Sunday, September 28, 2014

propagation challenges

In propagation by cuttings, there are so many factors to consider. A month or so ago, I took cuttings of Salvia officinalis var. minimus. Some of the cuttings I struck in perlite, a few more I struck in potting mix. Two weeks later, roots were snaking out of the drainage holes. So easy, I thought. But when I unpotted them, only a couple of the cuttings in perlite were just barely putting out roots, the ones in the potting mix had well-developed roots. I figured I learned that the cuttings were easy in potting mix, and slow in perlite. I took more cuttings, struck them in potting mix. They all rotted. I tried again two weeks ago, striking the cuttings in Pro-Mix. Two weeks later, still no roots. So either I did something different when I took the cuttings (did I take a heel the first time, or did I not? Did I take tip cuttings or basal cuttings?), or it is timing, both, or neither. The heel cuttings that I took of lavender at the same time are looking pretty bad, and the rosemary cuttings look okay (no roots yet though). Incidentally, the cutting I took of the rose 'Bolero' at the same time, is growing roots out the bottom of the pot. Go figure.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

half moon bay nurseries

This last week was a trip back to California to see the family. One of the things that I had to do was to go to Yerba Buena Nursery, a native plant nursery near my sister's house, to suggest some things for her barren slope. I was terribly excited when we finally got there, and my sister who was telling me about something, finally said, "I don't think you are paying attention to anything I'm saying, your eyes are full of plants." I said "yep" but that didn't stop her. It was nice to hang out with her.

I was surprised to discover that she doesn't like Ceanothus. I mean, who doesn't like Ceanothus?  She doesn't, that's who. Lots of other delightful goodies.

I was surprised to see that Yerba Buena was only one of several specialty plant nurseries in a row.

Unfortunately the succulent nursery was closed.

As was the carnivorous plant nursery. But as luck would have it, the owner was stopping by and opened up for us. I bought a Sarracenia 'Dana's Delight' to try.

I was surprised to see a few military guys, all in camouflage, come in. One guy mentioned that he had come another day, and they were closed. He was looking for a plant/pet, and bought a Venus fly-trap (Dionaea muscipula). They had some nice ones there with particularly red coloration.

 I hope my 'Dana's Delight' looks this good when it grows up.

Nice display of phalaenopsis at the orchid grower.

Then on to Half Moon Bay Nursery, a truck delivering some plants. What an enormous nursery with row after row of enticing offerings.

I bought some seeds, some Crocus speciosus, and a Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs'. I wonder if 'Blue Springs' looks anything like 'Margarita BOP.' Very sad to leave, but we were out of time.


Just came back from a week away, and 'Snowbound' is looking better and better. Definitely want more next year. Blooms are a good 8 inches in diameter.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

feels like fall

Aster 'Purple Dome' cavorting with Schizachyrium. Feels like fall.


'Snowbound' is the only one of the four dahlias that I bought from Dan's Dahlias that has survived to bloom. The dahlia that I grew last year, was so easy and prolific, that I assumed that the new ones would be as well, but they struggled, and grew very slowly and sluggishly. Two finally died outright. A third is still struggling. 'Snowbound' seems to have made it though. Maybe I bought them too late. Or planted them too late. Or they were in too hot of an area. I'm not blaming the company I bought them from. But I might try another company next time, just to see.

Monday, September 1, 2014

winchester cathedral, update

Today, September 1, 2014

The next critical stage has come for my 'Winchester Cathedral' cuttings, the planting out stage. This is a critical stage, because it is another sudden and dramatic change in environment for the plants. The first critical stage, is of course getting the cuttings to root. I had put the one in the bottom of the photo below in a plastic bag to retain moisture, and was rewarded with yellow leaves. It still rooted, however.

May 13, 2014
The next critical stage is when they go from the rooting medium to a more dense medium, where I have lost quite a few cuttings. You wouldn't think that this was that critical, since there are a lot of roots already formed when moved to a potting mix, but there you have it. You'd think this medium (below) was pretty good (Foxfarm), but I lost one cutting before repotting the other two into something better (Pro-Mix).

June 14, 2014, 2-1/4" pots (the one that had the yellow leaves is on the right)

The next critical step is moving them from greenhouse pampering, to outdoor (albeit protected) life with wind, bugs, direct sunlight. It is much, much easier for them to dry out since they are in a porous medium, with 5% humidity and intense high altitude sunlight here. There is a very fine line between "slightly wilted while getting used to the new climate" to "dead." This is particularly difficult with plants that need full sun and have grey leaves, since a shaded position results in etiolated growth, rot and death. This can occur while the plants are very tiny, so that the tendency is to give them more sun, risking death due to dehydration, which is also more likely since the plants are so tiny and the root systems are only just developing. I try to watch them carefully and move them from sunlight to shade, but I can't do that when I'm at work. It is devastating to come home from work to dead plants after 2 months (or more) of careful patience.

July 19, 2014, 4" pots

Four months after the cuttings were struck, and the 'Winchester Cathedral' cuttings have filled up their 1 gallon pots. It is getting late in the season, so they must go into the ground. They are going from a pampered, well drained, competition free, fluffy relatively sterile medium, with attention to their every whim of water and light, even root space, to the harsh realities of the ground, with the huge variety of potential pathogens, not to mention bugs, even more intense sunlight, wind, erratic moisture and possibly root competition. I had planted out my hard won 'Bolero' cuttings too soon, and one suddenly wilted and didn't perk up with irrigation. Uh-oh. I checked the roots the next day, and they had either rotted or were eaten. I should have waited until the plants were bigger before planting them out, so that the root  I suspect that the fragile new roots had dried out where they joined the stem, and died. Months of work down the drain. I should have waited until the root junction had become woody before planting out.

flowering while still in the pot

So I don't begrudge the plant companies who charge what seems like an astronomical $25 per rose bush when I could be making cuttings myself for a couple dollars of potting mix, rooting hormone, perlite and water. For that money, I am getting a year's advance in growth, and much less worry. My pocketbook, on the other hand, argues with me.