Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sinningia 'Gabriel's Horn'---Who knew that this would sell?

Sinningia 'Gabriel's Horn' grown by Gary's Specialty Plants
Story # 12,

            Sinningia ‘Gabriel’s Horn’ is in tissue culture production in the hope that big quantities can be sold.

            Its flower is an example of what is called ‘double calyx’ or ‘hose in hose’.  ‘Double calyx’ doesn’t explain everything.  The corolla of the flower has extra petals that come from where the calyx normally grows.  The ‘hose in hose’ comes from the look that a water hose is inside another hose when looked at from the front end.

            All of this is of interest to plant collectors and important to Sinningia hybridizers.  However, to the causal plant buyer, it only matters if the flower is pretty.

            Nobody knows if ‘Gabriel’s Horn’ will be a successful commercial plant because there have never been sufficient quantities to find out.

            It will be for sale at Longwood Gardens in eight to ten weeks.

            It is a mid-sized mini Sinningia that is capable of high bud count and having many flowers open at once.  With multiple flowering shoots coming off of the tuber, it can be spectacular.

So what's the story?

Sunflowers grown at Hunter's Greenhouse - 2004
Story # 11,

            “People will pay a premium for a story, every time.” ------------Seth Godin

            On the chat room, Gesneriphiles, writers, when talking about a particular plant, comment on when and where they got it, e.g., ‘I think I got it at the 2009 convention in Sliver Springs.’

            Does the source have anything to do with the plant?   I don’t think so but it makes for a better story.

            “I always get my annuals and hanging baskets from Henry’s Farm and Greenhouse every year.”  If our neighbors tell you this, it means that they want to support our local grower.  And it’s implied that if you were smart, you would get them there, too.

            Is a plant that you bought at Longwood Gardens better?  You would not think that anybody would care where you bought something.

            But it’s almost always part of the story.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Will xSinvana 'Heartland's Maverick' get enough flowers to attract attention?

xSinvana 'Heartland's Maverick' grown by Gary's Specialty Plants
Story # 10, Part II

            Some people like big and showy.  That’s why Florist’s Gloxinia sell.  Some like small and cute.

            xSinvana ‘Heartland’s Maverick’ will grow and flower in a 3 ½” pot.  It is a mid-sized mini Sinningia with firm purple slipper shaped flowers.  It only gets one flower per leaf axil so it’s difficult to get more than 1 or 2 open at one time. 

            The solution is to pinch it to get multiple branches that can flower at the same time.  Or grow 2-3 plantlets per pot.

            The flowers can last many days so that may be good enough.

            An older plant with many branches will have multiple flowers, but if you never buy in the first place, you won’t get to see them.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

One of the newest Sinningia introductions is 'Heartland's Maverick'. Will people look?

xSinvana 'Heartland's Maverick' grown by Gary's Specialty Plants

 Story # 10, Part I

            We don’t know why customers buy a particular plant.

            The Sinningia hybridizer works for the different and the improved.  Sometimes you just get what you get.

            ‘Heartland’s Maverick’ is an unlikely cross between xSinvana ‘Mount Magazine’ and a mini hybrid, S. ‘Los Angles’.  An unlikely hybrid, because xSinvana ‘Mount Magazine’ was predicted to be sterile.  Dale Martens made many tries of the cross and was successful.

            The parent xSinvana ‘Mount Magazine’ is an intergeneric hybrid between Sinningia conspicua and Paliavana tenuiflora.  This was registered with the Gesneriad Society in 2006 by Jon Lindstrom, University of Arkansas.

            ‘Heartland’s Maverick’ may be tetraploid.  The point of bringing up the possibility that it may be tetraploid is that the phenotype (what the plant looks like) could be good.  Physically, tetraploid plants have bigger leaves and the flowers have more substance.  The problem is that the plants are often brittle.

            Plants of ‘Heartland’s Maverick’ have big slipper shaped purple flowers that are cheery.

            Will the non-collector notice it?  Once we have enough supply, the market will be tested.  I like it a lot.  We’ll see if others do too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How did you know that Sinningia 'Prudence Risley' was a winner?

Sinningia 'Prudence Risley' grown by Bill Price

Story # 9, Part II

            With the rapid-fire spread of information and images on the internet, it’s easy to collect clues about any plant that interests you.  In my previous business, operating as Hunter’s Greenhouse, I evaluated plants to be included in our ‘Plants for Planters’ program.  From the picture of the patio pot, being grown outside in Florida by the hybridizer, Jim Steuerlein, I thought that this Sinningia could be durable.

            Although the picture shown in Part I shows the second year’s big growth, there are pictures of it being grown as a low plant in small pots.  That’s where I started.  Once I had stock plants, I rooted tip cuttings, pinched once to get 2-3 shoots in a 3 ½” pot and sold them in flower.

            S. ‘Prudence Risley’ proved to be a vigorous self-branching plant with multiple red trumpet flowers.

            I had guessed that it was good.  But it’s much better than that.  I was lucky!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Will there ever be a Sinningia better than 'Prudence Risley'?

Sinningia 'Prudence Risley' grown by Jim Steuerlein, hybridizer
Story # 9, Part I

            Sinningia ‘Prudence Risley’ has a lot going for it.  It has multiple trumpet shaped red flowers on a mid-sized compact plant.

            It was released in 2009 by an amateur hybridizer, Jim Steuerlein, and rapidly circulated into Gesneriad flower shows around the U. S. and Canada.

            I learned about it through the story in CrossWords, the newsletter from the Gesneriad Society’s ‘Hybridizing’ interest group.  Jim showed the original plant being grown outside as a patio plant in Florida.

            Since this could be tried as a ‘Plant for Planters’, I had to have this one.

            I found some on eBay and bought plants for a lot of money.  By contacting amateur growers who were winning ribbons in Gesneriad flower shows with ‘Prudence Risley’, I was getting the impression that it was a good plant.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Half of the named Mini Sinningias are no good!

Mini Sinningias from Pirate's Playground

Story # 8,
            We just don’t know which half!

            The florist Gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa) is excluded from this discussion.  There are very good ones produced from seed or tissue culture.  Their commercial problems have always been large size (therefore, expensive), brittleness (breakage), or cold water damage (marked leaves, therefore, unsalable).

            Mini Sinningias have never had any systematic performance testing.  Hybrids have been made and selected by the originator based on their own selection criteria.  If hybrids are sterile then they are doomed to limited distribution.  Even if they are fertile they have not been purified into a dependable seed line (many offspring have low bud count or inconsistent flower size).  An answer is tissue culture.

            If selected varieties can be produced by tissue culture (thereby, an identical clone to the parent) in commercial quantities, then the market can be tested.

            This is where I am.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How can there be 1,000 named Sinningias when no one ever heard of Sinningia?

Sinningia 'Colorado Sunset' grown by Jon Lindstrom

Story # 7
First, it should say hundreds and not thousands, but you get the idea.
Would you like one if you saw it?  Mini Sinningias are colorful and cute.  They can be used in terrariums and table top gardens (dish gardens).
            It’s a ‘chicken and egg’ problem.  If we had some, we could sell some.

Sinningia is the next 'Big Thing'

Florist Gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa)

Story # 6

Same questions, different Genus.

                Sinningia (Sin-in-gee-ah) is the Genus of flowering houseplants or patio plants that may make a splash in the market if more supply were available.

First off, Sinningia is a commercial florist crop going by the name---Gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa).  They go in and out of favor, but a well grown Gloxinia loaded with flowers and buds is spectacular.  There are single and double flower types with colors of purple, pink, red, white and can be speckled or bicolored.

My interest is with the compact Sinningias floating around in the hobby world developed by amateur hybridizers.  Most are in the miniature Sinningia category and one S. ‘Li’l Georgie’ is a micro mini.

These colorful flowering houseplants never had any staying power in the commercial system.  They were produced back in the houseplant boom in the 70”s and 80’s.  They disappeared even before the houseplant category all but went to zero.

Sinningia as the next ‘Big thing’------------Highly unlikely!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

If the Specialty Streptocarpus are so good, why isn't anyone else growing them?

Streptocarpus 'Geronimo'
Story # 5

     My specialty Streptocarpus have come out of the hobby world.  The number of hybridizers of Streptocarpus is probably less than 20 in the whole world.  They have created hybrids that are new and different and released them within the small retail mail-order/eBay network.  Plant collectors do search out and buy the new ones from the hybridizers that they like.  Occasionally, some varieties get picked up by a commercial grower and they get wider distribution.

            That’s where I’m at.

Visitors are asking for Streptocarpus

Streptocarpus 'Bristol's Sunset'

Story # 4
            My buyer at the Longwood Gardens plant shop tells me that visitors are asking for Streptocarpus.  I still find that hard to believe since most people don’t even know the word.

            But now I believe and am trying to create supply by producing named Streptocarpus in commercial quantities.  My program is to select the best varieties from around the world and produce finished flowering plants for sale at local retail plant stores.

            I am grouping them by size and use.  There are standard varieties and compact ones for smaller pots.  Some could even be considered miniature and look proportional in a 2 1/2” pot.

            The best varieties from my evaluations will end up being expensive.  Since there is no commercial production, quantities are limited by time and stock.  Named varieties are vegetatively produced from leaf cuttings so quantities are limited to the number of stock plants built up.

            Good things take time.

Monday, April 16, 2012

How can there be 1,000 named Streptocarpus when no one ever heard of Streptocarpus?

Streptocarpus 'Fernwood's Cherries Jubilee'
Story # 3
                Streptocarpus is an unfortunate word.  Most people who know the plant, have by now, heard the common reaction by a newcomer:  “Sounds like a disease”.  Streptocarpus (twisted fruit) and Streptococcus (twisted germ) are descriptive if you know your Latin.  The rest of us are just happy to be able to pronounce it.

                No good common name has ever evolved.  Cape Primrose just adds to the confusion.  ‘Cape’ is a reference to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa where all the Streptocarpus species are native.  ‘Primrose’ came from the somewhat look alike narrow leaves.  Since Streptocarpus is not related to a Primrose nor winter hardy, this is misleading.

                The branding of Streptocarpus by GreenFuse as the Ladyslipper Streptocarpus may catch on but I hope not.  Most people have Ladyslipper reserved for an Orchid and are happy with themselves if they know it is a Paphiopedilum.

                Hobby people call them their “Streps”.

                No one could say Chrysanthemum before it became a major crop and turned into ‘Mum’.

                I’m holding out for calling them by their Genus name, Streptocarpus (Strep-Toe-Car-Pus).

                We’ll all look smarter.

Half of the Strretocarpus are no good!

Streptocarpus 'Blue Halo'

Story # 2 Part II

            But we don’t know which half!

            The Ladyslipper brand of Streptocarpus has good varieties.  They were selected from existing named hybrids produced by Dibley’s Greenhouses in the U. K.

            They are capable of getting many hang-on-tight bright flowers.  With many durable smaller flowers, they are more likely to survive the commercial system of sleeving and shipping to retail stores.

            It’s hard to say which variety is the best.  ‘Blue Ice’ flowered the most when I first trialed them, but ‘White Ice’ is very similar.  You must have a red so ‘Pinot’ is showy.

            ‘Blue Halo’ has flowers slightly larger than the others and has a crisp form.  ‘Pink Halo’ apparently was meant to duplicate ‘Blue Halo’s style, but the flowers are smaller.

            All have been selling out quickly at the Longwood Garden Plant Shop.

            Since Ladyslipper is a nationally distributed Streptocarpus, you may find them at your local garden center.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Half of the named Streptocarpus are no good!

Streptocarpus 'Blue Ice'
Story # 2, Part 1

            But we don’t know which half!

            Commercial horticulture currently only has a few varieties in the system.  A series branded as Ladyslipper Streptocarpus are imported from the United Kingdom by the marketing company GreenFuse and distributed national to local growers.  The varieties hybridized by Dibley’s in North Wales have the U.S. names of ‘Blue Ice’, ‘White Ice’, ‘Pinot’, ‘Red/Rose’, ‘Blue Halo’, ‘Pink Halo’ and ‘Scarlet’.

            The hundreds of named varieties from the hobby world have limited availability and have had no formal performance testing.  Like I say: ‘We don’t know if they are any good’.  Hybridizers are free to release any selection that they like and we are free to buy any flower that we like.  Time will tell.  Let the market decide.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Streptocarpus is the next 'Big Thing'

Streptocarpus 'Keigetsu'

Story # 1

            The secret is out.  Streptocarpus, a word most people never heard of, is on the verge of being the next ‘Big Thing’.

            While I was not paying attention, there have been hundreds of very good Streptocarpus created by professional and hobbyist hybridizers around the world.

            Flower colors of any shade of blue, red, white, purple, yellow and pink are out there.  We see bicolors and ruffled petals.  There are flowers with contrasting netting and flower size from one inch to five inches across.  Scented flowers or variegated leaves, once an obscure novelty, are creeping into, otherwise, good hybrids.

            Streptocarpus may be in the same stage of development as African Violets were 60 years ago.  Violets are now produced by the millions and are the leading flowering houseplant in the world.  Streptocarpus can barely be found.  That is changing.

10+ Things that you should know about Streptocarpus & Sinningias and other Specialty Plants

Streptocarpus 'Essue'

            This blog is a commentary about Specialty Plants, like Streptocarpus and Sinningias.  It will stray into marketing thoughts and one sided discussions about life.

            My target reader will be, first of all, me.  I want to record things that I have opinions about from a lifetime of growing plants.

            Gary’s Specialty Plants is bringing many new Sinningias and Streptocarpus to market.  This blog is written, in part, to announce the pending release dates and availability locations of special plants.  These are selected from existing hybrids that have never been available in quantity before.

            I have a very small plant business supplying very unique customers who need plants that are new and different.  The motivation for writing is to promote plants that you might want to experience.  Plants are fun to look at and to have.