the tips. Blackspot pressure is pretty strong. Some other leaf-spotting (anthracnose???) will usually strike too. Spring and summer, we'll see mildew fairly regularly but not so much right now. I don't think I've ever even seen rust here. Anyway the first and second pictures are of mild blackspot on the lowest leaves of two Rosa palustris X 'Home Run' seedlings. They're still pretty healthy, but evidently not completely immune. I guess that might be good so I can see how good their "horizontal resistance" is.
For comparison, the third picture is of some sort of spotting on 'Hazeldean'. The fourth is of some yellowing foliage on Rosa glutinosa X palustris - which may just be normal senescence rather than any kind of disease. The fifth, sixth and seventh pictures are of three VERY healthy ones... 'Blush Noisette', Rosa moschata X wichuraiana (F2-op) and "Three Quarters Native" [which is ('Fragrant Cloud' X Rosa carolina) X Rosa virginiana]. To be honest, "Three Quarters Native" did partially defoliate during the extremely dry part of summer, but all of the new growth that grew when the rains returned, looks very clean.

'Celeste' Fig

Looks like we might at least get to eat this one fig from 'Celeste'. If it follows in the footsteps of that 'Chicago Hardy', next season we'll be eating a bunch more. It was planted exactly one year later than 'Chicago Hardy' which gave us one fruit last year and around 80 so far this year. I think the yellow 'St Anthony' (planted same time as 'Celeste') and the 'Brown Turkey' (planted last Fall) are both going to need another year before we get any figs from them.

Baby Snake

We'd just picked five ripe figs and sat down on the hillside steps to eat them. I didn't even notice but this little guy was trying to catch the few last rays of sunshine for the day, two steps up from me. I'm not sure if it's a baby black rat snake or some kind of baby corn snake. Please help me identify him if you know. Anyway,  this little guy wasn't any thicker than a "Sharpie" marker - couldn't have been very old. I realize they creep some people out, but I appreciate seeing them hanging around here, just as much as the toads, birds, deer, turkey and foxes. And one day, when it's bigger, maybe it'll help keep our rodent population in check.

Pile o' cukes

We planted an extra long row of cucumbers from last year's saved seeds. These were all derived from the previous year's hybrids that we grew from intercrossing 'Marketmore',  'Straight 8' and 'Lemon' cucumbers. One of the years, we also grew a pickling cucumber and I think I've found a few that might have come from intermingling with this one, but most are from 'Lemon' crossed with the other two "slicers".
Since the rains quit on us again for a very long time, the cucumbers didn't perform tremendously well. (Also there are quite a few odd shapes) Even so... they did much better than the 'Chinese Yellow' that I also planted this year to add to the gene pool. 'Chinese Yellow' was described as the most productive cucumber I think in the Baker Valley Seeds catalog.
Anyway I'd already selected the best from the row to save for seed (several months ago I think I posted about those), but my helpers were out playing and decided to harvest all of these rejected ones. So I guess since they went to all of the trouble of gathering them from the weeds, I guess I should go through the pile to see what interesting ones I might have missed. I'll let you know if there's anything really cool.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Vinegar Weedkiller

I wouldn't want to get into trouble recommending any non-sanctioned use of any household "chemical", so I'll just recommend that you search the internet for more information and decide for yourself...

That said, if it's something I can eat without fear, I feel pretty comfortable with it. So here are "before" [well actually about 1/2 hour after] and "after" shots showing how spraying with regular distilled white vinegar (with a little bit of detergent for spreading) nukes the foliage of these seedling weeds. I think most of these seedlings were henbit and speedwell.

I'll caution you to make sure it's not a windy day and be sure to keep it away from the good plants. I think it's pretty indiscriminate about what it kills. Also it IS an acid so I don't know how it might etch concrete or mortar. But for my slate sidewalk and the gravel driveway, it works like a charm.

'Hardy Chicago' fig, again...

I've lost count... something around 70-80 golfball sized figs so far this season. And it's only 3 years old (I think) - from a 2 inch tall rooted cutting purchased from Richter's Herb Nursery in Canada. Here are a few of the today's ripe figs. This has been one of the star performers this summer.

Spiranthes cernua var. odorata - Fragrant Ladies Tresses

Not big on visual impact, this hardy native orchid is still pretty cool.  It's been kind of slow to multiply here, but the clump is steadily increasing in diameter anyway. Such a pleasant sweet fragrance, it's worth finding a protected pocket somewhere to grow and enjoy this little cutie.

'Sochi' Tea - Camelia sinensis 'Sochi'

I decided to give this (potentially borderline for cold-hardiness) plant a chance and am glad I did. I planted it against the North side of the house because my thinking is... that more tender plants die from breaking dormancy too early than from mid-winter hardiness issues. On the North side of the house it gets cooler earlier in the Fall and stays cooler longer in the Spring. So, these overly eager types aren't as likely to be in active growth during cold snaps. It seems to be working. This tea plant had been through five winters and is still kicking. It tends to drop all of its foliage but hasn't really been suffering much if any dieback of twigs, and is getting big enough that I'm starting to pluck some tips for tea. I'll let you know how my first attempt to process into "black tea" goes. I included a close-up of one of the pretty little fragrant Fall flowers.

Hibiscus 'Blue River II' with X grandiflorus pod

I had to remove all flowerbuds on this Hibiscus 'Blue River II' until I thought they'd coincide with a single induced early flowerbud on Hibiscus grandiflorus. Usually there's around two months difference in bloom time for these two. The induction was accomplished by using an inverted galvanized trashcan every evening to shorten the photoperiod (actually to lengthen the night). From all of this work, I've got several pods ripening now. And 'Blue River II' is so perturbed by all the disbudding that it's STILL flowering even though the foliage is yellowing and dropping for the Fall.

The red arrow in the first picture shows one of the ripening pods. I sure hope I'm able to raise some grandiflorus hybrids from these seeds.

The second picture shows the whole plant going dormant yet still blooming.

'Moon and Stars' Outcross - Watermelon

I purchased seeds of 'Moon and Stars' watermelon in 2009 from a local store. I don't know if the strain is a poor one or if it's just been the poor growing conditions but I haven't had any fruits that are of a respectable size.  2010 and 2011 have both been VERY dry, but in 2009 when conditions were pretty good they weren't big either. I've been growing other watermelons all around them and trying to keep an eye out for obvious intercrosses like this one, so I can do some selection for improvement. This fruit is larger than all of the rest - still pretty small (I should've measured) - most of the fruits are only about softball sized or smaller. It also has a striped background color rather than the solid dark green of the original purchased strain. And it has noticeably smaller seeds, though still black. The flesh color is different too. It doesn't have quite as much of the orange tint and yellow inner rind (that the original strain has). My guess is that this is from an outcross to a small-seeded, very sweet watermelon that we'd grown back in 2009. I don't know it's name. It was saved from a storebought watermelon. I've also grown about 5 or 6 other varieties that could have been the pollen donor.
This year, in addition to growing the original 'Moon and Stars' and its outcross hybrids, I also purchased seeds of  'Ali Baba' and grew a patch among the others. The 'Ali Baba' seemed like it might be a little more vigorous and disease resistant, but it didn't fruit very much. I'm hoping that I find a few seedlings from the saved seeds of 'Ali Baba' that have the 'Moon and Stars' spotting, so that I can blend these into the mix. Eventually I hope to have something that reliably produces normal-sized melons here. I'd prefer them to have sweet and intensely-red flesh. I don't much care about the size of the seeds, but I do think it's best when they're dark black. In addition to being really pretty against the red background, jet-black seeds are easier to spot while chowing down. So while all the blending of strains is going on, I'll accept whatever I get, but the target will have to narrow down as generations advance.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Small Grains Fall 2011

Finally got the winter small grains in the ground for the next round... in addition to 'Black Emmer' wheat and un-named varieties of rye and winter barley, there's a big patch of my "Smooth Awnless Club". There are also batches of seed planted from the F1 hybrid wheats ['Black Emmer' X 'Kamut', "Wooly Club" X 'Spelt', and "Smooth Awnless Club" X 'Kamut']. I also tried to resurrect some old seeds that probably aren't going to be viable (no sign of life yet) and put some new ones in for testing that were purchased from Jim Ternier's Prairie Garden Seeds. They've got a lot of really cool wheats!

Russian Pomegranate again

Harvested about nine egg-sized fruits - I think probably didn't fill completely because of poor pollination maybe??? We left four of the bigger sized (a little smaller than a tennis ball) on the bush to ripen longer. Here's one of those bigger ones. It's such a happy surprise to be able to ripen something like this here in Zone 6b Maryland. I'm going to try to root some branches and also plant all of the seeds so we can grow more of these.

Friday, October 7, 2011

F1 Rosa moschata X wichuraiana

Here are some pictures of one of the F1 hybrids of the single-flowered form of Rosa moschata pollinated by Rosa wichuraiana var. poterifolia. The first picture shows the growth habit. It's been increasing in size in spite of the grass and weed competition - it's out in a field. The habit is similar to wichuraiana except maybe a little bit more upright. It makes very long, floppy canes. The second picture shows the foliage. The third picture shows a fruiting cluster and the fourth picture a bunch of harvested hips. I'm hoping that among the open-pollinated seedlings will be one that reverts to the moschata repeating type of bloom (that scent would be nice too), while maintaining the increased cold-hardiness and disease resistance from wichuraiana.
This is the parent of the seedling I posted recently that has short internodes and overlapping leaflets.