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

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rose rooting update

Follow-up from the posts on Dec.7th and Dec.17th... I'd burritoed in wet newspaper some rose cuttings and gotten them to form callous tissue on the cut ends. Afterwards I dipped the calloused bottoms in "Dip N Gro" rooting hormone and planted them almost horizontally in a clear plastic storage bin. I just noticed today that "Holy Moly" there's a whole bunch of roots showing along the side where the bottoms of the cuttings are close. But there's quite a bit of difference among the different roses - one rooted very well, one moderately and one isn't showing any roots along the side yet. Here's the bin with a LED aquarium light on top so that the sprouts get at least a little bit of light.

Here's the great roots forming on the "BH1" bracteata hybrid. [It's a complex hybrid - Rosa bracteata X (rugosa x palustris)] I'm happily surprised at how vigorously this one is rooting. This is the one I've also called the "pink monster" and it seems to be most people's favorite of the four siblings.
 Here are the buds beginning to sprout at the other ends of those "BH1" cuttings.
 Here's the decent roots forming on "BH3", one of the white-flowered siblings of "BH1".

 And at the far right end of the container, I'm seeing no roots action yet from the cuttings of Rosa multiflora X rugosa.
Even so, it's great to be getting any roots at all. I usually have an awful time trying to root anything, which is one of the reasons that I've always appreciated roses that send up suckers.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Two December 16th surprises...

My reblooming diploid [24 chromosome] Miniature Tall Bearded iris named 'Cricket Song' is still insisting on blooming up close to the foundation, even though the foliage has just about completely gone dormant.
Also the late flowers on 'Tristan' ornamental strawberry are still ripening fruits!!! Even though they're small and very firm, they're still pretty tasty. 
I expect that the colder weather predicted to be coming this weekend will probably put a stop to these two, but it's been fun while it lasts!

Rose rooting success

Well, I said that I'd try to keep updates on my progress... and lately I've been having much better than usual luck with rose cuttings. This first picture shows a softwood rose cutting forming some nice healthy callous tissue all along the two inch scrape I made on one side of  the bottom of the cutting. The scraped surface is intended to give more area for callous to form. Hopefully roots will be next!
I think the loose and relatively drier potting media may be the key to my cuttings not turning black and rotten this time. I added a LOT of perlite and crushed charcoal too so the percentage of actual potting soil is pretty low. I also have been just barely keeping it damp. Seems to be helping. Oh and with this softwood cutting, I've been keeping it inside a clear plastic container like baby spinach comes in.
Now on to some hardwood cuttings. These were the ones recently calloused inside damp newspaper "burritos" in plastic trash bags. After callousing I dipped them in rooting hormone [which I'm not so convinced isn't doing some tissue damage to them] and put 5 cuttings of 3 different hybrids in this clear plastic storage bin. The soil is once again very high in perlite especially at the top layer where the cuttings bottoms are located. I have them almost laying on their sides, with all but the tops buried.
Here are the ones in the middle. The big one sticking up a little, is the one I pulled up to see how the callous was looking.
Here's how it looked. Woo hoo!!! There's even a little root!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Two amazing late strawberries

How about that! I found a strawberry almost ripe, on our "White Clubhouse" strawberry. Of course it's along the foundation of the house, but still - December 6th!
Out front, the pink-flowered "Tristam" we got at Wal-Mart three years ago, is also still flowering and fruiting too. What a cool little plant.

Peppers - saving for next year

I specially selected these seven peppers (actually a couple of the 7 pots have multiple plants) to save for seed production next year. They are all mild peppers chosen from among some super-hot siblings, and are derived from a complex mixing over many generations of Serrano, Habanero, a variegated hot, a purple leaf hot, Yellow Marconi and a yellow fruited bell pepper. I also selected for interesting flavor, productiveness and furry foliage from Serrano. I've been keeping the pots indoors ever since the hard frosts came, but on warmer days I roll them out for fresh air and direct sunlight. I also have to periodically knock back the aphid population using soap spray and blasts of water from a garden hose. But so far it's looking pretty promising that they'll make it through the winter and be around for the 2016 garden.

Some perennial edible alliums

So far, these elephant garlic have been one of the best perennial onion/garlic plants here. In the past, I've always dug them up in the summer and replanted a little later, but I didn't get around to them this year. Even so, they've taken it upon themselves to come up again anyway. I like a plant that takes this kind of interest in its own survival!
 I've also got some walking onions (also known as Egyptian or topsetting onions) which are pretty good at being perennial but I haven't been that impressed with their usefulness. So, I'm hoping these new 'Yellow Potato Onions' I just got a few months ago from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange will be a better really useful and perennial onion for us. I'll keep you updated.

Rooting rose cuttings again with the newspaper burrito method

I really need to get better at rooting cuttings and since I have a few special hybrids that it would be a real shame to lose... there's no time better than now to give it a shot again. What's worked best for me in the past is this damp newspaper burrito method I learned about from some great folks who shared it around at the Rose Hybridizers Forum (Kim, Simon, George, etc I'm not exactly sure where it originated). The idea is to take hardwood cuttings (pencil thick is ideal) strip off any leaves and wrap them in barely damp newspaper (burrito style) and plunk that into a trash bag.  

About two weeks later, the cuttings should have great callous tissue formed on the cut ends (especially the bottoms). Sometimes they'll even have the start of roots.
 I've gone ahead and put half of the cuttings into very loose and barely damp potting soil (it's about 50% perlite) and the other half I'm trying directly in the soil outside. I buried the tops with mounds of soil that I'll remove later in the Spring. Here's a close up of one of the calloused bottoms.

I'll try to remember to do some update postings as these succeed or fail. Wish me luck!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

2015 radishes

Several generations down the line now from the original cross of 'Long Black Spanish' and 'Roseheart'. Still a lot of diversity!

Rosa bracteata X (rugosa x palustris) "BH3"

Definitely NOT sterile, although it has very much reduced fertility compared to the three species that went into it. Most of the flowers drop without leaving any hips, but the velvety smooth hips that do form typically have from 1 to 4 seeds each. And they're a joy to work with compared to the prickly hips of two of its siblings. This is probably my favorite of the four siblings that I've kept all these years. It has the healthiest foliage and has also occasionally had a few scattered repeat blooms.

 In addition to planting the seeds, I'm going to try to root some cuttings this year. If I can get it propagated, I might try some chromosome doubling experiments on it. With such reduced fertility, a doubled version should be relatively fertile.

Fall color of F1 Rosa davidii X fedtschenkoana

Here's a picture for Jakub, of the Fall colors of F1 Rosa davidii X fedtschenkoana. I'm hoping I'll get to see first bloom on these in the Spring.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Long keeping squash continued...

Well, laziness sometimes ends up showing you things you would have missed otherwise. I left the butternut squash and little orange field pumpkin sit on the counter all night after halving and removing their seeds for saving. This morning I noticed that the flesh had started to separate a little from the rind of the little orange pumpkin. So in addition to being harder, the rind was also very thick on this one.
 Couldn't help but try scraping it out to see if it would make a gourd type bowl. Sure did! I couldn't have done that with the normal type of pumpkin.

So, I put the pretty orange bowl out in the sun to dry and got to thinking about the possibilities this hard rind might have, if I incorporated it into my own pumpkin lines.

Then I wondered if baking would ruin the hardness of the rind, since that's how I typically prepare all of our winter type squashes. Usually I wrap in foil and bake for 1-2 hours, then scoop out the flesh from a floppy collapsing skin. So, I did that to the stem half of the pumpkin.
 Wow, that hard shell was super-easy to scoop out after baking! And the heat doesn't seem to have hurt it a bit.
 Sadly, the flavor of the flesh was really lacking. It wasn't bad, just had NO sweetness whatsoever. Compared to the butternut that had been stored just as long, this one wasn't even close in quality. The butternut still was great - pleasantly fragrant and sweet.
But even so, I still think there's some potential for this hard rind trait to be added into my hull-less lines maybe, to add another dimension of usefulness to them.
Here are the two halves of the shell put back together. The top (baked) is a little glossier and darker than the bottom. Now let's see how they dry down.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Squash from last season

Decided I'd go ahead and cut the last two remaining squash so I can save the seeds. Here's the butternut in really good shape. If I weren't feeling so lazy at the moment, we could definitely eat this one.
 And here's the little orange field type pumpkin that we got as a freebie last Halloween. It looked just like all the other little orange ones, but I think it must've picked up a hard rind gene from somewhere, because I almost broke the knife just trying to pierce it. Then it was nearly impossible to saw it in half, with that same knife (that easily cut the butternut). Not so sure if I want my pumpkins to be that hard to cut but the hardness sure did seem to make it last a long time. I wondered if it might have been from a cross with one of those bitter ornamental (Cucurbita pepo type) gourds to have such a hard skin, so I tasted a piece of the flesh to see if it might be bitter. It wasn't bitter at all.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cucumber seed saving

First picture is of the 12 pounds of rejects from the cucumber patch today. Made some tasty cucumber salad out of the ones that weren't too mature. Funny how we're still getting round ones popping out of the gene pool after so many generations down the line from that original cross of 'Straight 8' and 'Lemon'.
I especially like the whites that have showed up and plan on blending them with the nicely-formed, long dark green types that came from a later infusion of 'Summer Dance' genes.
The box holds the keepers for seed (as it stands today). These were all from vigorous early fruiters. We'll probably just eat everything else that forms from this point on. 
When I get the time, I'll core the seeds out of these and let them ferment a couple of days before washing them in a strainer and spreading them out to dry. BTW The tough skins can be peeled from the flesh, which makes a tasty addition to soup (look up "Old Cucumber Soup" recipes for inspiration). It's a great way to make use of something that would otherwise just go to the compost heap. 

Aronia (black chokeberries)

What an unfortunate name for a pretty easy and useful fruit - "Chokeberry". From that name you might think they'd be awful to eat or even poisonous maybe, but in reality they're actually not too bad. Truth is they aren't very juicy and they are not too sweet either, but they certainly don't deserve to be associated with choking. LOL
 Please forgive my terrible photography skills... above is one ripe fruit cluster. Below are the washed fruits from today's pickings. This is the first year they've fruited enough to bother with and the bushes are still only knee high at best.
 Below are the berries being softened by boiling with a small amount of water. We smashed them with the masher and then strained the highly pigmented juice through a strainer. All that pigment is supposed to be anthocyanins (think antioxidant).
 Followed a simple recipe for sorbet and made this tasty batch from about 3/4 aronia juice and 1/4 wild blackberry juice. Nobody's choked on it yet. ;0)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Daylily 'Condilla'

I've always admired the pictures I've seen of this oldie. I finally got a plant and even in spite of just being dug and replanted, it's still cranking out loads of perfectly formed hose-in-hose (flower within flower) doubles. I'd thought it was more of a yellow, but it's more like the color of a slice of American cheese. Glad to finally grow it!

Dogbane beetle

While out weeding, I found this pretty little dogbane beetle (Chrysochus auratus). My photography skills don't do it justice - it's more beautifully iridescent (like an oil slick) than the picture shows it.

If you want to see a really nice picture of one, check out this link:
Update: tried to get a better picture when I saw another one yesterday...
A little better but still not expert photography by any means.

Calycanthus 'Aphrodite'

Asian/American hybrid Calycanthus 'Aphrodite' is still looking nice and keeps making more and more blooms.

Cukes for seed

The three whites in the middle and the ten nicely formed early ones (stacked two layers deep at the top) will be the seeds saved for next season.

Radish seed harvest

Just harvested this years radish seeds and kept two special select plants separate. They were two plants with the most purple color on the foliage, stems, and also had darker, rose-pink flowers. The pods were even purple and when they dried down, some turned an almost iridescent blue. Prettiest radish seed pods I've seen ;0)
I plan on planting these in a few weeks for the next round of selection. These are storage type radishes so the best looking roots will go into zip-lock bags in the refrigerator until next Spring. The rejects will get eaten.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Squash crossing

Planted 'Long Island Cheese' and 'Butternut' squash this season. Both are Cucurbita moschata type so should intercross easily. Last night, I got some flower buds that were going to open the next morning ready for the crosses. I prepared a bunch of male flowers of 'Butternut' by taping the tips shut so they wouldn't open this morning. (The males don't have a tiny squash at the base.)
Also prepared three female flowers on the 'Long Island Cheese' by wiring them closed at the tips with twist ties. This prevents early morning visits by bees. (Female flowers will have a tiny squash at the base)
When I had a male flowers peeled open and ready to pollinate, I open the twist tie and rubbed the pollen on the stigma. Afterwards, I taped the female flower shut.
If all goes well, these three will join the one I did several days ago. It's flower has dropped off and the little fruit is swelling up fast.