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

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pretty winter scene

I could do with a little less of the wintery weather, but I have to admit that it sure is pretty. And we only lost electricity for a few seconds from this particular ice storm - that was a nice change.

Hibiscus crosses seed harvest

I finally got around to working on the Hibiscus seed pods and the little beetles were hatching out like crazy. They don't go far and since they're sitting on top of the goldfish aquarium in the basement those goldfish have been having a feast lately!

From my first year bloom on the Hibiscus 'Blue River II' X grandiflorus hybrid, I counted 40 pods from pollen of 'Moy Grande' and 28 pods from intentional self-pollination. That means there were at least 68 flowers on this plant. I think there were only 2 or 3 that dropped without setting pods, so it was probably about 70 flowers. Pretty impressive for a maiden bloom.
Here are some of the hairy seed pods in the process of being shelled out...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fruits of Fall

Here are some of the 'Russian' pomegranates we harvested recently. There were only two of the bigger baseball sized fruits but there were about ten of the smaller ones. We already ate 5 or 6 of those.
The "Clubhouse" strawberries are still trickling out a few fruits. These red ones were picked October 30 and the whites November 14.

One seed from F1 Rosa palustris X 'Home Run'

Maybe not completely sterile after all... the F1 hybrid, Rosa palustris X 'Home Run' made a single hip that had a single seed inside it. I wonder if this seed is from the pollen I put on many of the flowers. It was pollen of Rosa rugosa alba.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hawk feeding in the garden

I was watching this hawk near the garden a few days ago and wondered what it was chowing down on. It would land in the garden repeatedly and come back out to eat something that didn't look like a mouse. I couldn't imagine what it would be, so later when I was out dumping the kitchen compost I checked the barrel in that last picture. There was a pile of praying mantis legs. Aha!
It looks like most of the mantis egg cases have already been laid. And I guess since the cold will soon get them anyway, they might as well be food for the hawk.

Another try for some red in a perennial sunflower

These are the seeds I'm hoping will grow into red-eyed perennial sunflowers. They're from pollen of a red-eyed annual sunflower (Helianthus annuus) that I put on nine flowers of Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus). Since there were almost eight seeds per flowerhead (and open-pollinated Jerusalem Artichoke usually has relatively few seeds here) I'm thinking I've got a good chance this time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hybrid Gladiolus

The first picture is from August 2009. It shows the seed I harvested from 'Boone' that resulted from using pollen (from the freezer) from Gladiolus tristis that had bloomed indoors over the preceding winter.
The first of the F1 seedlings to bloom opened a couple weeks ago, and I'm just getting around to posting the picture. Looks pretty much intermediate between the two parents. Sadly no fragrance at all [unlike tristis] - maybe in the next generation some of that powerful scent will come back. 

Volunteer mums

These are all volunteer seedlings that I liked enough to spare them from being sent to the compost pile. As time goes by I'm sure some of them will get replaced by new ones I like better, but for now they're making a nice show of color.

These last two pictures show a few honeybees that I saw working them on this brisk October day. I don't know if it was pollen or nectar that they were after, but I'm glad these mums are providing something to them. I usually see lots of flies and hoverflies but the cold must have been keeping them away today.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Reblooming F2 Viola striata X walteri

Please excuse the fingerprints on the camera lens blurring the picture - I've never claimed to be anything even remotely close to professional at photography. ;0)
This particular self-sown F2 seedling from Viola striata X walteri has relatively reliably bloomed again each Fall, much earlier than any of the other F2 seedlings. It has a strong resemblance to striata itself in having green foliage and white flowers. Note the purple-tinted foliage of the rest all around this shoot. The growth habit is a little more floppy than striata and making it NOT the most attractive of the bunch. So... if I'm going to pursue the Fall rebloom using this one it's going to take some outcrossing or backcrossing to improve the appearance.

Last bloom on BH3 Rosa bracteata hybrid

I was going to take a picture of it on the bush but found out the batteries in the camera were dead when I got down the hill. So, laziness prevailed and I pulled it off to photograph back at the house.
It only has a faint fragrance and not a whole lot of pollen either, but it's becoming my favorite of the four siblings that I kept [from Rosa bracteata X (rugosa x palustris)]

Saturday, October 5, 2013

wheat seedlings - "chock full of hope"

It's been very dry since planting but this year's small grains are still doing alright in spite of that.
Below is one of the crosses I'm most excited about. I've started them in containers because all but five of the kernels were shriveled and underdeveloped, which is a good sign that my cross worked, because it's a cross between a hexaploid and a tetraploid. The hybrid kernels (in this kind of cross) usually don't develop fully. The five sprouts in the milk jug on the left were the five normal looking seeds. They'll most likely be accidental selfings. It's really hard for me to catch the wheat florets before any pollen has released and still have them be in good shape for a cross. The others will likely be the intended hybrids of my own club-type, hexaploid bread wheat ("Smooth Awnless Club") and a tetraploid durum type ('Polish'). If they follow the pattern of my previous cross of "Smooth Awnless Club" with 'Black Emmer', they'll be about 50% fertile but very robust once they get past the weak start the shriveled seeds provide. And hopefully, unlike the 'Black Emmer' cross, there shouldn't be SO MANY hulled types among the F2.

Hips ripening on Rosa palustris

These hips on Rosa palustris are from pollen of 'Winner's Circle'. I also have a couple from pollen of 'Old Blush' and Rosa xanthina. I sure hope that I'll be able to germinate (and mature) some actual hybrids from these crosses.

2013 hazelnut harvest (Corylus americana)

The 2013 harvest from the hazelnuts we got from the Maryland forestry service.
 Here's a close-up of a cluster still in the husks.
 Here's a nut in the shell popped out of the husk.
Here are the 12 pounds after hand-dehusking.
They'll still need shelling, roasting and removal of the bitter skins. A lot of hand-labor to process them but almost no work to grow after they've been planted.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

BH3 - Rosa bracteata hybrid again

"BH3" - Rosa bracteata X (rugosa x palustris) with a bloom one evening last week.
This morning I looked closer at the two buds that still haven't opened and noticed that this shoot seems to have had a regular season bloom cluster followed by another blooming cluster that originated from a bud directly below the first cluster of flowers. And the current cluster seems to have originated from a bud that sprouted from below that secondary cluster. I wasn't able to tell if any of the other recent blooms had the same growth pattern. I always pay extra attention to stray late blooms on any once-blooming rose hybrids - hoping that some day I'll find a sport branch - something analogous to 'New Dawn' that sported from a once-blooming Van Fleet wichuraiana hybrid. I'll have to tag this branch to see how it behaves next season. The red arrows in the picture show (from left to right) the primary secondary and tertiary flower clusters.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hibiscus grandiflorus and hybrid

I'm already collecting first pods off of the Hibiscus 'Blue River II' x grandiflorus F1 hybrid. So, I took this picture of those pods, with a shoot of Hibiscus grandiflorus itself to show you how grandiflorus hasn't even decided to flower yet. There might be some microscopic buds forming in that shoot tip, but we'll be lucky to see them open before a hard frost. See why I was so glad that the hybrid didn't inherit that grandiflorus photoperiod sensitivity.

BH3 - Rosa bracteata X (rugosa x palustris)

These are some pictures of BH3 blooms that I took Sunday evening. Next year this plant is going to be HUGE! I hope this year's scattered repeat blooms means we'll have even more next season. I know that most people seem to really like the pink sibling (BH1) that has more rugosa-like foliage, but I think (especially now with this little bit of repeat) that this one might be my own favorite of the four. I've always appreciated the stark white flowers and the healthy graceful foliage.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rosa bracteata hybrid BH3

Well, it's been opening a bloom or two here and there for a little while now. Definitely not as much as a typical repeat blooming rose, but still better than none this time of year. I saw the white petals down over the hill but when I went down they'd just dropped off of the flower. There's another bud behind that one though and a few more still to open on other places on the bush.
 Here's how full the foliage still is. The picture tops out over my head, which is where several of the shoots are going.
Here are some hips setting down near the grass. From years past. I'd expect them to have only 1-4 small seeds.

2013 "Colorful Sweet Corn" seed harvest

It was a good year for the corn. There are around two dozen special selected ears hanging in the basement and about a quarter of small, poorly filled or moldy ears we left out in the garden. Even so, here's all the rest.
These are all derivatives of recent outcrosses followed by backcrosses to our own colorful sweet. So they've got at least 1/4 of one of the following: 'Piamonte Orange Flint', 'Japonica Striped' or 'Strawberry Popcorn'. [Most of the colors don't show at the eating stage in case you're wondering.]


This annual sunflower is the pollen parent I'm trying on Jerusalem artichoke this year. Wish me lots of luck!


It may be a little bit too aggressive for some spots, but this perennial blue leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) sure makes a pretty groundcover this time of year.

Hibiscus 'Jazzberry Jam'

Picked this beauty up at a nursery the other day for $14. This is one of the last flowers on it but I plan on using it next season in some crosses.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

One of the Rosa bracteata hybrids showing sparse repeat bloom

I've kept four of the best seedlings from Rosa bracteata X (rugosa x palustris) and numbered them BH1 thru BH4. This is the first time I've seen any of these have ANY repeat bloom. This is BH3 (one of the two whites). BH1 is the one I've called the "pink monster" in the past (with the heavy influence of rugosa showing in it's foliage). This BH3 has more of the palustris look showing in its foliage. The leaf in the upper left of the picture is a weedy blackberry growing through. The foliage underneath is the rose.
I thought that I'd seen a bloom on it from afar about a week ago (but just figured it was a fluke), and when I went down to check this one yesterday, I see that there have been five recent blooms scattered all over the bush. So, I guess it's not a sported/mutated branch but maybe rather just a general tendency to have a few late blooms. It also seems to be one of the cleanest as far as leaf spotting goes. I hope it continues to show these characteristics in the future.

Three white cucumbers for seed saving

These three mature white cucumbers have now been split and scooped out for seeds for next season.
They're some of the ones I posted recently about - derived from 'Lemon' cucumber crossed with normal dark green salad types. I still need to process the long yellows and the blocky yellows.

Our little bat friend...

Our little friend was sleeping down lower on the window screen the night before last, so I got a better close-up picture. I wouldn't think that this is such an ideal spot for a roost. It seems awful "exposed". But I guess there isn't a whole lot else better around here. Maybe I should look into making some "bat boxes" to give them more roosting options.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hibiscus again

I've been dutifully pollinating every bloom on the hybrid hibiscus seedling ['Blue River II' x grandiflorus]. First I did a bunch of self-pollinations, and now I'm doing a bunch using pollen from 'Moy Grande'. Since it's so nocturnal, I figure the best chances of success should be right after it opens, which usually is around 10:00 or 10:30 at night - like in this flash picture.
 That's when it happens to have the most noticeable fragrance too.

By 9:00 the next morning, the flowers are usually starting to close back up (picture below) and by mid-afternoon they're usually pretty much closed. The open and close timing does vary a lot though depending on the weather. Cool, wet weather delays the opening and also delays the closing.

Bat again

Guess who was back under the front porch again...
and not the least bit bothered by our comings and goings.

Seed Cucumbers 2013

I think this is the fifth generation for my hybrid swarm population of cucumbers. They're the top two piles in the picture. It all started with some bee crosses of 'Lemon' cucumber with 'Straight 8' and 'Marketmore'. One of the years, I also grew a "pickling" cucumber before I realized that it got bitter in hot dry conditions. Hopefully none of those genes got into my lines. Last year I tried 'Chinese Yellow', because it was reported to be super productive. It did better than an average cucumber but not quite as well as my hybrid swarm. Even so, I replanted some this year, to give the bees some diverse germplasm to throw into the mix. The 'Chinese Yellow' are at the bottom. They're actually not so yellow because I'd selected a brown netted odd one last year to replant. I thought that maybe it could be from an outcross to one of those Indian brown netted ones that had occurred where the seed was produced. Also, the last two seasons I've been intentionally growing A LOT of 'Summer Dance' F1 hybrid cucumbers alongside mine, because I think it's one of the best cucumbers I've ever grown. It wouldn't hurt my feelings a bit, if the bees moved some pollen from 'Summer Dance' into my swarm.
So the top right pile are my keepers. They are the biggest, earliest, best shaped from the swarm. The masking tape was supposed to mark some of the earliest ripening. The top left pile are some of the others from that swarm. Notice the two round throwbacks to 'Lemon' in the far left upper corner.
The picture below is a closer view of the keeper pile. The brownish one on the right looks suspiciously like it might have come from a 'Summer Dance' outcross last year.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hardy Hibiscus

I'm a little behind on things... the 'Blue River II' X grandiflorus hibiscus hybrid opened a while ago and it's a big, light pink with darker eyezone just as expected. First picture I took with my phone was the second bloom open. The second picture was this morning. It IS lightly fragrant - maybe only slightly less so than it's pollen parent. It's also nocturnal in habit like grandiflorus. I finally also detected a little bit of scent from freshly opening flowers of 'Moy Grande' (which is also supposed to be half grandiflorus). My hybrid has a little more scent and is more strongly nocturnal. See the collage of pictures showing my hybrid fairly wide open, 'Moy Grande' bud partially open and 'Blue River II' bud not open at all yet. The downside of this early opening is that they close earliest too. See 'Blue River II' still has a previous day's flower open at 10:00 PM. Maybe some of the F2 will open early and stay open.
Here's another named hibiscus that has beautiful flowers. Unfortunately the sawfly "caterpillars" love to munch the leaves too. I'm putting 'Moy Grande' pollen on it, to try to get more sawfly resistance and keep the big red flowers.

The last two pictures are of 'Moy Grande' - one of my all time favorite hibiscus. Huge flowers, good foliage and a little bit of scent when first opening.