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

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Vigna cross attempt

Was out in the garden this morning and looks like both of these are ready for action. This cross is highly unlikely to work but that just makes it even more fun to try - I'm going to use Vigna unguiculata (cowpea / black eyed pea) as the pod parent and use Vigna radiata (mung bean) as the pollen parent. There are quite a few visible differences in appearance that could show up in the offspring (if I even get any). In the first picture, the cowpea flower is the huge pinkish one; mung bean is the yellow smaller one. All parts of the cowpea are smooth and hairless including the pods (behind the flower); mung bean pod (at bottom) is furry. In the second picture you can see the contrast in size color and furriness of the cowpea foliage underneath the mung bean foliage.
So, if I get any seedlings showing olive green foliage, hairiness or yellow flowers it would be really cool. When they finally decide to quite growing so much and flower, maybe I should try using some of my F1 hybrid cowpea seedlings from last years crosses ('Black-Eyed' X 'Tetapeche Grey Mottled')as pod parents (with mung bean pollen). I've read that hybrids are often more willing to accept wide crosses.

Oh I almost forgot... mung bean has olive green seed coats. I don't think any cowpea varieties have this color. So that's another trait I'd like to see show up in offspring using cowpea as pod parent.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rainbow Scarab Beetle

Didn't know what this cool beetle was, but think it matches pictures on-line of Rainbow Scarab Beetles - a kind of dung beetle. The pictures really don't do justice to how iridescent it was.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Savia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'

Can't ever get a picture that shows just how cool this salvia is!
I tried putting a piece of white paper behind it thinking that might help, but it still isn't really right.
You'll just have to take my word for it - "in person" it's REALLY nice!
I've grown it here before but it isn't always winter hardy here in zone 6/7 Maryland.
Joseph T. tells me that you can dig the fleshy roots and store them over winter for replanting. I might have to give that a try because (if you couldn't tell) I really like this plant. I was thinking about trying crossing with the red-flowered Salvia roemeriana (which is reliably hardy here - at least against a wall) but I'll have to wait until Salvia roemeriana comes back into bloom. Right now it's got so much seed setting that it's stopped blooming.

Watercress seedlings

The watercress I'd brought home earlier this year flowered and went to seed when the weather turned hotter. It made LOTS of seeds! Here's a carpet of seedlings from some of that seed replanted recently. Makes me want to start some more! Maybe I'll get to eat more than just a taste this time.

Did I mention that watercress is reported to be a "superfood"? If I'm remembering right it has more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more vitamin C than oranges, lots of vitamin A and if that wasn't enough it has the anti-cancer compounds that the cabbage family is famous for too.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Squash crossing

There's a maxima type squash that came up out front so I took these pictures to encourage beginners to maybe want to play around with squash hybridizing. It's super easy. If you're not concerned about the bees working on the flowers too you don't need to do anything different than get up early in the morning and find a freshly opened female flower. You can tell it's female by the "baby fruit" underneath. Also the inside looks different. See the two following pictures of a female flower.  

Two squash bees and a cucmber beetle had already gotten busy inside this flower.

Next find a male flower from the variety you want to be the papa. Male flowers have no small green fruit underneath (just stem) and the inside part is just like a post.

You can just pull this male flower off and tear the petals off so that you can poke the yellow pollen covered post from the center of the this flower into the female flower and smear the pollen all over the parts in the center of that female flower. It's as easy as that! Wait for a squash to form and at least some of the seeds should be the hybrids you wanted. Some will be from the work of the squash bees.

Now if you want to do a "controlled" cross (so all the seeds will be the cross you want), you'll need to keep the flowers closed from the night before so the bugs can't get into them. I've used masking tape or coils of wire (like toys come packaged with) to keep the flowers closed before and after my hand crossing.

I've tried a simplified method yesterday evening with an unopened 'Delicata' squash female flower. I don't know if it'll work but I went ahead and ripped open a male flower from one of my hull-less seeded squash lines. I pried open the 'Delicata' flower bud and put the anther column from the male flower inside, in contact with the stigmas. I went ahead and sealed it shut - tied with grass. The flower never actually opened but I'm hoping that anther column released it's pollen onto the stigma anyway. I'll let you know how it goes.

Eaton Hull-less Oat

Another new one for me this season. Oats are planted early in Spring. I wasn't expecting them to do much since most other Spring-planted grains aren't very productive for me. Well, these oats surprised me by doing very well. Since they're hull-less you're supposed to be able to use them without a whole lot of processing. I've read that they make a good substitute for brown rice when boiled whole. They're also supposed to make better livestock feed since there's no hull.
The downy covering on each grain does make them handle a little different from other grains. I had to adjust my winnowing technique (hand-held blow dryer) a little bit after I blew them all over the front porch. I still rescued enough to share some with friends and still have an increase to plant next Spring. This looks like it'll be a keeper.

A favorite new wheat

Here's the harvest from a wheat that's new to me this season, 'Polish Wheat' (Triticum polonicum). It's a tetraploid, akin to the durums, and did very well as a winter wheat. The grains are large and tinted yellow. It reminds me a lot of 'Kamut' which I've tried here but often winterkills when grown as a winter wheat. 'Kamut' hasn't produced very well Spring sown here either.
This 'Polish Wheat' looks like a good one for our area. I'd also like to cross it with my club lines and get more of the tetraploid vigor, health and grain quality into the hexaploids. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Vounteer daylily

One of the many daylily seedlings that have volunteered (because of some over-ambitious pollinating followed by not collecting the pods). This one I think is from 'Ice Carnival' pollen on an 'Isolde' X citrina seedling. It's a BIG pale yellow that I think opens in the evening or night (I'll have to check it to make sure) but stays open later into the day - usually melting down around dinner-time. Not good enough to distribute but good enough for me to keep and enjoy at least for a while.


I didn't notice any pods when Joseph T. was visiting, but found some today on 'Kala Chana', a dark brown chickpea that always grows pretty well here. So here's what the pods look like Joseph. And if you look close you can see the glandular secretions on the foliage. These are supposed to have a lot of malic and oxalic acid in them which deters insects, but reportedly can also cause a rash. I've weeded around them plenty and haven't noticed any problem yet - but usually I'll wash my hands pretty soon after weeding anyway. One of the good reasons to grow chickpeas, is that you probably won't be able to find them sold anywhere in the "green-shell" stage. And they're pretty tasty cooked at that stage.
There are some really cool ones [black, forest-green and these dark brown ones] that you can sometimes find for sale in seed catalogs. But if you're thrifty like me you can also buy a bag of dry chickpeas at the grocery store, and try planting those. I've had good luck with them too.

Hose-in-hose daylilies

I'm not a big fan of many of the doubled-flower daylilies, but... I make an exception for the hose-in-hose type. These are the ones that don't have a mess of crumpled petaloids in the center, but instead are doubled by having a sort of flower within a flower layout that they call "hose-in-hose". Here are three of my all time favorite daylilies: 'Frances Joiner', 'Peggy Jeffcoat' and 'Zella Virginia'. Aren't these girls beautiful!!! 

Helianthus tuberosus X 'Red Sun' sunflower

The F1 hybrid perennial sunflower from Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) X 'Red Sun' sunflower started blooming about two weeks ago. In the first picture you can see the Jerusalem Artichoke mama (the left half of the row, right next to the charcoal barrel "retort") and the right half is the F1 hybrid. The second picture shows the Jerusalem Artichoke in the foreground with no flowerbuds even deep down in the whorls of leaves; the F1 hybrid is in the background. The last picture is a bloom close-up of the hybrid. It's about 5 or 6 feet tall right now. The Jerusalem Artichoke is slightly shorter but I think will eventually get taller than the hybrid. So in spite of it being completely sterile from what I've seen so far, the hybrid may have value as a tall border plant because it is more compact; earlier and longer-blooming; and doesn't spread quite so invasively.

Radish seed crop

Planted several types of Fall radishes last Fall. The 'Long Black Spanish' and 'Roseheart' did well enough that I dug and kept some over winter in the fridge. I replanted these in the Spring and they've both flowered and set seed. I'm hoping that the bees have intercrossed the two varieties. I'm picturing hybrids that are both black-skinned and pink-fleshed. We'll see.
Here are the pods from 'Long Black Spanish' (there were only about a third this many 'Roseheart' pods)

Elephant Garlic

Bought a single bulb of elephant garlic at Walmart back in early Spring and here's what the five cloves produced. I plan on separating these and replanting this Fall to see if they'll be even happier that way. Maybe I'll try some regular garlic again too. [I think elephant garlic is technically a kind of leek???]

Figs again!

Picked our first 'Hardy Chicago' figs already, July 5th! I think these are breba (?) crop from overwintered buds. They were good but not quite as good as I remember the main crop figs from last year. Of course, there are plenty of main crop figs forming but I don't know when they'll be ready. Looks like we'll get to try 'Brown Turkey' and 'Celeste' this year. They're really getting growing this year, but still not as big as the 'Hardy Chicago' which is already about 12 feet tall in spite of all the cuttings I took off of it this Spring.
If you've never had fresh figs - I hadn't until I grew them myself - they're sweet and juicy with a texture that makes me think of peaches. And considering how easy they've been [no disease, no bugs without any sort of sprays], they're well worth planting!

Rosa fedtschenkoana

It never really went "all out" with a lot of blooms all at once, but true to its reputation has been blooming here and there ever since it started (way back in Spring). And it's been bulking up into quite a shrub with cool gray foliage. Thanks a million to Patrick Guidry for making sure I finally got to grow this exceptional rose species!!! I'd been trying to get it for probably 20 years [on waiting lists and backordered and discontinued and mislabeled, etc.] Then, when the first plant Patrick sent me didn't make it, he insisted on sending me another. Well, he was right, once it got established it took off! And I've been making good use of its pollen. I've been putting it on rugosa alba, carolina, virginiana and davidii elongata. Some of the hips look pretty promising!
Oh and by the way, Kim Rupert's description of the foliage scent is pretty accurate - something along the lines of smoke and fir trees - I can't remember exactly the words. 

Rosa bracteata X (rugosa x palustris)

Old favorites of mine, finally starting to get back to their former size after a rough move. These four seedlings were the most robust of the cross. Many of the canes were well over my head. I left the less vigorous ones behind. I'd thought there were four whites and one pink but one of the whites is actually a very pale pink. Even the picture barely shows it. It's the first one. The second is one of the real whites - note the foliage that leans more towards palustris. The last picture is of the pink - which got the most obvious influence from the rugosa part of the pollen parent - just look at the foliage. Hey Joseph T., this is the one that had already finished blooming when you visited. Even though it's a little coarse, it just might be my favorite of the four.

Hibiscus seedling!!!

Remember the crazy tricks I had to pull to get Hibiscus grandiflorus and the Hibiscus moscheutos hybrid 'Blue River II' to bloom in sync - trashcan photoperiod shortening and repeated disbudding, respectively. Well I did end up with a few pods worth of seeds. I split the small batch in half and tried to germinate some inside (no luck) and the rest went in the ground for overwintering. Hibiscus seeds here always seem to have a high percentage of weevil eaten ones.

Well... only one seed came up outside but that's enough to make me super-happy!!!
It has the reddish leafstalks and veins of its grandiflorus pollen parent. Hopefully this'll be the start of a line of fragrant hardy Hibiscus that will bloom earlier than grandiflorus does here (a few days before frost).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

F2 tetraploid wheats

More pictures of the harvested heads from the second generation (F2) of 'Black Emmer' X 'Kamut'. The first picture shows some brown and blonde heads. The second shows some of the blackest heads. The third picture shows those same black heads with awns removed so the head shape is a little easier to focus on. There a whole range of glume toughness and rachis brittleness. Hopefully I can start selecting some good forms that are relatively easy to thresh out free of hulls. 'Black Emmer' is very healthy and winter hardy but the grains don't thresh free of the coverings (hulls/glumes). 'Kamut'  grains thresh free of the coverings but winterkills most years here. I think it' more of a Spring wheat. I wanted this cross to combine the best of these two.


Finally got around to using the dried peppermint from last season in a form that turned out to be pretty good. I'd had some not-so-good experimental attempts last year and was discouraged for a while.
This time I powdered the mint leaves and sifted them to remove bigger chunks. I mixed this into what was essentially some very thick icing - powdered sugar and heated milk with more powdered sugar added until it was pasty. I pressed this out thin on parchment paper and then peeled of and put on plastic wrap covered plate in the fridge to cool. Meanwhile I melted some chocolate chips and smeared them thinly on both sides of the mint layer - cooling in between sides. When it was all cooled I cut into squares. They tasted very similar to peppermint patties, but with the hidden bonus of getting some of your green leafy vegetables in each bite! 

Some F2 Wheats

Yes, we're still here - even though we missed a whole month due to just plain being too busy!
I'm gonna try to gradually catch things up...
First here are some pictures of the fun F2 populations of wheat that are now safely in the basement finishing drying out. The deer and birds were eating too many to leave them ripen completely in place. The first two pictures are of 'Black Emmer' X 'Kamut' - a tetraploid x tetraploid cross. Pictures 3 thru 5 are of some F2 from "Smooth Awnless Club" x 'Black Emmer'.