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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hibiscus 'Blue River II' X Hibiscus grandiflorus

Maybe it's just because so much effort went into bringing this little guy into the world, but I'm really excited about this hybrid. I'd caged it to keep it safe from rabbits and deer and as you can see, it's grown right on through and above the cage. The foliage looks nearly identical to grandiflorus which is an encouraging confirmation of its parentage. If you haven't read the earlier posts about this cross, it required that I put a galvanized trash can over the grandiflorus pollen parent (early each evening) for weeks to shorten the photoperiod and induce it to flower early. I also had to remove all flower buds of the pod parent for weeks to keep it from setting seed and keep it making more flower buds. Between those two manipulations I was able to get the two to flower at the same time and actually got a few crosses done. This seedling is the only one I have from all that work.
I figure that if it blooms next year, it will just be a relatively boring shade of pink with a darker eye. But... it should be carrying fragrance genes even if it isn't fragant itself. I'm hoping that it'll be the progenitor of a whole new race of fragant Hibiscus hybrids.
By the way, left alone this year, 'Blue River II' is currently almost done ripening its pods for the year and grandiflorus is just showing flower buds forming.

'Carlos' muscadine grape

Picked this up towards the end of the season last year, from Lowe's or Home Depot. If I remember right it's 'Carlos' muscadine grape. It's not even knee high and justlook at it, loaded with grapes. I'll have to make sure that I get started training it up proper next year, so it can really show its stuff.

Hopi Red Dye Amaranth

One of the prettiest and toughest amaranths to grow here. This was a volunteer that showed up in the grass - I dug it out and moved it to a better spot and it's really thriving.

Helianthus hybrid

The F1 Helianthus hybrid (Jerusalem Artichoke X 'Red Sun' sunflower) is still flowering like crazy and mama is just now starting to form buds (second picture).The F1 hybrid has been flowering for two months now (since late June) and has topped out at about 7 feet tall. It's a giant flowering machine! Third picture is another side by side comparison - hybrid on the left, mama on the right.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fig season has officially begun

The main crop of 'Hardy Chicago' figs started on August 10th with five ripe that day. I think I forgot to count a couple here and there after that, but know there have been at least 16 more because I have pictures. So that makes 21 so far and the tree is still loaded. I'm sure I'll lose count plenty more times but I'm betting there are at least gonna be as many as last year which was bewteen 80 and 90 (I lost track of the count towards the end of the season).
There was one fruit on 'Celeste' fig today (first ever on this plant). It was smaller and sweeter than the 'Hardy Chicago'.
Here are the 14 'Hardy Chicago' that ripened yesterday.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mung Beans

I'd bought a big bag of mung beans (Vigna radiata) at the local health food market last year, figuring they wouldn't grow very well. I wanted to use them as a pollen donor for a cowpea crossing mixed pollen experiment. Well, they did make plenty of pollen for me and have surprised me by being pretty productive of little dry beans too!
I'd also bought adzuki beans (Vigna angularis) but afterwards read that they were not likely to flower until too late in the Fall, so didn't bother to plant them until a few weeks after the mung beans. They definitely aren't doing what the mung beans have but they are healthy plants. And there are a few that have even flowered and set pods. So, maybe there are less "photoperiod-challenged" types that could be selected out of these adzukis.

Doomed Squash Cross?

Well I haven't been having the best of luck with the squash crosses this season. The vine borers killed the other 'Delicata' plant with a hand-pollinated fruit on it (from pollen of my hull-less lines). I don't even know why this one fell off. The moschata crosses (between 'Long Island Cheese' and 'Neck Pumpkin') have aborted along with most of the fruits from bee polination. But at least the moschata plants look good. 'Delicata' definitely isn't well-adapted to the challenges here [squash vine borers, squash bugs and various diseases]. But in all fairness my own hull-less lines are suffering too. I was hoping 'Delicata' would bring some flesh quality improvements to those hull-less lines. What are the chances I can get any viable seeds out of this immature fruit if I leave it sit on the counter???

F1 Cowpeas

The huge, lush pile of cowpea vegetation is actually a short row with three F1 crosses from last year. In there are both directions of the cross between grocery store 'Black-Eyed Pea' and 'Tetapeche Gray Mottled Cowpea'. Also there is 'Black-Eyed Pea' X 'Corrientes Red Cowpea'. These three F1's have grown like crazy but need to settle down and bloom. The very first bloom opened this morning. The other named varieties I'm trying out new for this season have mostly already cropped well and I've got plates full of seeds drying on the counter. Of the four shown, I think 'White Whippoorwill' looks like it'll be a new favorite for me.

Colorful Sweet Corn

A dozen ears raw and cooked. At the perfect eating stage, most of the kernel colors aren't showing much, but the red pericarp trait seems to be an exception to that rule. This line of corn is derived from one dark red/purple ear I found years ago at a farmer's market - it was in a bin of "Indian Corn" intended for decoration. There were about a dozen shriveled kernels scattered amongst the normal kernels of this cob, so I figured that it had to have come from a plant carrying the sweet corn (sugary/"Su") gene. Sure enough, the about half of the normal kernels when planted produced ears that had 50% shriveled kernels (if pollinated by traditional sweet corns). The varieties I used for these crosses were 'Golden Bantam' and 'Incredible'. The mongrel population that resulted from all of the shrivled kernels has been subjected to drought, heavy earworm infestation and extreme crowding for 3 or 4 years now. Last year I also started to incorporate some new varieties into the gene pool. I used pollen from these colorful sweets on 'Piamonte' (a South American orange flint corn), 'Japonica Striped' flint corn and 'Strawberry Popcorn'. I've got the F1 from these crosses planted out in the garden this year. They've been detassled and backcross pollinated by the colorful sweets. I'm shooting for a mix of red pericarp and normal ears on a deep orange-yellow background (hence the 'Piamonte' orange flint). I'd also like as much earworm resistance as possible - hoping 'Strawberry Popcorn' brings some high silk maysin content for that.

These ears came from the "colorful sweet" pollinator row. I'll take pictures of the new outcross lines when they mature and dry down. They should have 50:50 shriveled and normal kernels.

Perennial Sunflower still going

Started two months ago and is still flowering... this is the F1 hybrid from Jerusalem Artichoke X 'Red Sun' sunflower. In the first picture, it's the left half of the row - its mama (on the right) is still not flowering yet. In the second picture you can see it's still forming plenty of new buds.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Amazing Tomato!

Should've taken a picture a week ago when I noticed this amazing hold-over from last season. It's a green-fruited tomato hybrid descended from a cross of 'Brandywine' and Lycopersicon hirsutum (now called Solanum habrochaites). You can see a picture of the cluster how it looked back in January by following this link.
So I was out in the garage the other day and happened to look over and was just amazed that a tomato could still have any trace of life left in it after all this time. Keep in mind that this cluster was removed from the plant at the end of the last summer - I'm thinking October at the latest - that's nine or maybe ten months now!!!
Unfortunately I can't say that this tomato is one that has great taste, even when fresh. It's very similar to its species ancestor (hirsutum) in having a weird flavor. It reminds me of an unripe melon. But who knows maybe a little crossing back to the garden type would help it out in that department and it still might retain some of the CRAZY keeping ability.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Huge Rugosa Rose Hips

I bought this plant of Rosa rugosa alba for hybridizing purposes but it's got about the biggest rose hips I've ever seen - quite a bit bigger than the old magenta Rosa rugosa I used to have. Makes me want to focus on breeding for fruit characteristics.

Duct Tape Squash Bug Egg Removal

I tried smooshing the egg clusters with my fingers in the past but sheez that's a little gross. So I tried tearing them out along with a small piece of leaf. That was too rough on the plants. Then someone mentioned duct tape. Well wouldn't ya know it - it works!!! Woo hoo!!!

And I also figured out this season how to deal with the adults and the squadrons of juveniles from missed egg clusters - soap spray. Why didn't I think of this years ago! For a couple of weeks now, I've been using old fashioned plain Murphy's Oil Soap (not the newer formulations of Murphy's floor cleaners).  It has to be sprayed right on the bugs or else does no good. Here's a link to the Colorado State University Fact Sheet with measurements and application advice.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rosa carolina

I found this native species rose growing on a heavily wooded lot in West Virginia. I've identified it as Rosa carolina (rather than Rosa virginiana) primarily based on the non-glossy foliage and the reliable repeat bloom it has, usually at the ends of new canes.
Here are two new flower buds about to open while the regular season hips are nearing maturity in the background.
I have a once-blooming seedling from pollen of this carolina used on the Hybrid Tea, 'Fragrant Cloud'.


I used to have a rugosa x carolina seedling that did repeat at the ends of the new canes, but lost it in a move.
I'm hoping that those hips in the picture have at least a few hybrid seeds from the fedtschenkoana pollen I'd applied during bloom season.

Results of the 'Delicata' X hull-less squash cross

Here's one of the 'Delicata' squashes forming from the hand pollination using my hull-less seeded squash [which is derived from 'Styrian' hull-less and 'White Scallop']. Squash vine borers killed the vine bearing the other hand-pollinated flower.

Another squash cross

Another squash cross in the makings... first a picture of the female flower ('Long Island Cheese') taped shut the evening before it would open. Second three male flowers ('Neck Pumpkin') also taped shut the evening before they would open. Both of these varieties are Cucurbita moschata.
Third a picture of the flowers torn open the next morning as I'm actually doing the cross. You can just apply the pollen from the column in the center of the male flower (left foreground) directly onto the stigma in the center of the female flower (center of picture). Then gently tape the female back shut. And try to work fast, because this flower was only open for a few minutes and a squash bee still flew into it while I took the picture. So I guess it won't be a completely controlled cross .
I'll take a picture of the developing fruit later.

Long bloom season, perennial sunflower

On the left is my tuberosus x annuus perennial sunflower seedling [Jerusalem Artichoke x 'Red Sun' sunflower]. It's been blooming since late June. See post on July 7th. On the right is its seed parent - Jerusalem Artichoke - still not even showing any flower buds yet. I was hoping I'd get red petals in the seedling, but I won't complain about this long season of bloom!
I've also noticed that this year it's making quite a few fasciated flower heads - another sign of its annuus ancestry. Two are pictured close up below.