Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Mad Propagationist, Part 1

Before the discovery of heat mats, the gardening year for me would end in October and start up again in March.  The only horticulturally stimulating thing that ever really happened during winter was venturing outside during the occasional arctic blast to wrap Christmas lights and blankets around some of the more subtropical plants (not fun).

Now that I'm armed with a greenhouse and a propagation station in the garage, the gardening year never ends.

The propagation station
To create my pocket-sized propagation paradise, I put a 48"x20.5" heat mat from Home Depot on the workbench in the garage and hung two fluorescent light fixtures 24" above the mat.  Each fixture has four light tubes producing 2600 lumens of light for a grand total of 20,800 lumens.  I have the lights on a timer so they are on for exactly 12 hours a day.  I also have the heat mat plugged in to an ordinary lamp dimmer so I can adjust the temperature as needed.

The great thing about having this station in the garage as opposed to a greenhouse is slugs & bugs can't find it.  It is also very helpful in rooting cuttings and starting seedlings because the air temperature is in the 45-60 degree range while the root temperature is in the 60-75 degree range.  Because the root temperature is about 10-20 degrees warmer than the air temperature, the plants focus on developing strong root systems and don't get too tall or floppy.  Let's take a look at what I have growing here at the moment:

Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii' pups resprouting from the base
Rooted leaf cutting of an unknown begonia (From Steve Hootman at the RSBG), rooted Fuchsia 'Hawkshead' cutting, and a Beschorneria yuccoides seedling
Bulbules & roots forming on the leaf of Eucomis 'Rhode Island Red'
Learning how to propagate plants is really all about failing upward.  This sweet bay cutting was taken way back in September 2013 (15 months ago) yet has still refused to root!  Four out of the 30 or so cuttings that I originally took are still alive after going 15 months without having any roots whatsoever.  This one even produced four new leaves in the meantime.  Plants are amazing.

A stubborn Laurus nobilis cutting
I have also taken some hardwood cuttings outside.  Here, are Deutzia 'Pink-A-Boo' branches that are about to be mostly buried in a pot of peat moss, left and forgotten about for three months, and then hopefully rooted to become new clones of the original.  I've also taken some hardwood cuttings from willow, grape, and fig branches.

Deutzia 'Pink-A-Boo' branches
Plant propagation takes a lot of patience, diligence and failure but is at the same time endlessly rewarding even for the average gardener who isn't interested starting their own nursery.  Stay tuned to see what else is being replicated in the greenhouse...

Friday, November 28, 2014

Awesome Plants from Northern Vietnam

Two of the tallest mountains in Vietnam - Fansipan and Y Tý - host some of the most amazing plants capable of being grown in temperate zones.  Plant explorers Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones from Crûg Farm Plants in Wales, U.K. regularly visit these two mountains in order to hunt for seed and introduce them into cultivation.  The bad news is they cannot ship to the U.S. so some of these plants are several years away from being even remotely obtainable.

During their visit to Seattle last month, they shared with us some of their seed collections.  Each plant listed below is either linked to a post about it on their website or a Google search if no post exists.  Many of their collections are new to science which means they aren't going to have much of an Internet presence, but that is all the more reason to find them and grow them!

Dendropanax cf. trifidus
Chirita speciosa 'Crûg Cornetto'
Illicium merrillianum
Daphniphyllum longeracemosum
Schizophragma cf. intergrifolia
Magnolia crassifolia
Magnolia sapaensis
Arisaema petelotii
Aesculus wangii
Zanthoxylum planispinum
Clematis fasciculiflora
Hedychium aff. tengchongense
Hedychium urophyllum
Hedychium forrestii
Magnolia insignis
Exbucklandia tonkinensis
Edgeworthia gardneri
Betula insignis subsp. fansipanensis
Lindera angustifolia
Hydrangea davidii (Hydrangea indochinensis)
Holboellia brachyandra
Daphne bholua
Sarcococca bleddynii
Stauntonia aff. libera
Dichroa versicolor
Disporum trabeculatum
Schefflera brevipedicellata
Schefflera macrophylla
Caulokaempferia petelotii
Viburnum fansipanense
Viburnum hoanglienense
Polygonatum mengtzense f. fonkinensis
Ypsilandra yunnanensis var. fansipanensis
Disporopsis fansipanensis
Schefflera aff. pauciflora
Schefflera alpina
Rhodoleia championii

Y Tý
Acer heptaphlebium
Daphniphyllum aff. chartaceum
Shortia sinensis
Oreocharis atrocuneata (not on the Internet)
Magnolia foveolata
Amomum aromaticum
Illicium majus
Rehderodendron indochinensis
Lindera tonkinensis
Rhododendron aff. sinofalconeri
Rhodoleia parcipetala (not on the Internet)
Lilium primulinum
Lilium eupetes
Uocoderodendron whartonii (not on the Internet)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Far Reaches Farm...Finally!

Last week I finally made it to Far Reaches Farm in Port Townsend, WA for the very first time.  I was completely determined to go this year before they closed for the season.  Their selection of plants is mind-boggling.  Like Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina or Cistus Nursery in Oregon, this is a horticultural hotspot.  And being the horticultural hotspot that it is, I did manage to pick up a few plants:

Top row (from left):
Eucryphia moorei - It's only hardy to Zone 9 but that's why pots exist.  I couldn't resist the pinnate evergreen foliage.
Iris japonica CR038 - This iris gets tall and forms purple "trunks".  Supposedly evergreen.
Sarcococca hookeriana ex G-W&P# - Interested to see how this differs from S. confusa.
Magnolia macrophylla subsp. ashei - A dwarf version of the big leaf magnolia.

Middle row:
Eucomis 'Rhode Island Red' - This gets huge and completely exudes the tropical look.
Woodwardia unigemmata - Giant, evergeen fern with the new growth a brilliant coppery-bronze.
Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Edge of Night' - Black mondo grass with a thin white strip along the edges.
Dryopteris championii - It was simply an evergreen fern that I didn't have.
Asarum maximum 'Shell Shocked' - Ridiculously huge leaves for a wild ginger.

Ozothamnus 'Sussex Silver' - Another silver plant to add to the collection.
Eucomis pole-evansii 'Purpurea' - I'm hoping it will be darker than 'Sparkling Burgundy'.

Clematis finetiana CDHM 14683 - Rare, evergreen, hardy clematis.

Clematis finetiana CDHM 14683
Cautleya spicata 'Robusta'

Cautleya spicata 'Robusta'
This post exists solely to label plants that couldn't fit in this post.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Clone Me!

I admit and accept that I am addicted to plants.  No, not smoking them, just buying and growing them.  In order to not go bankrupt, I have resorted to propagation.  It's not a get-rich-quick scheme by any means (it's not even a get-rich-slow scheme) but I did manage to make a nice chunk of change this summer out of just a few plant sales.

There are many ways to propagate plants.  One of the easiest and most rewarding methods is called air-layering.  Air-layering is simply getting a branch to grow roots from some place on the branch.  This is done by scraping off a section of the cambium layer (the green layer under the bark) all the way around the branch, brushing the exposed white sapwood with root tone, surrounding the entire scraped off part with a handful of moist peat moss (or other rooting medium) and then enclosing it in a waterproof barrier such as plastic wrap.  The bad news is it's likely too late in the season to try this outside now.  It will work on just about any woody houseplant any time of the year.

Here is a Lion's Head Maple (Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira') which was successfully rooted using the air-layering method.  I severed it from the mother plant and potted up into a one-gallon pot.  The roots are still young so I'm keeping it in a cool, shady spot until it's more established.

Here is another awesome plant, Crinodendron hookerianum, aka Chilean Lantern Tree, which was more than ready to be potted up.  Now the dilemma is to decide whether to sell it or to keep it and plant it somewhere else!

Finally, here is the first ever Schefflera taiwaniana that I've propagated.

Everything I needed to know about air-layering I learned online.  Here are two videos I'd recommend watching if you're interested in trying this out for yourself:

Dan Hinkley - Air Layering

Mikes Backyard - Air Layering