September 13, 2007

thmells and thounds like Smithiantha

Smithiantha 'Big Dots Rule'

This summer I decided to grow a number of more unusual Gesneriads, all members of Gesneriaceae, the family which includes African Violets and Streptocarpus. Although I am not addicted yet, I did invest in a number of species and hybirds, including this SMithiantha hybrid called 'Big Dots Rule'. In addition to this, you can see in some other containers in the back, the alpine forms of Petrocosmea, with thier nice, neat, uniform flat rosettes, and some others species, of which, I would need to pull the labels out of the containers so that I could remember them.
In the greenhouse, I also planted about 35 pots of Achemenes, as I showed in an earlier post. These little rhyzotomous plants all enjoy the same cultural requirements, and although not an expert, I did learn from some memebers of the Gesneriad Society, and from web research, that most of these are summer growing, winter dormant plants which prefer never to dry out, and like thier roots cool. I have all of my pots of Smithiantha and Achemenes in the greenhouse, where there is shade cloth protecting them from the hot sun, and glass overhead, so that they don't get rained on, but the foliage is still a little spotted, because I was lazy some days with the hose, and so much glass is broken, a little moisture dropped on the leaves.

I am not certain if water on the foliage is even a big deal, since somedays, in the afternoons when it is hot, I spray them all down with fresh water, much as I do my African Violets in the sink. As long as they have time to dry before nightfall, I rarely have a porblem, and visitors mention how nice the foliage looks. In the greenhouse, I have not been so careful, and to be honest, this is just an experiment, to see if first of all, I can grow these plants.

The African Violet relative, Smithiantha 'Big Dots Rule', in my plant window.
I moved a few into glass containers and brought them into the house, I planted sheet moss, which grows on the foundation inside the greenhouse, and placed it under the leaves, and used some vintage bell jars to create a humid environment. Oh yeah, and a shipment of nice Guy Wolff pots which came mistakenly with the saucers attached, and thus, useless in the bulb house, are making nice indoor displays for these gesneriads.

In the next few weeks, I think you will all see more of these plants on this blog, since they are just starting to bud and bloom. It is fun discovering a new plant, and most of these are familiar through pictures, and a childhood of reading the Park Seed catalog, which often featured Achemenes, but I never tried to grow them. Starting with more than 30, is a little fun, since I can see many differences and nuances between the species and hybrids. The Smithanthas I really like, and I will order more next spring. So far, the Achemenes are not thrilling me.

OF note: Smithianthas are a genus named after Matilda Smith (1884 - 1922), she was Sir Joseph Hookers second cousin, and clearly a lovely (and cheerful) lady. Her name immortalized many plants because the painted them for the journals and explorers of the time. (Hooker, head of Kew in that era, and a well known plant explorer from the Mutany on the Bounty days of Kew). She later became a well known botanic illustrator for the horticultural journal, Curtis Botanical Magazine, which is still published today, and worth getting if you can afford it. (google Blackwell Publishing in the states). The plates still sell on ebay, and the magazine is worth the 75 US dollars for the four issues.

Grow Smithianthas in a good, organic, well drained soil, much like that one would use for African Violets. Never let them dry out, keep them cool, perhaps indoors or on an protected terrace where they do not get sun in the summer. These are mainly summer growers, and will start to go dormant after they bloom, between Sept and Dec. They have supposedly little rhyzomes, yet I ordered my plants from Kartuz Greenhouses, Kartuz.com. Order in the spring or early summer. Worth trying for that little something that your neighbors and friends will not find at your local supermarket, yet, just as easy as any houseplant. Best of all, they bloom at a time when little beyond mums and dahlias excite the senses.

1 comment :

  1. Hi Matt

    Nice blog you have here, I am a plant collector and geek. I grow over a hundred different species, and the Streptocarpus is one of the species I have. I love any plants that is related to the African Violets. Nice post!

    Outside In


It's always a good thing to leave a comment!