And so it begins...

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

I think I have kidnapped Zen_Man's wonderful Zinnia thread long enough, so I'm setting up my own - at this point, I've obviously nothing to show, so I mostly use this to put myself under some social pressure to proceed ;-)

Reading through that Tychonievich-book ZM recommended, I noticed I already did some breeding selection before: Keeping only those plants which germinate early is actually selecting for fast germination - that's so simple that I never thought about it, yet it IS encouraging...Now I'm ready to start my first projects - yes, it's more then one, since I've got different timescales, and by broadening the base I have the chance that at least one or two will get me hooked up like ZM on the Zinnias...

The fast timescale: Nigella. I've had self-sowing Nigella Damascena in my parent's garden for ages, and have already established some from that genetic base in my garden (see image), which is only slowly taking form. I bought the house about three years ago, but had 1 1/2 years of work at it bringing it to the point where I could move in - bringing a house built 1899 to modern standards with mostly own work involved is quite a task, and there's still a lot of work to do, so the garden went second place for most of that time. There wasn't much worth keeping - I got rid of a far to big pine (who plants them in a small suburban garden anyway?), an ornamental cherry (which looked awful after the first drop of rain on the fluffy pink flowers) an English dogwood (I only call it "the aphid magnet") and lots of Thuja ( how can anything thats called "Lebensbaum" = "Tree of life" be so dead on the inside??), so I've lots of room to fill - annuals will be helpful with that in the short term. But I'm drifting away.
Back to the Nigellas. They already have two generations per year, being totally hardy - perhaps that's a side effect of years of self sowing? I'd guess so. To obtain more genetic diversity to work with, I got myself, in addition to my selfsowing whites and blues, some pink "Mulberry Rose", and some White-Flowering "Pluto Wedding", which are advertised to have bright red seed capsules - something I haven't got in mine. So one objective may be to create blues with red capsules. Or maybe something into the purple color range? My self-sowers would suggest that the pink is recessive, but I need to monitor that carefully. I may look into more bizarre seed capsules or anything else which may occur in the first few generations. I got myself some other Nigella species to see if they're willing to cross. A Nigella Hispanica (which most seed traders call N. Papillosa, but I'm keeping to Wikispecies-Nomenclature) could introduce both black seed capsules during the flowering and some speckles. It also seems to have it's anthers more sorted in packs oposing to the less formal damascenas, but I have more species to experiment with, just in case.
In order for the new ones to catch up with my garden, I've even invested into artificial lighting, though I'm not yet convinced that this Red/blue LED thing will be efficient - It sure doesn't look natural to me, but as I'm no chloroplast...

Second project, one generation per year, is Digitalis - actually one of the few things I bought with the house that IS worth keeping: a self sowing, rather white D. Purpurea. Once again I've obtained seed for another D. Purpurea to mix with, a D. Grandiflora, which is documented to be hybridize-able with the D. Purpurea, and a D. Obscura, which I had never heard of before. Lets see what happens...

Those were the big and systematic ones, but I'll actually try some smaller ones: Very basic: as my Aquilegias dwindled through self-sowing to a set of mostly white-pink-purplish doubles (once again: my parents garden), I got myself a red-and-yellow american native Aquilegia, leaving the work to the bees and helping by consequently deadheading my pink ones. Let's see if those are as "promiscuous" as Tychonievich writes.
A little more complex: I've ordered some more or less hardy gladiolous species seeds and have wintersowed them - that's already the first step of selection, as I want them hardy in my 7a. I just hope some of the more colorful south-Africans will make it, as all obtainable native European varieties insist on flowering magenta (German Telekom seems to have sponsored them...). That one surely has a wider timescale to deal with - at least three years to flower.
Last action planned will be to sow out my Tigridia Pavonia seeds I produced more or less unintended - I was a bit lazy with deadheading. Since I had several days with more than one color flowering, there might be some nice surprises. once again: three years/generation as a likely timescale - but you can never have too many Tigridias, I totally adore those!

I've many more ideas - once you start thinking about it, there's nowhere to stop. But I'm afraid i'm quite limited in space (and maybe time). Let's see if I can take over my sister's garden - she's the only one in the family who has missed the gardening genes..

Thumbnail by pmmGarak
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi Garak/Martin,

These might be sources of a greater variety of Nigella:

SwallowTail will sell seeds internationally. I don't know if Hazzard's sells internationally or not. I also am not familiar with German customs regulations.

Incidentally, your English is impeccable. It's hard to believe it isn't your first language.

Good luck with your plant breeding activities. I find it to be an absorbing hobby.


This message was edited Jan 11, 2015 2:01 PM

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

can't be impeccable - I had to look up that word... Well, I'm trying my best, reading about 90% of both fantasy literature and scientific literature at work in English...

Thank you for those links - I've already got the "Transformer" N. Orientalis - didn't mention them because I don't want to get too excited about the yellow petals on them - it just seems so obvious that I'd guess someone has failed on that cross before. but even if they don't cross, maybe some classical selection could push those to bigger flowers? we shall see. The seeds look quite different to N. Damascena or N. Sativa. But the N. Bucharica looks interesting - though those even look further off the "normal" Nigella types.

Customs regulations actually put an end to the fairy tale that Germans would be very organized. I've yet to find a system, I had to pay extra for some rather cheap vinyl singles and nothing for far more expensive ones, had to go to the office to collect my packets or, in case of my ESO leather bag had to pay the fine to the delivering company. I haven't payed anything extra for seeds before, but that's because the Ebay sellers put them into normal letters, so I have no idea. But it's good to read that Swallowtail will ship to Germany without that phytosanitary certificate. that one stopped me from ordering plants or bulbs in the US before, 99$ just for some paper brings me to a point where I'd start to consider TTIP a good idea...

Another sidenote: Am I the only one to feel slightly baffled by those bible words on the Hazzard-site?

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

The bible verses on the Hazzard's Seeds site are a bit unconventional. Some people may be offended by them. I am not offended by them, and I have been on their site enough to have gotten used to them. I imagine that the bible verses have turned away some potential customers. And the Hazzard's people probably know that.

"I've already got the "Transformer" N. Orientalis - didn't mention them because I don't want to get too excited about the yellow petals on them - it just seems so obvious that I'd guess someone has failed on that cross before."

I am reminded of that old grade school saying, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Yellow would be the key toward a huge expansion of the color range of Nigella. With yellow would come orange and scarlet and some interesting mixes with all of the current Love-in-a-Mist colors. With yellow genes, Love-in-a-Mist could have a color range equal to that of zinnias. And the interaction and recombinance of other genes could produce some wholly new traits as well. It could unlock a whole range of new variations in Nigella.

It will help if you can find the chromosome numbers of the different Nigella species that you are going to work with. Crosses between species with different chromosome numbers can yield sterile hybrids, but if you double the chromosome number with Colchicine or a similar substance, you can convert those sterile hybrids to a fertile form. That process produced the Zinnia marylandica species of zinnias, including the Profusion, Pinwheel, and Zahara cultivars.

Also, as you become more experienced in your hobby, you can start to expand the range of technology that you use. I notice you already have LED lights. That is rather advanced, technologically. (I use T8 fluorescent lights, some of which are over-driven for higher light intensity.)

I suggest that you might want to look into Tissue Culture technologies. I plan to do that. One possible thing that Tissue Culture can do for you is "embryo rescue". Some bold hybrid crosses can produce embryos that are so different from the "mother" plant that the embryo fails to develop in the environment that the mother provides. In embryo rescue, you remove those young embryos and grow them in a tissue culture medium to successfully produce plantlets and then plants that couldn't be achieved by conventional cross pollination.

Another thing that Tissue Culture can do for you is Somatic Hybridization using protoplast technology. Techniques have been developed for easily removing the cell wall of plant cells and those "naked" plant cells are called protoplasts. Two or more different protoplasts can be induced to fuse and the fusion product can be carefully nurtured with tissue culture techniques to produce a hybrid plant. Such somatic hybrids can be produced between widely different plants, dramatically increasing the range of things you can do.

You can learn about those plant breeding techniques and others in the book "In Vitro Plant Breeding"

You can learn how to do basic tissue culture techniques in the book "Plants from Test Tubes"

You can use Amazon's "Look Inside" feature to get a sampling of the book contents. If you are interested in some information sources about Tissue Culture, I can provide additional resources. You can purchase materials to get started with your own tissue culture projects at Kitchen Culture Kits, Inc.

There are several links on that page, including one to a Listserv, which is essentially a forum for tissue culture hobbyists.

There is hardly any limit to how far you can carry a plant breeding hobby.

(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)

(Robin) Blissfield, MI(Zone 6a)

Hi PMM, your English is excellent. Welcome to Dave's Garden! Your social pressure posts will also inspire others, I'm totally inspired. Zen_Man has been amazing. I look forward to your successes also.

Break a leaf...or whatever you say in the hort world (viel glück)!

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

hmm - I'm surprised that there is so much to discover when just google-ing "nigella + chromosomes" - seems like there has been some research on those, maybe because of the edible N. Sativa. looks like there are some Nigella species where chromosome count can vary between 12, 13 and 14 between individuals of the same species, so it seems I'd better pollinate a few more individuals. rather bizarre. Oh, and I'm already around page 30 in that Plants-from-test-tubes-book. It's rather difficult stuff to read in the train back home from work...As I mentioned in another thread, I'm a chemical engineer, I'm not afraid of test tubes.

@Mipii: It's Garak - or simply Martin. PMM is short for "Planet Morrowind Modders". I added the prefix because Garak himself was often taken in several forums I joined. It's dates back to the times when I made modifications for the Computer Role playing games Morrowind and Oblivion. So "pmmGarak" displays two of my greater passions: The darkest of all Star Trek Incarnations as well as my Elder Scrolls modding. I might be a rare case of consistent online identity for about 15 years...

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

While my first seedlings and future parents grow, i've read a bit more - right now I'm in the middle of a book about interspecies hybrids from 1848 - don't laugh, it's rather enlightening. Of course there's a lot of stuff in there discussing theories which are simply done with by finding out about chromosomes a few years later - well; the author's even fighting another professor arguing that pollination isn't about sex, rather about putrescence. Every time frame had it's creationists, i fear.

If your German is good enough, try it:
oh, and the author expects French and Latin as well as he sometimes quotes without translation - luckily my Latin is enough to roughly understand written French...

anyway, in there there is a lot about digitalis hybrids, along with other favourites of the author: Dianthus, Nicotiana and Verbascum are there in abundance, but lot's of other families involved. Unfortunately, he also mentions that Nigella is rather unlikely to bastardize... well, lets see. I've added Nigella Arvensis to my collection, and according to Wikispecies, N.Sativa, N.Hispanica and N.Arvensis are part of the same subgenus, which N.Damascena is not.

(Robin) Blissfield, MI(Zone 6a)

Sounds like a direct challenge Martin, and perhaps its also 'a sign', lol. My German is not good enough; thankfully, your English is. I'm lucky enough to follow your pursuits here.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi Martin. You are inspiring, like Zen Man. I like digitalis, and digitalis purpurea is naturalized here in Seattle. D. lutea has survived here for 2 years, but a few others did not. I am trying Digiplexis, and really hope it made it through the winter. It is an intergeneric hybrid with Isoplexis which is not hardy. Clearly there is a lot of work for someone-maybe you!
Here is a photo of my Digiplexis looking quite tall and scraggly, shortly after planting. Many things here get much taller than expected. But I love the colors.

Thumbnail by Pistil
Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

I'm not surprised that D. Purpurea naturalizes in your area - looking at the Digitalis Digitalis subsection, all of them are limited to areas in Spain except D. Purpurea. Theories are, that it simply followed the glaciers on their retreat at the end of the last ice age - so it really is a fast-spreading species. Of course it is difficult to be angry with such a beauty, no matter how invasive it is...

"Digiplexis", they call your Purpurea x Canariensis hybrid commercially? Well, it is a very special one since it's existence finally convinced the botanists to integrate isoplexis as subgenus into digitalis - further genetic studies even showed it's quite in the middle of the genetic range of the genus. I'm trying to get D. Isabelliana (former Isoplexis Isab. ) to add it to my experiments, it's in B&T-Worldseeds preorder process. B&T seems to be a brilliant source for very rare stuff, and the usually don't split the seeds into 5-pieces sets. I bet if you take a closer look, it's them who provide all those ebay-almost-single-seed-sellers with their stock...

so, what's going on with the seedlings? the Nigella Bucharica does not look like your typical Nigella at all, and it seems to have 2n=14 Chromosomes instead of 2n=12 as is standard on other Nigellas. Nigella Arvensis is slow on germination - maybe because that one is the only true wild form I've got? and one of the Digitalis Grandiflora looks quite D. Purpurea to me - if I didn't mix them up myself I've got a chance for more purpurea-diversity for free from the Grandiflora's source - I'll keep that one separate to see who was the sloppy one...

meanwhile I'm waiting for more light (natural, this time) to start all the "collateral" species I ordered on my search for Nigella, Digitalis and Gladiolus - that ranges from Kniphofia Albescens to Tigridia Orthantha, Eucomis pole-evansii to Mirabilis longiflora, and even a Strelitzia Nicolai - that one was a gift from my African seed source. I find it hard to focus on important seeds when you're in the middle of seed-candy-shops...
Speaking about the Gladiolus: Of course, none of them has moved so far - The're all outside in the cold, receiving their stratification.

This message was edited Feb 22, 2015 4:28 PM

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

minor update:

lots of Nigellas and digitalis have moved to the garden, even though we still have regular but minor freezings. I had to learn that especially Nigella Sativa does not transplant well, so I may have to resort to direct sowing for those, or at least the "one peatpot per seed" method. Still no germination of N. Arvensis, I'm seriously doubting those seeds

The less common species I've mentioned all have one thing in common: they're slow to germinate: Tigridia Orthantha takes nearly a month, as do the Eucomis, of which the first one, a pole evansii, sprouted today. Kniphofia albescens is at 6 weeks now, no movement, I'm worried, as with Digitalis isabelliana. And I have still no single success message from the gladiolus outside. And I've learned that I need to peel Mirabilis Longiflora, the seed crust is just too leathery. I have one single mirabilis viscosa as well. As I said, no good start on the exotic stuff. My own tigridia pavonia seed sprouts far better than the T Orthantha and T Philippiana i bought, so maybe it's a freshness problem?

Meanwhile I have some Ipomoea in bloom, trying to learn hand pollination on them. Three of them are of subsection mina (I. hederifolia lutea, I Quamoclit, I. Lobata) with what I call realistic chances to cross. My fourth ipomoea in bloom is I. Ochracea - Subgenus Eriospermum, that's about the opposite end of the Genus. still, it throws off the dying corolla faster when pollinated with I. Lobata than when un- or self pollinated, which it doesn't seem to accept. let's see if it will develop seeds. According to my 1848-book, a change in behavior regarding death of the bloom is a first sign of certain compatibility - at least if compared to a completely different species or to sawdust - yeah, they really tried that ..

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi Martin
I have been reading about South African plants,. This is because some do well here, some crash and burn the first winter, and some are "Iffy". I wondered why.
It turns out it is a really big place, with multiple climate zones. The one that seems to matter most (other than sand vs clay) seems to be that they have both a winter-wet with summer-dry, and a winter-dry with summer-wet Division. I have winter-wet with summer dry. They have some mountainous areas, so plants from there can of course tolerate a colder winter. Much of it is a bit warmer and dryer than here.
The Gladiolus interests me. I recalled you are going to try some hybridizing. I thought I might try some other species to see if they are hardy here. I have G. communis subsp byzantius which survives but looks like if wants more summer water. It is from Spain I think. There are some fabulous blues like G gracilis from South Africa, and it apparently grows on clay there...
Anyway, I am just musing. I think with perennials breeding for hardiness is a great idea, and I like your wintersowing idea for just that reason. My "Digiplexis" have not returned. Nothing from the Canary Islands is ever hardy here.
i am now going to check out the world seed website. I have gotten interesting seeds from Plant World Seeds.

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

Some of my gladiolus are from Plant world seed - I had 5 different sources for different species, and none of them moved so far, so I'm thinking we're still in the normal range of germination - you don't get bad seed from 5 sources at once. The other things I got from Plant World seed were digitalis Laevigata and a variegated digitalis lutea - both of excellent quality as far as I can see. With the variegated Lutea I've had a quota of 60% variegated, 40% plain, but that's to be expected with such a "fragile" property - they advise on the package to select for the most variegated seedlings.

Sad to read that your digiplexis didn't make it. The 1848-Book states that interspecies hybrids tend to be more hardy than their parents - they've created a hardy Nicotiana near Stuttgart - Zone 6b or 7a I'd guess, and I think I've heard similar things about Alstromoeria hybrids, so I was quite optimistic for the digiplexis. Do you think you've lost it to temperature, or to wetness?

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Likely temperature. We had a rather dry (for us) winter. in Nov and Dec it got into teens for a few days, then very warm. They were planted on a slope in my best soil, less clay than elsewhere. They did great all summer and fall. It's the second year I tried, so I am giving up. The Canary Islands just do not get that cold, they must have gotten those genes from that parent.
I just looked at Digitalis in Norman Deno Seed Germination books-have you found them yet? they would appeal to you, as he was a chemist who approached the whole subject like a Chemical Engineer.
Anyway he found for D. purpurea at 70 degrees F first order rates applied, with induction time of 3 days, and half life just 6 days. At 40 degrees they germinated, but it took 3 months. Dry storage gradually killed off the seeds, but even 8 y/o seeds had 5% germination.
He also tried D. grandiflora, D. lutea, and D viridiflora. all of them germinated at 70 degrees, not requiring a cold stratification first.

Hmmm, a variegated D. lutea, I might have to get some. I have D. lutea in dry shade under a pine tree. It is surprisingly pretty in the dark situation, much more noticeable than I expected. I plan to put in more, I got seeds but have not started them yet.
I have two Alstroemeria here, I love them both. I planted a 'Third Harmonic' under the Pine tree, as in San Francisco it apparently tolerates dry shade. It is now two years old an a sprout has appeared. The 'Yellow Friendship' is very pretty, I have that one in the sun.

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

I just wonder how you can really think in Fahrenheit - when I hear 70 degrees I think of seed too hot to touch :P and freezing temperatures without a minus - that's just weird! But I guess it's just the other way around for you...

I was wondering about the effect of D. luteas, too, they just don't look impressive in pictures. I think D. Micrantha would be more showy, just more flowers than Lutea with quite similar flower shape. But let's see how they turn out.

I've read that the kniphofias and the Isoplexis seeds may need temperature changes between night and day - as the winter leaves now and the sun really reaches my western window, I might finally get them to work. It's really hard to have noticeable night temperature drops in a well-isolated house...

You wrote somewhere else that you've tried Eucomis from seed - may I ask which species? I have now some success on getting E. pole-evansii to germinate, but no Luck on E. Vandermerweii. And yes, it's intentional to have the opposite range of the genus: a white giant and a red dwarf.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

What can I say, Americans can be a bit backward. Some day we will go metric.

The D. lutea is under a pine that has been "limbed up". Against the trunk or the other dark shrubs nearby the little flowers are quite nice, and there are lots of them. Also as I come up the driveway in the afternoon they get backlit. Some breeding for flower size would be nice...

Eucomis- last fall I planted E. bicolor (from Plant World Seeds), I put some outside in pots (Wintersowed), and some on the windowsill. The outside ones have not come up, the inside ones sprouted immediately. I also planted some seeds that were on the plants I purchased of Eucomis 'Mini Tuft Red', from Plant Delights Nursery. It was the same, the indoors ones sprouted quickly, the outside ones have done nothing yet. My little plants have been growing all winter on the windowsill. It will be fun to see what grows. Plant Delights sells several Eucomis, so the pollen could be from anything. It will be a while before I know what they will look like, it sounds like Eucomis can take 3-4 years to flower from seed.
I have been reading about Eucomis. I have one that seems quite hardy (E. comosa 'Tugela Ruby'. They seem to be from summer rainfall areas in Africa, so I will try to water a bit more this year. I would like to try the one species from the winter-rainfall area E. regia. For me this has the added attraction of naturally growing on clay slopes. However it has big leaves that grow prostrate on the ground. Here they might collect puddles in winter, and rot. I might have to grow it in a pot under the eaves of the house, to use it in hybridization trials.
I had never heard of Eucomis, until I read an old book about shade gardening by a Seattle author. He noted E. comosa to be a tough survivor here. He liked it best in a dry stone wall, and says it can (here) tolerate either full sun or as little as 1 hour sun per day. That sounded like a plant I could grow to love!
E. vandermerweii looks very nice, especially the spotted leaves, but I am not sure I want to have a stinky plant in my small yard. Plantzafrica says it is an alpine, and to sow in early summer, it germinates in 3-4 weeks

Thumbnail by Pistil
Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

hmm - now my sources didn't mention "foetid" for the Vandermerwei , though it may be a word i ignored because it's not everyday vocabulary and didn't sound that bad that I felt I had to look it up... then again, I know people who can't stand the smell of E. Bicolor either - I don't mind it. I've had Bicolors for about 15 years now and only recently learned about the different species in the genus. I have found a red and a white E. Comosa in a store last year and got curious what else could be there. and if the smell is really bad, well maybe more luck on later generations, who knows.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Well I am only repeating something I read, you will tell us when it flowers if it is very noticeable.
Last year I tried to propagate my E. comosa by leaf cuttings, but it did not work. Have you tried it?

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

not yet. But it's on my list for this years experiments.

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

Blooming season started for Nigella Damascena, Orientalis and Bucharica. castrating the first two is easy, bucharica hides it's anatomy a little bit more. One of my damascenas (pic, though color has not yet developed due to early flowering stage) seems to have a little mutation, making it far darker than any other I know, but not darker then what I've seen in catalogues before - still, that's one strain i will explore. I'll also select for somewhat frizzy petals - let's see if I can intensify them. It also has very reddish tint on the capsules. Damascenas make it easy to find the moment for polination, as they push down the tips of their female organs when ready. orientalis puzzles me, as the female parts always seem so far from any other part of the flower that I wonder how they'd ever be pollinated by insects. The Transformer selection seems to be very uniform, so I don't have much to select inside the species. As to cross polination: i tried, but it will take time to learn if I managed to do something, as I've read Nigella always developes the capsules, no matter if there's seed inside.
N. Hispanica and my Mulberry and Mars' Wedding Damascenas shall start flowering any day now - so I still have a lot of crosses to do.

January was a bit late for seeding, none of my "new" digitalis seems to be willing to flower, but my "old" D.Purpurea wants to make itself more interesting. I only had white flowers with dots for 2 years before, now this year I have both dotted purple and pure immaculate whites in addition to the white dotted ones - looks like I got some genes from surrounding gardens - I won't complain about that.

Thumbnail by pmmGarak Thumbnail by pmmGarak Thumbnail by pmmGarak
Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Keep us updated.
The second photo of developing capsules is interesting-I would not even deadhead this from my flower garden, because it is so unusual looking.

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

Pistil, second photo last post is a freshly opened Nigella Orientalis, not yet a casule - those are even more bizarre (first one on this). I never deadheaded Nigella - I think it's programmed death is so strong that it isn't really worth trying to keep them alive - especially since the capsules are spectacular.

My first Nigella seeds are about to ripen - at least I hope, because I've never seen a nigella to fail developing a capsule - no idea if they're filled. meanwhile the N. Papilliosa/Hispanica (pic2), depending on the source, finally opened - just in time to receive the very last Orientalis pollen. I actually think they're rather blunt compared to the delicate Damascenas. On the damascenas, I found an alternate capsule form (pic3) i'd like to explore - somewhat a pumpkin shape, more deeply notched (right word? ) than normal. It's OP, because I didn't see it could be special before the capsule formed. Well, let's see if it reproduces true to form.

Today I've tried to make Eucomis Leaf cuttings (pic4) - both comosas and one of my bicolors had to sacrifice a leaf. Hope the climate will be OK within this mini-greenhouse - not as damp as a plastic bag could get, so hopefully less chance to get moldy. Soil is a Sand/peat mix, and I've used a standard rooting activator powder. Well, I'm just practicing in case I'd ever hybrizie something worth of cloning...
Once again, only the Bicolors develop inflorescence, so no crossing this year. the pole-evansii seedlings are getting their first real leaf right now, which took quite some time - then again, there are bulbous plants only having one leaf in their first year (e.g. Cardiocrinum), so I'm fine with what I got. think I'll finally have to give up on the Vandermerwei seed - I've kept them moist for 4 months, that's too long for those to stirr.

Speaking about seeds failing: Still no movement on my african gladiolus besides two color forms of Dalenii and one very very week alatus. Still not giving up completely. as some gladiolus seem to be able to completely stay underground their first year. yeah, I know that's only very faint hope...

Thumbnail by pmmGarak Thumbnail by pmmGarak Thumbnail by pmmGarak Thumbnail by pmmGarak
Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I thought I would try Eucomis leaf cuttings again this year-I now have several in the garden I can try. I stuck on in a rock wall last year, it is growing, and I stuck some more in a week ago. This time I plan to put some antifungal spray on them...

(Robin) Blissfield, MI(Zone 6a)

I've never grown Nigella but it does have a spectacular seed head. Your Nigella seed head is indeed ready to be harvested in the first pic, it looks like every point is a seed.

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

A short update:

Nigella: I'm not sure if my cross-species hand pollination really worked - most capsules of N. Damascena and N. Orientalis i crossed were rather full, which wouldn't be likely for species crosses. so maybe I was late or not carefull enough with castrating and teabag-isolating? we shall see. At least one of the Damascenas polinated with orientalis had substantial less normal seed count and lots of seeds that died off before maturity. of the 16 seeds recieved, I sowed 8 (had to make sure they dont need a d70 in Deno-Slang. They don't, but germination of the fresh seed generally took about 5 days longer than with the commercial seeds I used in January), of which 2 germinated. do they look different? can't tell, the seedlings will take weeks until one will be able to determine differences. Orientalis influence would mean darker leaves though everything else will be quite similar up until 5 cm below the flower heads. Isn't it strange to see bad rates as a good sign ;-).
My hand-polinated N. Papilliosa (= Hispanica) capsules were empty.

Digitalis: As I found a population of D.Grandiflora in a public planting close to my railway station some weeks ago, I took some pollen and tried with my "old" D.Purpurea - a rather unprofessional try, i might add. The seeds of those tries have now germinated - the usual myriads for digitalis, so once again: bad sign. As purpurea is far more hairy than all the other Species I have, I'll have to wait for the true leaves and then can see if at least a few seedlings will look shaved. One special seedling is in there though: one with tree first leaves. Lets see how this translates into a mature plant.
Of my january digitalis seedlings I've got a few late flowers: D.Purpurea "pam's split", D. Lutea and D. Grandiflora. Everything else looks healthy (given the intense heatwave we suffer - normally, we have lets say a maximum of 5 days above 32°C per year in this area- this time, we had at least 7 days with 35°C and up, and about no rain at all) , but no sign of flowers Lets see i I can do something with those.

Eucomis: The pole-evanssi-seedlings look fine, increasing rapidly. One of my comosa leaf cuttings started to rot from the side, so I pulled it to cut the decaying tissue. though likely not everything worked out perfect, the cutting had obviously produced some callus tissue, so there is still hope for bulblets, at least from the other, more healthy cuttings. plus: it seems, Eucomis would really be well suited for tissue culture.

This message was edited Aug 8, 2015 2:47 PM

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Thanks for the update, I had been wondering how it was going.
Eucomis seems to be resilient, I have added some more to my collection. The ones I started from seed last winter I had planted out in the garden this spring. Two of them were eaten to the ground by something, then I let the area get very dry since they were dead. But now new growth is showing!
We had heatwave this summer too (ongoing over 3 months now), our weather is mimicking San Jose, California. My D. lutea did not bloom as much as I had hoped, but looks very happy otherwise, it never wilts.

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

no, I'm not gone ;-) But I still seem to have to learn a lot.

First of all, the indoor generation of Nigella doesn't work out quite right. No matter how much artificial lighting they might get, they're so scrawny I couldn't do proper selection.And it looks like I've failed to prevent selfing, because none of the intermediates I hoped for seem to be intermediates at all - that's even more confusing because Nigella, and most of all Nigella orientalis, performs some kind of "sexual ballet" - don't laugh: not only spread the anthers before opening, it's the styles that start straight upwards in the bud, then bend down until the whole thing looks like an octopus - that's when I think they're fertile - to finally stretch out again to give the capsules their characteristic form. So i thought they were easy to emasculate ant then protect from unwanted pollen, but as I said, looks like I've been wrong.

Most other projects are work in progress - I have about 100 small tigridia pavonia bulbs dormant in the basement - i guess they won't bloom this year, still far too small, but I knew that would take time. Under ideal conditions, Tigridia can bloom in it's second year, a T. VanHouttei did that for me, but the pavonias were far too crowded in that pot. Gladiolus will likely take even longer to flower, and those are only the future parents. I've collected seed from my commercial hybrid Eremurus (though named "romance" it seemed to be self-compatible enough to grow 3-4 capsules) which are now germinating well out in the garage - in the cold, as was to be expected from a cold dessert plant.

So why am I not totally depressed? Well. As I mentioned, only Digitalis Purpurea, Grandiflora and Lutea flowered last year - all the other "flat ground" species seem to prepare for flowers this year, they're already stirring outside. I'm not so sure about the shrubby ones, I don't know these well enough to tell. At least, D. Obscura survived the winter outside quite well. The former Isoplexis species Canariensis and Sceptrum died outside, three Canariensis survived in the (bright) garage, and all those in cool bright places inside are doing well, so I'm hoping for the best.
My seedlings seem to show that I was successful with crossing Lutea and Purpurea - something that works out in nature as well. Image one shows, on the left a seedling of D. Purpurea, and on the right one of D. lutea - the plant in the middle seems to be a perfect intermediate, at least with the new leaves - the first few seem to be lutea-style for this cross. Seed parent was lutea. The second picture rises my spirit even further - that seedling is still indoors, and most of it's leaves look lutea, apart from the newest. If it really proves to be intermediate, it also shows that the variegation of my lutea is not a strictly recessive gene! So despite all failures, i seem to have some interesting results.

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(Robin) Blissfield, MI(Zone 6a)

Congrats Martin, your successes look intriguing!

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi Martin-
I am reading this post with great interest. Especially about the digitalis and Eremurus. Sad tho about the annual Nigella as perennial breeding is a slower project. Not surprised you are not depressed- you are looking to the future and learning from each and every thing you try.
The Gladiolus project also interests me. I have just a few Glads, picking only ones I think will be easy perennials for me-I have G. communis byzantinus, and G 'Boone' a cultivar of G. dalenii found at an abandoned homestead in the Appalachian mountains so it must be tough (also is beautiful). This year I shall save seed. Would you like some? What are your breeding goals for the Glads? I just bought some G. 'Atom' corms on a sale rack. Maybe I will cross them with the 'Boone' I could call the offspring 'Atom Boone'. heehee.
Tigridia. Mmmm love the colors, I grew some in a pot a few years, but they like a hot summer and are not perennial here so I haven't done that in years.

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

Hi Pistil,

The goal for Glads is to have something hardy, but not as limited as the European species are - as you might know, they're all different shades of magenta. Dalenii is an interesting species to add, as they are natural polyploids (just like the Europeans), and I already have a selection of different seed sources. as I mentioned before, the glads project is only at the beginning of the learning phase - I've bought grown corms of G. Byzanthinus, about the only partly commercial available pure species, and they're piercing ground right now. Most others are seedlings at best. G. Imbricatus seems quite vigorous and came back in December, but is still years from flowering. All the daleniis and any other survivors are dormant right now, and of the three corms of tristis I exchanged for plume poppy here on dave's one seems to send up a spike now. Looks like timing will be very difficult in that project...

I'm a bit surprised that the Tigridias aren't perennial for you - I 'm in Zone 7 and it always feel as if they could make it through winter with just a little more protection...

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I read somewhere that pollen can be frozen, then thawed out later and used successfully. So even if the plants do not flower at the same time they may be crossed.
I may try again with Tigridia. It was my (possibly false) impression they drowned in my soggy wet winter clay, but is may also be the lack of heat in our cool dry summers. There are many things that just never get going here, until too late. I like to say summer here usually does not start until the day after the 4th of July, which is our Independence Day. Often we are at the beach, wearing sweaters and not swimming because it is chilly!.
There are many things that "should" be hardy here that nobody grows without a greenhouse, like Colocasia (Elephant Ears). I tried them but they just don't start to grow until July, and never look good. Same with "Hardy" gingers (Hedychium).

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

You may be right about the Tigridias and the wet winters - sounds like a case for a bulb frame. Personally, I have no problems lifting them after first frost and replanting them in April, even though there may be late frosts until mid of May in my area - they're definitely no instant death candidate like tomatoes. And since I've had my first bulb flower from seed success with Tigridia vanhouttei, I'm going to explore the genus further, even though Molseed attests them rather high hybridization barriers.

Freezing pollen might be an option, though it will always add another thing to question on failure. But if you don't try, you've already lost ;-)

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I might fiddle around with pollen freezing this summer, on something easy, like daylilies. That way I could be sure I was doing it right. For example, should one put it in a closed box with desiccant, or would moist be better?
Soo, who (or what) is Molseed? I did a quick search of DG without success, then Googled it, found a blind athlete and someone killed by Jack the Ripper?

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

Elwood Molseed was as much an authority for the Genus Tigridia as one might get with only 29 years to work with. Cancer. His dissertation is still the most important work on the mexican species.

I might experiment with frozen pollen from my Paonia suffruticosa on Paeonia delavay var Lutea. I think desiccant is the way to go, less crystallization to destroy cell structures.

Beverly Hills, CA

As a physician (and a patient) who has been eye-deep in patient care and 3rd party-payer reimbursement issues, I would argue that the *quality* would be compromised for the *quantity* of healthcare provided. Sure, health care is outrageously expensive, but I seriously doubt nationalizing a universal health care plan would make it any better. Emergency Departments across the country are saturated with patients requesting primary care. Huge bills, brings hospitals lots of money. What we have to do is threefold: Tort reform to protect increasingly burdened physicians; hold patients more responsible for personal health (obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, STDs, nicotine, addictions, etc) and legislate more regulation for health insurance companies and commercial hospital systems (whose CEOS and lawyers have sold their souls for big $$). By doing so, we will preserve the means by which we can provide service and payment coverage for patients such as the family you mentioned. And this sounds incredibly crass, but as a patient who would have died from her own medical problems in another century, or another country (ex nationalized healthcare) and as a physician who has cared for the dying, death is a certainly of life -- it is inevitable.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Quote from vlossforex :
As a physician (and a patient) who has been eye-deep in patient care and 3rd party-payer reimbursement issues ... death is a certainly of life -- it is inevitable.

That message seems to be wildly off-topic. Is it "spam" ?

(Robin) Blissfield, MI(Zone 6a)

Yup, looks like spam. I agree with the desiccant, it sounds logical.

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

Some Minor Updates:

Foxgloves: in the last weeks I've been busy with my Digitalis parents, as the more obscure species got into flower - as you can see on the images attached. Starting with the slightly shrubby Obscura - I never understood the name on seeing pictures - it's really beautiful up close, and I didn't know how anyone could call it "hidden foxglove" - but actually, the whole plant seems to melt into the background - just the opposite of Lutea, which despite it's small flowers seems to draw attention. Strange. Image 2 and 3 come from seeds labeled Laevigata, but the seem a lot like Ferruginea to me, Laevigata should have whiter lips - we'll see wether they'll be biennials (ferruginea) or perennials (laevigata), but I feel lucky i got an albino from them - I totally adore the fine green net inside the flowers. I hope I can get a stable white selection out of those, especially if they turn out biannual. Selecting anything isn't easy with Foxgloves, as the bumblebees are totally in love with them and fly between all the species. Maybe I'll have to resort to pots to properly isolate them. Pic 4 is one of my Micranthas - Flowers are lutea size and shape, but the plants are bigger and the flowers are more densely packed. some of them are pale like Lutea, but this one shows some really nice markings - once again there seems to be selection potential. Last one is Parviflora - those little tubes really make Luteas look big, and the look a bit odd when the first few open, but on the tips of the spires and on the side branches, they are actually very nice. Picture shows a side branch. The Lanatas (not shown) show some variation in the shape of the lower white lip, nothing too spectacular.
The time to harvest my seeds is approaching, some of my crosses seem to have set seeds, some don't, but lets see what will happen. In a few days my last species will open it's first flowers: the Canariensis, which hibernated in my sister's winter garden.

Tigridias: I may have been wrong about the "long term project" here, as several of my open pollinated Tigridia Pavonias actually will flower this year, second year from seed. Actually, the seedlings seem far more vigorous than my mature plants - I try not to be too excited about those, could be all parent lookalikes again - I'll know more in a few weeks. This time, I hope i can do some deliberate crossing, since I now have far more plants, raising the chance to have more flowers to choose from as every flower only lasts a day.

Nigella: I sort of gave up on those - I chose them for quick generations like ZMs zinnias, but they are far to resistant to forced life cycles, and the inter-species borders seem quite strong. I'll definitely keep the orientalis in my garden, maybe there will be some interesting mutations after a few generations.

Frozen pollen: My experiment with tree peonies failed because of the weather: the Paeonia lutea flowered during a very ugly period of rain - for about 3 weeks there were no more then 36 hours of dry weather in a row - the lutea flowers literally melted from their stalks, and we all know water is poison to pollination. I seem to have been more lucky with Gladiolus tristis pollen on Gladiolus byzanthinus, at least there are capsules forming...

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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi Martin, thanks for the update, I have been wondering how it is going.

Too bad about the Nigella, oh well I bet you learned a lot from them.

Frozen pollen, well there is always next year!

Tigridias, I absolutely love them, but don't have any right now, they do struggle here as it is often not hot (it is 17C now at 11 am, will only get to 22C here today!)

Digitalis- I have also noticed that about the D. lutea, mine are blooming now, and despite the small pale flowers they are noticeable in the shade. I planted two more last year to create a bigger patch, and oh no they just bloomed and I think they are some other species, very boring flowers... This year I will not cut of the D. lutea flower spikes, plan to harvest seed.

I can't wait to hear about the Gladiolus, i think someday I might play around with them. I have just a few in my garden. I got some 'Atom' almost for free late last fall, they just finished blooming. Terrific red flowers with white edges, but they were floppy after a big rainstorm.

Göppingen, Germany(Zone 7b)

My Tigridias are at full bloom now. in the first few days, all of them were pale yellows, and I already feared this was all I got, But then the first thing I didn't have in my originals showed up this week: An intense yellow one with more narrow and more acute petals (pic 1, in comparison to the pale yellow one). Not a big step, but I actually like that style - plus I think it can more easily cope with a little bit of rain. Definitely allowing that one to set seeds.
And then there was yesterday, when I was greeted both by a pale yellow perfect quad on my seedlings and a "2+ 2*(2/3)" on my original bought bulbs. Now I do know that quads are not fully governed by genetics, but an increased chance for them still is a nice little goal for selection. I hope the cross took, because they were only opening up when I had to leave, as I had an appointment to decorate our truck for the Stuttgart pride parade. Two freaks on pride parade day. Sometimes it is hard to believe in chance ;-)

My Tigridia Vanhouttei looks like it will start to bloom in the next few days. I Know inter-specifics are difficult in Tigridia, but you never know...

This message was edited Jul 31, 2016 6:47 AM

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