Showing posts with label Gesneriads. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gesneriads. Show all posts

November 11, 2013


Once as common as ferns in a Victorian Fernery, the Florist Gloxinia and Cape Primrose, (Streptocarpus)
they fell out of fashion in the late 20th C. But thanks to Russian, Ukrainian and Polish hybridizers,
new and incredibly complex selections are arriving on our shores. 

 Remember this two years from now. I was the first to tell you that the Gloxinia is back. It's big, awesome and nothing at all like the old Gloxinia of 1960. But really? Gloxinias from the land of Kielbasa, Pierogi and Vodka? Oh yeah baby.....Read on. This is big news for us plant geeks.

As our weather here in the northeast begins to turn truly wintry, with our first snow on radar arriving tomorrow morning, I can't help by think about old fashioned house plants, and for some reason I associate african violets and their relatives the Streptocarpus with winter indoor gardening. African Violets, Streptocarpus and perhaps Gloxinia, if I could find nice and interesting forms. Typically I would have grown Gloxinia as a summer crop, as my parents would - creating displays on our front porch plant stands that would last for a couple of months, but recently, these plants have disappeared in the trade. Only sometimes showing up as houseplants near the Holidays.

July 13, 2010

A hardy gloxinia -Sinningia tubiflora

I think I have finally mastered growing Sinningia tubiflora, one of the many new 'hardier' gesneriads, those plants in the African Violet family, which are getting more and more collectable by those in-the-know. This week, my gravel container garden has been overcome by a magnificent specimen, which, I have to admit, was an accident. This Sinningia tubiflora  is growing in a deep terra cotta pot, and its become essentially, a giant lemon scented air freshener, yes, its evening fragrance lingers across the garden in our hot, humid summer weather.

Thanks to fellow blogger, reader and friend, Brian Morely, who shared this plant with me last year. He had send me a few tubers in the mail, wrapped in newspaper. Thanks Brian!  I've tried Sinningia tubiflora twice before, with little luck. Apparantly, I am not alone in finding this species difficult to bloom. Lots of foliage, ( which often spotted and became sloppy) and when flower stems finally did appear, they flopped over before blooming, leaving them twisted and deformed. Last year, I only had three stems with a few flowers.
This year, it's a whole other story. I can only guess that a few changes in how I treat my plants may have helped, I can say, that I have not fussed with the plant, if anything, I have ignored it. First, I didn't divide the tuberous mass of potato-like tubers, instead, I dragged the overgrown pot into the greenhouse on a cold, frost-threatening day in October last year. Yes, it says 'hardy' but it is not deep-freeze hardy here in New England. I grow Sinningia tubiflora in containers. Once in the greenhouse for the winter, the plant stumbled along at near freezing temps. Once in mid-winter, I had decided to toss the plant, but I decided not to since Joe would see the rootball on the snow ( he hates that, and I am too lazy to drag my butt out to the compost pile. Once I unpotted the mass of tubers, I was impressed, and a little overwhelmed, so I like any guy who is lazy, I shoved the mass under a bench and forgot about it. There it spent the entire winter, never looking worse for the wear.

November 4, 2007


A line-up of Achimenes showing the variety and diversity between various species and named varietites available.

Isn't it funny how even though one may be obsessive about collecting so many plants, there are still species out there that one can discover? Although not "new" to me, since I remember seeing these African Violet relatives in the old 1960's Park seed company catalogs, often listed as Hot Water Plants (?), I never mustered up courage to try them.

Achimenes blossoms in an egg cup.

I suppose, they just seemed a little too unrealistic, I mean, come-on...."they'll cover themselves with flowers, and bloom till frost?"Rrrright. In those early years, as a kid, I preferred to invest in breeding the first white marigold!

Achimenes 'Rose Dream'

Achimenes 'Donna'
Very nice.
So, here I am, in my late forties, and finally growing these 'Achimenes'. Perhaps it is best that I waited. There surely is an argument for saving more challenging plants to try, until one is matured. Hence, why most plant geeks mature-out with Alpines, or Gesneriads. Just as others begin with Hosta or Daylillies. There must be some demographic studies out there.

Achimenes display in the autumn greenhouse.

Achimenes 'Tiny Blue'
(it's tiny, and blue)
Not that Achimenes are difficult, although, they really don't 'cover themselves with blossoms, either". That said, they are easy enough to grow, and perhaps perfect for a covered porch or protected spot in the garden. I ordered my rhizome in April from Kartuz Greenhouses, one must order them in early spring, while they are dormant. Shipping exists from February for those in the south, through to April in the north.
On arrival, my 35 varieties and species all packaged neatly in paper bags with shavings, looked like tiny white maggots. Each rhizomes was planted in a 4" pot, and watered well.

Achimenes 'Queen of Sheba'

Achimenes 'Summer Sunset'
an novelty cross, very species-like in habit, it's exciting to breeders because it is a yellow and red color, but weak and virtually unknowticable.
Easy enough to grow, the only hint I was given my friends, was to never let them dry out, or they risk going dormant again. Still, since these are fuzzy leaved African violet relatives, I knew that I needed to be careful about water on the foliage. Although they can be grown outside, where of course, water will fall on the foliage, it will also air-dry off quickly. For me, I decided to keep them in the greenhouse, since although the water risked marking the foliage in the still atmosphere, I could at least travel, and know that they we're under shade cloth and watered well. The cost of a few marked leaves, was worth the flowers.

Achimenes 'India'

Achimenes 'Jennier Goode'
Nice. A better name would be Jennier Best!
This is my first year really exploring gesneriads, all of the African violet relatives, and although not hooked yet, I have to admit that these Achimenes we're the least exciting of the lot, so far. Most of the summer growing Gesneriads reach a peak bloom around autumn, and so it is with the Achimenes. Still, they are easy enough for me to dry off the pots , as I am now, for the winter, and perhaps when I repot and water them for a new season of bloom, the show might be better. For that, I shall wait until next year, refocusing my Gesneriad addiction to Streptocarpus leaves on eBay.

Achimenes 'Cornell Favorite'
Although, not mine. Nice foliage though.

Achemines flava
A rare yellow species, it's a species, so I like this. But friends may call it a weed. A novelty, but nice to balance the context of a collection.

A nice pot of early blooming white form, with a lost tag.

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.