Friday, September 26, 2008

An African Bouquet

Here two African flowers share the spotlight in the "slope" garden, the newest addition to my school garden in Chappaqua. The blue forget me not, Anchusa capensis, is a short lived perennial from South Africa, but they usually flower the first year, as this one is doing. A few smaller plants did not flower this year, they may make it through the winter to flower next year. Next to the Anchusa is the magenta form of Crassocephalum rubens, a species I introduced from collections I made in 1991 in a visit to Malawi. Actually I brought back two forms, the magenta one from the Likabula area of Mulanje Mountain, and a bright blue one that was not uncommon on the Zomba plateau. Although it lacks ray flowers, it is colorful and cute, not in the gaudy way of more showy members of its family like marigolds and zinnias, but in a more subtle manner. I gave some plants I started of the magenta form to Wave Hill, and have heard that they looked good and grew well. It is tropical, and probably an annual even in habitat, and certainly best grown that way. Plants can grow up to three feet high, branch profusely, and make many flowers all summer until frost, and interesting seed heads that resemble dandelion seed heads. I do not know if it will self sow in our climate (it does if grown indoors) but next year I will find out if its seeds can survive our winters and regrow, as both the magenta and blue forms are in the slope garden (and seeding quite abudantly). I find it appreciates lots of sun for best results, like many other annuals.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pelargoniums and Portulacas

This pic shows a small scene in my school garden in Chappaqua, rather the new "slope" garden that I created with the help of my AP bio classes last year. They broke ground and planted the first plants, then I continued to plant, dig, and weed all summer, and the result is very gratifying indeed. Here are two of my favorite flowers, one is a giant form of portulaca which is twice as big as the common sort, seen behind it. This is the magenta one, but there is also a white form. It produces little seed, compared to the regular variety, but is easily propped (and overwintered indoors) by cuttings. Truth is I haven't yet planted the little seed I harvested from it last year, it might be interesting to see if any crosses occured with the normal sort of portulaca. The pink pelargonium is one of my creations from my grad student days at Cornell. I call it Nuwe Pad, Afrikaans for "New Direction" (any spelling corrections are welcome). It is most odd, being a tetraploid with a zonal pelargonium called Rio as one parent, and a tetraploid hybrid I made at Cornell via tissue culture from a white zonal pelargonium and P. aridum as the other parent. P. aridum looks quite unrelated to the zonals, but crosses I did proved otherwise. It is a small plant with deeply divided leaves, small yellow flowers, and red tuberous roots. So somewhere in Nuwe Pad lurk genes for yellow color and finely divided foliage. NP is almost impossible to self, but just this year I was able to cross it with a red tetraploid pelargonium I grew from stored seed, which I evidently created but apparently lost the information on its origin. I will grow some of them out later this year. NP is a nice plant itself, growing rather compactly with single pink flowers and rich green foliage that is quite distinct.