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Saturday, 26 November 2011

'Princess Alexandra' & An Update

'Princess Alexandra' is a very neat pelargonium with rounded, splotched variegated leaves and light purple semi double blooms.  It often produces ghost sports (pure white branches) and I am pretty sure this plant is a tetraploid, as it does not cross with others (in my experience at least), not to mention is pretty funky looking (I swear most tetraploids have unique foliages/growth habits).  I killed my original plant by making a foolish mistake with rubbing alcohol...never get this stuff near the roots!  Thankfully I got another cutting and currently have an ample stock of this variety growing.

I have not updated this blog for a very long time.  I apologize for the delay.  Work has been very hectic, and the fall transition of the plants was quite the chore.  The light gardens had 2 cuttings of each variety started 2 months ago, and I have since moved the duplicates of most varieties into the greenhouse and still need to space out the remainders so they have adequate air space to circulate.  I am foolish for keeping certain more vigorous varieties under lights, but as a paranoid gardener, I expect the worst when it comes to the greenhouse.

My crosses from last year are blooming and doing very well.  Many will be available next spring if I can multiply them quick enough.  There are a few new miniatures and fancy leaved varieties fortunately, and once they are listed and named I will get pictures up for you all to see.  I have one microminiature that is perhaps 2 inches tall...after a year!!!  It has yet to flower, but its so tiny that I am afraid to clone it in the near future.  I have not crossed as many this fall, but a cross of note that has set seed is 'Little John' x 'Mr Henry Cox'.  My fingers are crossed with this one.

The Ontario Club met last weekend and it was nice to talk with new members and old members whom I have not had the chance to get to know yet.  The next meeting is in February at the TBG, so I will post more information closer to the years end.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

'Grainger's Humanity'

The first year a plant is hybridized and grown you never really can tell how well it will hold up.  Last year 'Grainger's Humanity' was created, and with the dark green leaves and semi-double blood-red blooms, it has great contrast value.  Over the winter months in the greenhouse, more and more people were pointing it out to me so I produced more in very limited number to trial this summer.  Well, it has held up exceptionally well.  It is a true dwarf, grows thick, and blooms profusely.  As crazy as it seems, it is not easy to get a dwarf/miniature variety with blood-red strong blooms, so this variety will hopefully spread across the country in time because I sure do enjoy it.

With the much needed rain, please make sure to check your stems and petioles for black mildew spots.  Some varieties like 'Dolly Varden' and 'Boths's Beauty' are always susceptible, but check them all.  Use a sulphur-based fungicide (Safers makes one) and lightly scrub the fungus spots off with paper towel piece that have been wet first with the fungicide.  I never cross contaminate by using small cut squares of the paper towel and throwing them out after each specimen.  Also, remove any leaves with brown botritus spots if they appear in this wet weather.  A stitch in time saves nine.

Monday, 25 July 2011

'Barbara Hines' & The Return of Rain!

'Barbara Hines' is one of the most beautiful blooming pelargoniums around.  The massive buds of pink and white cluster together in heavy bundles set against a fairly typical green foliage.  When I got my first specimen it was slow to grow as sin...I am now confident that it was paralyzed somehow (perhaps a pest like the root mealy), but cuttings after cuttings has my current stock healthy and vigorous, and I find this to be a strong grower.

Here in Southern Ontario we have had one hot, DRY summer so far.  The lawns everywhere are yellow, and only the most devoted gardeners have kept their gardens lush through frequent watering.  I have let my lawn go dormant which looks sad, but I have not had to cut it in a month!  I am also hoping the perennial weeds die, and the "dormant" turf wakes up with a greater resilience and once again becomes a thick green carpet.  Ha.  Even I dont buy this line.  I am in for a lot of work trying to get this lawn back to normal.

Today it has finally rained significantly, and even though I normally hate excessive rainfalls, I am enjoying the break in watering.  I think I have stated before that I dont let most of my pelargonium collection get rained one heavily...so last night I tarped, shuffled, and moved trays and trays of plants knowing this storm was coming.  It paid off too as the big Ontario show is in a month, and I want some perfect specimens free from any fungal problems.  Dont forget to come check out the big show at the Toronto Botanical Gardens this August 21st, 2011.

I have noticed that grasshoppers are much earlier this year, and combined with a dry hot summer this is not good.  As I recall, swarming conditions favour this.  I cant imagine saving my collections from a swarm of locusts.  What a nightmare situation!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

'Richard Key' & The Summer Heat

'Richard Key' is a golden leaved pelargonium with a distinctive dark bronze zoned leaf.  The flowers are mauve, full, and complement the foliage very well.  This variety sprawls, and is likely best planted where it can cascade.  Keeping a specimen well shaped will be going against it's nature of growth.

Well the heat and humidity has hit southern Ontario.  We have not had much rain for quite a while now, and the expected downpour last night did not add up to much.  Everyone is letting their lawns go dormant, including myself.  I have not done this before and may regret doing so, but seeing as it has been so dry, and there is more than enough watering to be done with the collections and gardens, something has to give.  My fear is that the weeds will overtake the grass even more than they have already.  The worst always seems to be the grass in the boulevard...the strip between the sidewalk and the road.  What a dried up mess!  I should plant a massive amount of geraniums in there next year...I bet they would do better.  As always, the Mrs Quilter plants that went into the garden beds look awesome.  If you haven't tried sacrificing extras into the garden beds before, I highly suggest it.  As good as our fertilizers are, plants seem to find the cure-all trace elements in the garden soil and grow exceptionally well.  Just goes to show that we have a lot to learn yet about plant physiology. 

Thursday, 23 June 2011

'Elmsett' & The Great Migration Home

'Elmsett' is one of the best dwarf fancy leaved and fancy flowered varieties.  It it tough, blooms all the time, and does very well under lights or in direct sun.  It is a great bullet-proof variety for introducing somebody into dwarf pelargoniums as it is not finicky and gives you a lot of value for the care required.

Every spring my greenhouse stock plants make the trip to my backyard.  This year I am retiring some plants and repotting those rarer varieties, but the end result is 100s of plants getting loaded into my car and transported to their summer vacation spot...my patios, decks, around the pool...just about anywhere I can find a spot.  My neighbours must think I am mad.  I find this a bad time to take cuttings, yet for those plant I retire, I often try some if I do not have many replacements on the go.  Juggling 100s of varieties is mind-numbing, and my greatest pelargonium fear is pitching a plant without having backup.  Always check the soil of older plant's pots for disease evidence or pests, and if you do take cuttings now, it is best to keep them in a semi-sunny at best location out of the direct heat of the sun.  And for those really, really rare tricolour plants (especially silver tricolours), keep some plants under lights indoors as backup.  I have learned that my 'Dolly Varden' plants love the shaded gazebo. 

Monday, 13 June 2011

'Bird Dancer' &Cleaning Out The Greenhouse

'Bird Dancer' is a pelargonium that I have had in my collection for a very, very long time.  My mother bought one at a garden center back in the 90s, and it sat on the kitchen table for many months slowly growing.  It was gradually potted into larger containers and I recall it getting very large...at least a foot tall!  It sadly passed away, but cuttings of cuttings of cuttings later, I still keep it growing in my collection.  It is a miniature stellar, but it can over time accumulate size.  It is also classified as a fancy leaved variety as it has a dark zone.  The blooms are pink and very thin.

Sorting out the last stock of a large greenhouse is quite the chore.  It is somewhat like spring cleaning...some plants are pitched, others given away, and some prized specimens carefully up-potted for the summer months.  I produced more than I should have, but I would rather have material to share than not enough to meet the demands of the sales.  Some people are like vultures when I am doing this and will jump on anything that hits the compost can.  I try to tell people why I get rid of certain plants but many dont bother listening...a free plant is a free plant I guess.  I suppose people like a challenge.  One thing is for certain...I have learned what not to grow so much of for next year.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

'Ray Bidwell', Japanese Maples, & Ducks

'Ray Bidwell' is a miniature tricolour variety with dark pink blooms.  It grows fairly strong for a miniature tricolour, but I find it doesnt bloom as much as I would like.  It grabs attention and this specimen has grown particularly well for me.  It was started from a cutting last fall, and now fills up a 4 " pot nicely.

I also grow Japanese maples.  This variety is called 'Butterfly' and has tricolour foliage.  It is partially shaded under an umbrella (spoiled plants) which helps prevent scorching in the summer's heat. 


I cant believe that ducks have landed in the (unopened) swimming pool.  Dear lord, I have ducks.  They are cute too, so they will be hard to evict, but I cant imagine hosting them all summer.  If they start to nest I dont know what to do.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

'Rick Jordan'

'Rick Jordan' is one of the best stellars around.  It grows thick and has bright pink blooms that seem to pop.  I have learned it is a popular plant too through this year's sales, so I will up the production next year.  I have not had luck with using it in breeding, but perhaps in due time.

The month of May is always hectic, and now that the greenhouse is clearing out and I can actually breathe, I am in the process of retiring older stock plants.  Few gardeners do this regularly enough.  The best vigorous plants are 1-2 years old in my opinion.  It is sad to compost old friends, but you can always plant them out in the garden for one last showing before the frost claims them.

Other plants I should have grown more of for sales: 'Royal Norfolk', 'Elmsett', 'Grainger's Strawberry Jam', 'Red Explosion' and 'Decon Peacock'.  Live and learn I guess. 

The best seller by far was/is 'Grainger's Antique Rose'.  When I get my act together I will take more photos to share.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Pelargoniums As Cut Flowers?

Surprisingly enough pelargoniums can make really nice cut flower arrangements.  Granted they do not last as long sometimes, but when collectors are cleaning up plants regularly this provides ample opportunity to make an arrangment.

At the last Ontario show I entered some rosebud cut blooms ('Grainger's Antique Rose' & 'Appleblossom') in an antique majollica pot.  I think the pattern is actually cabbage, but it also resembles pelargonium leaves to me, so it seemed like a good fit.  I didnt win first prize, but it does show just how decorative pelargoniums can be.  Not a great scent, but considering the cost involved (nothing), it's hard to complain.  I find doubles, semi doubles, and rosebuds make the best blooms for arrangements and will usually last a few days.

'Grainger's Little Devil'

When 'Grainger's Little Devil' was a seedling I could tell it would be a miniature.  When seedlings branch quickly it is a good sign.  And a stellar that grows thick is another good quality, as many older varieties need regular pruning to keep a good shape.  'Grainger's Little Devil' has green foliage with reddish petioles and single red blooms.  The one flaw is that the petals drop (shatter) fairly easy, so hopefully I can use it to breed a double with similar leaf and growing habits.  It clones easily, and all of my stock plants are loaded with blooms right now.

The weather in Southern Ontario is rain, rain, and more rain!  For the month of May I cannot recall another another that has been so wet.  We are at least 2 weeks behind in heat.