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

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Since it's supposed to be a blog about plants, here's a traditional Christmas favorite. This poinsettia was given to us in a beautiful mixed planting last year. My wife repotted it and lovingly cared for it over the past year, and this is the result.
Anyway, we hope that everyone has a great holiday season and a wonder filled new year!!!

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Taking a walk around a frozen lake and saw this heron hanging out. Just thought it was cool 😎

Peppers getting a day outside

Hoping to overwinter these peppers indoors, but the aphids are getting thick on them. So, I put them outside yesterday for a soapy water spray. The temperature got pretty close to freezing by the time I brought them back in but they sure look happier every time they get fresh air and sunshine.

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Here are two of the hopefuls - Easter Cactus flowers that had been pollinated by Christmas Cactus. One flower has fallen off but left the tiny fruit behind.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Arundinaria tecta

A light snow fell today and looked pretty dusting this native North American bamboo (Arundinaria tecta). It's just a small area but in my imagination I can see the large areas called "canebrakes" that were (maybe still are) covered by this little bamboo. It's about up to my armpits at the highest. Supposedly all sorts of wildlife made their homes in the vast canebrakes. Looks like a good place to hide to me.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Goldrush apple

Found this ugly looking apple hanging on our 'Goldrush' tree. The one side still was pretty tasty underneath the ugly skin. Guess I'll give it a couple more years before I decide whether it stays or goes.

Christmas Cactus cross

This pink cactus is actually a Spring-blooming "Easter Cactus" but it's got a few blooms right now. And since we've got lots of Christmas Cactus blooms right now, I figured it would be fun to try some crossing. I marked the ones I pollinated, with a black dot (Sharpie marker), so I'll know if it's worked. So far all unmarked blooms have dropped off along with the tiny fruits when they've closed. One of the marked ones is still holding on, even after closing.
This coral- colored Christmas Cactus is the pollen I used.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Fox den?

This hole is in the side of a dirt pile that I saw fox pups playing on top of twice this Spring while I was mowing. I'm betting it was a den but I plan on setting up a trail cam next year to see if I can get confirmation in the way of cool pictures.

Callery pears

Another example of the bigger sized callery pears that occasionally show up here. They're super astringent, but we found out that problem can be alleviated by crushing them and letting them sit overnight in the fridge before pressing. Then the juice is pretty tasty.

Hosta seedlings!!!

I didn't really expect these to grow, since they were so light and shriveled in appearance. I'd expected the seeds to look more like daylily seeds.
After a couple months of waiting, I'd given up. So, I was going to reuse the container for planting some strawberry seeds instead. When I started scraping the perlite covering off, I was surprised to find that the Hosta seeds WERE actually germinating!
These seeds were collected off 'Razor's Edge' and I'm not sure if they're from the x tardiana pollen I'd put in it, or if they're just from self pollinations. Either way it'll be fun to see what they look like.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Another generation of Viola arvensis derivatives (after all)

They got planted too late to put outside, but should be alright indoors all winter. These are seeds from the two orange F4 from Viola arvensis X orange pansy. I'd put pollen on those from a wooly foliage, yellow and purple flowered F4 from Viola arvensis X red pansy. I'm expecting I'll have to go another generation to get orange back but I'm just glad I didn't lose these lines completely, like I've usually done in the past.

Here are links to a post last year about the F4 parents

And the original F1 hybrids

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Best of the winterberry hollies

Once they'd matured enough to tell, I separated the female winterberries out to plant in front of the birches. These were all seedlings bought as a bundle from the Maryland State Forestry Tree Nursery. This female seems to be the heaviest fruiting of the bunch but it might be because its closer to the males (planted nearby for pollination)

Monday, November 13, 2017


Well, I waited too long and the temperatures dropped down into the 20's Fahrenheit. The tops of our radish crop were frozen to mush. Most looked like they still had live growth at the center, but when I cut two "rejects" for dinner they had frozen areas in the root itself. I'm crossing my fingers that some of the "selects" will be okay enough to replant in the Spring for seed production. The "selects" are the most pigmented ones. Here are some examples of rejects that (although poorly shaped and sized) still had the coloring I'm shooting for.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Painting a picture with plants...

My idea here was to have the red winterberry hollies and white birches together against a dark green background of 'Sea Green' junipers.
It's taking a long time to get there, but it's sort of happening...

"Pink Volunteer"

Another faithful rebloomer, I don't know the parentage of this "Pink Volunteer" but it surely had to be from my two diploid MTB (miniature tall bearded) irises - 'Cricket Song' and 'Easy Smile'. It's likely a cross between these two. I don't plan on registering and/or introducing it, but it's fertile and should be a good breeder.

Tristan strawberry

Another plant I'd highly recommend... we got this little 'Tristan' ornamental/edible strawberry years ago at a Wal-mart. In addition to the pretty dark pink flowers, it makes berries too. They may be a little skinny and firm, but the flavor is still good! I don't do anything but pull weeds around it and it just keeps trucking along. Here it is November... and FRESH STRAWBERRIES! 😀

Thursday, November 9, 2017

'Cricket Song' reblooming iris

'Cricket Song' blooms reliably here in Maryland, every Spring and again around the end of October. Sometimes it will also have occasional flower stalks in the summer. Not perfect but sure nice to have around.


A great perennial addition to the vegetable garden. The deer only bother it at times like this, when it's lush and freshly regrown from being cut back to the ground recently. But there's still plenty for us to browse too. Love it!

2017 Radishes

I had to put a chicken wire tunnel over them this season because of heavy deer/rabbit browsing. They'll need harvested soon but can take quite a bit of cold. Can't remember the generation (5 or 6 maybe) from the original cross, which was between Roseheart and Long Black Spanish. Been selecting for high pigment expression.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Seminole pumpkins

We harvested one single early fruit in addition to this batch that we harvested today. There were two seedlings in the "hill" but they grew vines ~40 feet long and rooted wherever the vines had good contact with the soil.
Good mildew resistance and vigor, I think this will be a great addition to our moschata type pumpkin population (so far, we've blended 'Butternut', 'Long Island Cheese', 'Neck Pumpkin', and 'Fairy Tale').

Air layering a mulberry

I wanted to try to propagate this mulberry for a friend, and read that they could be air-layered. Basically I just removed a ring of bark about 1/4 of a inch, in early July, and then wrapped that portion in barely damp potting soil and aluminum foil. Two out of three actually formed roots. The one pictured was the best.
Now it's cut off the tree and potted up.

"White Clubhouse" strawberry

Although small-fruited, our "White Clubhouse" strawberry makes super tasty berries from June until hard frost. I found this ripe perfectly ripe berry today out in the cold drizzling rain. Yum!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Name the bug

Anybody know who this little guy is?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Prairie Sunrise rose

This shrub rose bred by the late Griffith Buck of Iowa, has been pretty healthy except for some blackspot late in the season. The fragrance is strong and it has bloomed well for such a small plant.

Pretty sunset

Pineapple plant

Started from the top off of a pineapple fruit, about a year ago. Getting ready to spend a second winter under lights in the basement. I hope it eventually fruits for us.

2017 Tomatoes

It's been a while since I've gotten to post here, but I thought that maybe the new phone would allow me to post directly. I used to have to fire up the laptop if I wanted any pictures. And what's a post without pictures?!?! So here's a try with a picture of our 2017 tomato crop - late planted and late harvested like always. 😉

These should ripen slowly over the next couple of months.

There are three breeding lines represented here:
"Wooly Pimp" on the left derived from currant tomato and Angora.
"Wooly Yellow Pear" which has the Wooly gene introgressed into 'Yellow Pear'. I specifically selected this particular line because it evidentially had a crossover event to get the pear/oval fruit shape and Wooly onto the same chromosome.

"Wooly Beefsteak" to the right of the scissors are derived from outcrossing some older Wooly lines with bigger types like 'Coustralee' and 'Mortgage Lifter'.
I'm undecided on whether I like the dark green shoulders of some of these or if I prefer the "shoulder-less" ones. Seems like I recall some association with increased pigment and so nutrient content, but that dark green shoulders were also maybe associated with uneven ripening???

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Some other bamboos

On the left is Sasa kurilensis, from the Kuril Islands between Japan and Russia. It's a shorter, groundcovering bamboo, that only gets about waist high. On the right, is Indocalamus tessellatus. It's a little over my head, so more than 6ft (2m) tall. The tall poles growing in the background (and a few within these clumps) are Phyllostachys angusta (Stone Bamboo).


Since discovering the usefulness of charcoal, we've been trying to make small batches of it when we can. Our big bamboo patch makes lots of poles that when split are excellent for making charcoal fires.
See the nice blaze that the split bamboo poles make. They have to be split though because any trapped air inside the sealed nodes can cause an explosion when heated
When we've gotten tired of tending the fire, we let it get to the stage where it's mostly just hot coals. This one was a little past that stage - it was getting relatively ashy on the outside. 
So at this point quenching with buckets of water, will stop the burning and leave you with mostly charcoal instead of ashes. 
Beautiful and soggy "black gold". 

This is a big plastic pot full of [well-cooled] charcoal. It looks whitish because there's a layer of ice coating the surface. We're letting this batch weather a while before we use it. I have it sitting next to some comfrey plants so that any ashes leaching out will go to good use (fertilizing the comfrey).
An example of its usefulness: I've used it dug into the planting holes when planting hardy kiwi vines to prevent root rot. The kiwis have thrived. All three times I've tried growing kiwi before (without charcoal) they've always died.
I've also seen charcoal powder cure container grown iris seedlings of some sort of root rot.
We're experimenting with using it in the vegetable garden. It's supposed to increase the cation exchange capacity of the soil (a measure of the soils ability to hold onto elements like potassium, calcium, magnesium etc. I haven't personally seen anything convincing from what we've used so far for soil improvement, but it's only been a short while for that. On the other hand, those cases of rescue from root rots have been pretty convincing to me. 

Viola arvensis hybrids

These pansies and F4 Viola arvensis X pansy hybrids are getting plenty of cold challenge. I was planning on putting them in the ground but ran out of time, so they're toughing it out in pots. We've at least gotten as low as 9 F so far and also had several days where the temperature never rose out of the teens and low twenties. On these days, they all look like frozen spinach.
Here's a select F4 line from the Viola arvenis X pansy crosses. I've kept a few of the more special ones indoors. This particular line is orange and pretty uniform already.
Close-up of the flower.  

This is another of the F4 arvensis hybrids, selected for having a lot of pubescence on the stems. No good reason for this selection, I just thought it would be fun to pull them in the direction of furriness to see how furry they could get.