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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Viola X cooperrideri project

First picture is of Viola walteri, which has really cool silver and green, patterned foliage (purplish underneath). Unfortunately it never really thrives here and the light purple flowers are relatively tiny and only sparsely produced.
 Here's the F1 offspring of the local Viola striata from pollen of Viola walteri. Natural hybrids like this have been called Viola X cooperrideri. The F1 doesn't show much of the foliage pattern of Viola walteri but it does get vigor and flower power from Viola walteri. It starts out every Spring as a neat little clump and morphs into a carpet of foliage 2-3 ft across by summers end.
 Here's an especially neat F2 self-sown seedling (several years old) that is close to Viola striata in appearance.
 This newer white-flowered F2 seedling has the best approximation of the foliage pattern of Viola walteri. It differs from Viola walteri in flower color and size and also even though it looks a little floppy (from just being dug and moved) it looks like it's got lots of the vigor coming from its Viola striata ancestry. Next Spring it'll probably be a lot more impressive clump.
In addition to working towards cool foliage and neat habit, I'd like to see if I can select for extended bloom (later into Summer and earlier in the Fall). The floriferous white F2 has already bloomed extra early each Fall relative to the F1 and other F2's.

Ramps (Allium tricoccum)

The little clump of ramps (Allium tricoccum) that I brought back from Potter county PA last year is coming up and looking great. Since they're supposed to be happiest in forest settings, I put them under an apple tree on the shady North side of the garage. So far so good!

Sort of broccoli

I saw that the rejects from the glossy kale/collard population were bolting and didn't want them to pollinate the select seedlings so I started snapping off the flower stalks. Hmmm... isn't this sort of broccoli anyway? Not quite as compact, but Brassica oleraea right? So I took the handful inside and cooked them. Well... I have to admit they were a little too bitter for me to say they were worth eating again - even with butter, parmesan and a big dollop of sour cream. So, if I hope to make a dual-purpose veggie - both leafy green and Springtime broccoli - I think it might be good to infuse some real broccoli genes (and maybe white-flowered Asian broccoli / "Kai Lan") to tame the bitterness. Or harvest earlier??? And not that I'd be eating the super-bitter ones anyway, but I wonder if the bitter compounds are the same ones [isothiocyanates(?)] that are supposed to be so healthy for us?

Watercress a week later

Here's that same container of watercress a week later...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Well, the first sprig we brought home didn't make it. It got frozen solid in a saucer of water and turned to mush. So, we gave it another try and this time it looks like it's gonna work alright. It's taken a week or two for the pieces to get settled in their new home - and they looked pretty pathetic while that was happening. But now they're starting to really get growing. I read somewhere that watercress especially likes limestone, so I just worked a little agricultural lime in between the plants - that's why the Miracle-Gro potting soil looks a little gray in spots. The inner clear plastic container is one that bulk salad greens come in. I poked a couple of holes in it and filled it with potting soil. Then that container is sitting in a rubbermaid container with water filled almost to the brim of the inner container. I've been changing that water about once a week.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Chesapeake Series - Viola odorata

Here are four of the five Viola odorata hybrids that are part of our Chesapeake series. They began as a cross between the orange-sherbet-colored Viola odorata 'Sulfurea' and the dark purple, Viola odorata 'Clive Groves'. I'd tried quite a few varieties of Viola odorata and found that not many were as well adapted to growing here in Maryland as 'Sulfurea' was. 'Clive Groves' was one of the few that survived, so I set out to try combining the strong fragrance of 'Clive Groves' with the adaptedness of 'Sulphurea', and of course hoping for a variety of colors. The first generation (F1) were all well-scented, plain medium purples. But in the second generation (F2) all sorts of interesting variations have appeared. These four are my favorites so far. From left to right, they are:

dark purple - 'Chesapeake Royalty'
orange-eyed - 'Chesapeake Surprise'
apricot/lilac blend - 'Chesapeake Siren Song'
and icing white - 'Chesapeake Confection'

All of these are fairly fragrant.