Friday, September 11, 2015

Anthurium no. 0328 "Polly Esther Blend"

This post took a while to shape into something I would have considered posting, and then on Sunday I decided I didn't like it. So I started it over from scratch, which means that all kinds of things have happened between this post and the one I posted on Wednesday.

The main thing that's happened, which took all of one day and a few hours from a second, is that I redid the shelves in the basement. Took all the plants off,1 took all the lights off, disassembled the shelves, cleaned the shelves, cleaned the lights,2 reassembled the shelves, put the lights back on, put the plants back on. It was also fairly frantic work, because I still needed to water plants the next day, so the situation was basically: I had exactly sixteen hours, in which to do exactly sixteen hours of work.

All this was necessary because I'd run out of room, and there was no more floor space to take over, so the only direction I could expand was up. And the only place I could actually expand upwards was at one end of the shelves -- everywhere in the basement there were 6-foot-tall shelves except for some 4-footers at one end. So I bought a new 6-foot shelf set, which I swapped in for the four-foot shelves, and I got a few cubic feet near the ceiling. And I took the opportunity to adjust the shelf heights, so the plants don't have to burn themselves on the fluorescent bulbs anymore and everything has enough space to grow a little.

Things aren't entirely settled yet; I still need to hang a light from the ceiling in one spot, and I'd really like to find an alternate location for some non-Anthurium plants, because I'd overlooked them in the original planning and so now they're in empty shelves I'd intended to use for Anthurium expansion, but I guess things are okay for the moment. Certainly the framework is in place, and I can tweak stuff later as the opportunities present themselves.3

Anyway. So.

I wasn't expecting 0328 "Polly Esther Blend" to turn out like she did. Polly has two siblings who had bloomed before her: 0329 "Gladys Panzarov," which is an intense, saturated orange with a beige spadix, and 0330 "Faye Quinette," which is complicated, but sort of a light red-orange / beige.4 What I got from Polly instead was light pink / beige, which is the first time I've seen that particular color combination.

Seeing Polly, Gladys, and Faye side-by-side, you wouldn't think that they were particularly closely related.5

Top to bottom: 0328 "Polly Esther Blend," 0329 "Gladys Panzarov," 0330 "Faye Quinette." I suppose you could argue that they look sort of related, insofar as they're all at least slightly orange with beige-ish spadices, and neither Polly nor Faye are very dark. But "I guess they could maybe be related" is not the same thing as "OMG those are definitely related," as is the case with some of the other sibling groups.

The strongest resemblances Polly has to her sisters are in the size of her spathes (small side of normal, like Gladys) and her leaves, which are basically identical to Gladys's:

As she aged, Polly's spadix lost whatever yellow tint it started out with, and the spathe went from an ambiguous light orange-pink to a less interesting light pink.

Left: August 1. Right: August 11.

So that's a little disappointing. Polly is also shorter than her siblings, which is odd but not necessarily bad.

I'm not sure what kind of breeding potential there might be from Polly (do I really want to tempt the gods to send me more pink Anthuriums?), but I like her, and I intend to keep her. We'll see how things go.


1 There was also a temporary side benefit, in that our downstairs toilet has never looked lovelier:

I mean, we couldn't use it, but it was pretty. For a toilet. The photo really doesn't do it justice.
And why were there Anthuriums around the toilet? Well, I had something like 120 square feet of plants to put somewhere while I got the shelves together, and the basement only had just so much free space, so plants wound up everywhere. Around the toilet, in the shower, on the futon, under the stationary bike, on the coffee table, under the coffee table, etc.
2 In fairness, almost all of the shelf- and light-cleaning was taken on by the husband, who had better things to do with his time but did this for me anyway.
3 Also, I apologize for the lack of photos of the process. I did take pictures here and there as we went along, but I didn't take a "before" picture to compare to, which was a mistake, and the pictures I did get mostly didn't turn out well and more or less fail to illustrate what happened.
4 I keep meaning to do a follow-up blog post about Faye, but the new seedlings keep taking all my attention. So maybe I should just talk about her here, since I brought her up.
Faye's got two blooms on her at once now, and the most amazing thing is that they both have these psychedelic, unphotographable backs, sort of brownish-orange with bright green veins. The front is a lighter and redder orange that fades to a light orange, which would be noteworthy all by itself, but the backs of the spathes make Faye really remarkable. My camera isn't up to the challenge, but here's the closest I've gotten so far:

In person, the contrast is much sharper and stronger, and the green is a lot more vivid. I'll keep trying to get a good picture, but don't hold your breath.
Faye has had problems off and on with scale, and I've recently started seeing thrips as well, though her leaves are broad and sturdy and so relatively easy to wipe off, so I'm not especially worried about the scale yet. It's not clear whether the thrips will actually become a problem or not.
5 There's a fourth sibling from the AX group (seed parent: NOID red; sow date: 9 November 2012), 0331 "Elvis Herselvis," but so far Elvis takes strongly after her mother. It looks like she's going to be a dark red, probably with either a green or white spadix, but she's developing very slowly so it might be a while before I can confirm this. In any case, it doesn't look like Elvis will look any more related to Polly, Gladys, or Faye than they do to one another.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pretty picture: Paphiopedilum Memoria Larry Heuer

I feel like the camera didn't handle this one particularly well this year. Fortunately, there's a better picture of the same plant from 2013, for anyone who's interested.

It seems like I took a lot of Paphiopedilum and Phragmipedium pictures again this year; some of the reason for that might be that they're easier to take pictures of. The auto-focus on the camera doesn't handle stuff with lots of little flowers at varying distances very well: it always seems to choose one particular bloom at random to focus on, and it's never the one I want it to focus on. But with a paph or phrag, the whole flower is right there, more or less facing the camera directly, and even if the pictures don't always turn out that well, they can't go wrong in as many ways.

Paphiopedilum Memoria Larry Heuer = Paphiopedilum malipoense x Paphiopedilum emersonii (Ref.)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Anthurium no. 0338 "Anne Fibian"

With some of these Anthurium-seedling posts, I've been trying to answer a question that I don't think anyone is actually asking: "should I try plant-breeding, too? Would I like it?" I mean, obviously the answer is going to depend on your personality and what kind of resources you have available, and even if I knew those things I still probably couldn't answer it very accurately. But it's been sort of fun to contemplate how plant breeding as a hobby is different from growing houseplants as a hobby, and the sorts of rewards (and penalties) that belong to one but not the other.

Not that I'm finished doing that; I mention it because, one, the seedling of the day is not very interesting so I'm going to need to talk about something else, and two, because I'm about to come up with another take on answering the question. But let's do the seedling first.

So Anne is: not great. At least so far. This is possibly a case where I should wait to make a decision until the second bloom. The first bloom, though, is a little spadix-heavy (or a little spathe-light, I suppose), and since it's also in the second most common color (red / yellow), I'm not really into it at all.

The foliage could be nice, if it weren't all pockmarked. I still haven't figured out what causes that. I assume it's the result of insect or mite damage on developing leaves, but I usually can't see any actual insects or mites, and from time to time, plants appear to grow out of it completely, which you wouldn't expect from a pest problem.

The overall habit1 is decently compact, though for a two-and-a-half-year-old plant, I'd expect more leaves than this. At least Anne's trying to offset.

I could imagine keeping Anne around, if she started to produce some better leaves, and if the second bloom is a little more normal-looking. I'm not in any rush to throw her out, at least. But I'm guessing she won't still be in the house in five years.

As far as the "should I try plant-breeding?" question:

Long ago, when my only real source of information was houseplant books -- and I read a lot of houseplant books -- I would never have had any idea that a lot of plants even could be grown from seed, because the authors never mentioned it. Presumably some of this comes from the assumption that readers would want exact duplicates of the plants they already had, and growing plants from seed won't usually give you that. Plus space is limited in a book, and growing plants from seed is a pretty niche interest. Growing plants from seed indoors is going to appeal to even fewer people, and you want people to buy your book. So I get it.

With that said, though, few books even mention that it's possible. Of the seven houseplant books I have handy,2 only two (Toogood, Griffith) so much as mention that Schlumbergeras can be grown from seed, and both of those are specialty books, one aimed at large-scale plant producers (Griffith) and the other specifically about plant propagation (Toogood). The situation is slightly better for Anthurium (Toogood, Kramer, Crockett, Griffith) and Spathiphyllum (Toogood, Kramer, Griffith), though none of the books have much to say about how one would grow either from seeds, or how one would get seeds to sow in the first place: they just note that it can be done. A surprising number of books fail to mention Coffea at all, and of those that do, only Crockett bothers to mention that they can be grown from seeds.3

So for the longest time, I assumed that there was no way to get more of certain plants I really enjoyed, like Anthurium, aside from the long, slow process of waiting for offsets.4, 5 So one of the incidental benefits of plant-breeding, at least when it comes to the Anthuriums and Spathiphyllums, is that it's opened up new things I can do with old, slow, or boring plants.

Sometimes that doesn't exactly pay off, as with Anne. But trying things is more interesting than not trying things.


1 Am I the only one who occasionally has a quick mental picture of plants as nuns and/or addicts, when reading about their "habits?" Just me? Okay.
2 • Stuckey, Maggie. The Houseplant Encyclopedia. The Philip Lief Group, Inc., Garden City, NY, 1993.
• Crockett, James Underwood. Crockett's Indoor Garden. Little, Brown & Company, Canada, 1978.
• Simons, Paul, and John Ruthven. Potted Histories. BBC Books, London, 1995.
• Powell, Dr. Charles C., and Donald M. Vining. Ortho's Complete Guide to Successful Houseplants. Ortho Books, San Francisco, CA, 1984.
• Kramer, Jack. The Illustrated Guide to Flowering Houseplants. Peerage Books, London, 1985.
• Toogood, Alan, ed. Plant Propagation. DK Publishing, Inc., New York, NY, 1999.
• Griffith, Lynn P., Jr. Tropical Foliage Plants: A Grower's Guide. Ball Publishing, Batavia, IL, 1998.
3 In fact, it usually seems to be taken for granted that if you have one Coffea, you're not going to want any more. I disagree, but you're probably not going to want a lot more. They do get really big.
I think I've read somewhere that Coffea can be grown from cuttings as well, though I've never tried it, and I'm pretty sure none of the books mention it. No idea where I might have seen that, but I keep meaning to try it some day, just to satisfy my own curiosity about whether it's possible.
4 Sucker production used to be something that breeders selected for, both because a plant with a lot of suckers looks fuller and can produce more blooms at once, and because the more suckers there are, the faster you can propagate a plant asexually. Now that tissue culture is the industry standard for propagation, suckers matter less: if you want a full plant with lots of blooms, it's easy enough to pot several tissue-cultured plants together.
That said, suckering has probably never been the main thing Anthuriums were selected for, and if your hybrid could resist bacterial and fungal infection, produced lots of large flowers on long, straight stems, had a novel bloom color, shipped well, and lasted a long time in a vase, you had a gold mine, whether it suckered a lot or not. Consequently, cultivars available in stores now vary tremendously in how many offsets they will produce, and the speed with which they will do so, so if you buy a plant you really like with the expectation of dividing lots of suckers from it, you may or may not find yourself disappointed.
5 Plant books usually don't mention that you can take top cuttings of Anthuriums either, though in that case it kind of makes sense: the plants that have been cut back recover slowly and may not rebloom for a couple years, and my experience has been that cuttings fail a lot more often than suckers do. (Usually they root in water fine, but then fall apart after getting moved to soil.)