Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A is for Alocasia

We were so excited when we moved into our new house.  It had a pool and we envisioned a lush “tropical garden” surrounding it.  Unfortunately for this particular dream, we don’t live in a tropical climate.  So we’ve created a tropical looking garden that includes some “hardy” and some “not so hardy” plants.  The Alocasias are some of the “not so hardy” members of that garden.

Alocasia 'Variegata'
 Alocasias are commonly known as elephant ears.  There are actually
 three type of plants, Alocasia, Colocasia, and Xanthosoma, that are called by that name.  

Alocasia 'California'
Alocasia 'Mayan Mask
Alocasia 'Polly'
 They can have very attractive leaves and some of the cultivars can have leaves that get HUGE.  This is why we have them.  Their leaves add a lot of tropical flair to our pool side oasis.
Alocasia 'Portora'
Most of the cultivars are not able to make it through a North Texas winter, being hardy to zone 9-11, so they are dug each fall and potted up safely in our greenhouse.  The majority of the foliage is cut back and they are minimally watered.  The goal is to keep them alive, not to create some type of conservatory display in our backyard.

Alocasia 'Stingray'
Our first Alocasia was Alcocasia 'Stingray'.  We found a gigantic specimen at a local nursery and sort of bought on an impulse.  It lived on our deck at the old house sending up lots of off shoots.  We've potted them up and given away countless baby 'Stingrays' to friends and coworkers.
Alocasia 'Sarian'
Alocasia 'Regal Shields'
Alocasia 'Hilo Beauty'
Alocasia 'Malaysian Monster'
Even though we have amassed a small collection, we are always on the search for new and interesting Alocasias (as well as other interesting plants) to add around the pool. How do you add a tropical flair to your garden?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Advertures in Hybridization: Starting Seeds

After a few weeks siting in our refrigerator our daylily seeds had been chilled enough that we could attempt to germinate them.  In the southern part of the country refrigerators are commonly used to trick plants into thinking they have had a winter season.  We did a lot of research on how to collect and germinate daylily seeds.  We concluded that there are approximately 1000 different ways.  Most follow a similar path: chill the seeds, germinate the seeds in a liquid (mostly water, but usually with something added), put into pots and let the plants grow.

We put each cross and used a peroxide water solution (with a little soap to break the surface tension) to germinate the seeds.  The seeds stayed in the water until we saw a radical some out of at least one of the seeds.  Once one was ready, they were all ready.

The seeds are small, black and wrinkly.  Diploids have smaller seeds than tetraploids.  They also produce more seeds in each of their seed pods.

Each cross gets planted in it's own pot.  We use a potting soil with mycorrhizae and a bio-fungicide, but that isn't necessary.  Now they are out in the greenhouse and we wait again.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Shopping: When in New York

We had the opportunity to take a trip to western New York this summer to visit family.  They were having a heat wave while we were there, but it was still cooler than home so called it a win.  While were in the area we took the opportunity to visit a few daylily farms and sales.

Our first stop was Conn Hill Daylily Farm.  They were having an open garden day, but due to a large family dinner it didn't look like we would be able to visit.  The Zetteks were so nice and let us come early.  They have a wonderful city lot in the City of Rochester and hybridize their own daylilies.  After a wonderful visit they sent us home with four daylilies to try out in Texas (Cobbs Hill Jester, Seneca Moon, ScarlaTet, Dale's Oh My).

The next day we took a day trip to the Finger Lakes.  On our way there we stopped at the Finger Lakes Daylily Society plant sale.  The bareroot plants they were selling were humongous.  We had stopped, planning on getting one or two and ended up purchasing eight from them.  They were friendly and invited us to join their club and suggested that we stop by Grace Gardens.

Luckily Grace Gardens was already our next stop.  We have had the opportunity to visit this garden in the past and knew that it could take while to get your order since they are all field grown and are dug after you purchase.  Since we were on a little bit of a tight schedule, we sent our order ahead, so we just needed to pick them up.  We took some time to look around and make sure there wasn't anything else we needed before we headed out for some wine tasting that afternoon.

Our last day in New York we made our last two stops.  The first was Cottage Gardens in Medina, NY.   This is another garden we have visited in the past.  We enjoyed this visit as much as our first.  At this point we decided to start having our plants shipped back to Texas so we didn't need to carry too much extra home on the plane.  So after a nice visit with Brent, we made our order and headed out.

The final stop on this daylily trip was Park Lane Daylilies.  Cathy and her husband were delightful.  We enjoyed talking with them and Cathy had a bunch of daylilies she thought we needed.  This is where things sort of went off the rails.  We left with twenty five daylily plants.  

When we got back to my parents we realized that we longer were carrying these plants onto the plane (even with them all bare rooted).  So foliage was trimmed, they were wrapped in damp newspaper and packed away into a cardboard box...okay, actually two boxes  Then before we headed to airport to go home, we stopped by the USPS and shipped them.  Everything arrived safe and sound a few days later and our order from Cottage Gardens arrive a day or two after that.  Now we have fifty nine new additions to our daylily garden.

Some of our new acquisitions re-potted back at home.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

When It Rains...

Summer can be pretty brutal in North Texas.  Daytime highs over 100, lows in the 80's, and very little rain.  We've had some fabulous weather in the Fort Worth area over the last week.

We had over a week of cooler temperatures and lots and lots of rainy days.  Such a treat during the typically oppressive summer we normally have. As a transplant for the Northeast, I think Texas summers kind of suck.

All of the rain has caused the Rain Lilies to bloom in our Agave Garden (a garden devoted completely to agaves, sedums, assorted succulents, and rain lilies).  So far this garden has been a great addition to our property.  Our corner lot formally had a small, two lawnmower pass wide, piece of grass bordered on all sides by either streets or sidewalks.  Prefect for the agaves and sedums.  We enjoy the juxtaposition of the "dry plants" and the rain lilies.

Rain lilies only bloom after a rain.  Irrigation doesn't have the same effect.  It has to be the genuine thing.  We've actually capped off the irrigation to this small part of the yard.   That decision is still being evaluated.  

This part of the garden is very low maintence.  All we really do is pick up trash and pull nut sedge.  We don't deadhead the rain lilies and instead allow them to go the seed and self sow throughout the garden bed.

They will get to naturalize over time...assuming we can continue to tell rain lilies apart from the nutsedge.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Making New Plants: Adventures in Hybridization

We're trying something new here at the Plant Geeks Garden, hybridizing daylilies.  Daylilies are actually a newer plant infatuation for us.  It all started simple enough, we bought a book called The Adventurous Gardener:Where to Buy the Best Plants in New York and New Jersey.  Then my sister got married in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.  We decided to visit a few places while we were up north.  Two dozen or so plants later we had started a daylily collection.  This spring we took it to the next level and joined our local Daylily Society and even entered our first daylily show.  

Logically the next step is creating our own daylilies.  I think this is why daylilies are so popular.  You don't need to be a horticulture genius to hybridize them.  The plant parts are large and easy to access.  You can see the pollen. The seeds aren't suppose to be too hard to germinate (not that we've tried yet).  So there are seeds in our refrigerator chilling and I'm saving yogurt cups to soak them in.  Fingers crossed we will end up with some little daylily seedlings later this fall!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Lets Start At The Very Beginning...

About a year and a half ago we moved into a new house.  The house had been "flipped" and had only had two owner prior to us (the flippers and the family that built it).  The yard was basically a blank slate.  Other than a few trees, the patio and a pool there wasn't anything worth keeping.  We would need to build a garden from the ground up.

Here are some rather poor pictures of the "before".  We have already made tons of progress in just a year (made even more impressive when you know we also had a baby this year).

  This last picture gives a glimpse of the garden as it is currently.  We've already come so far!