Saturday, November 24, 2012

Who will ever see this?

Sinningia 'Li'l Georgie'
Story # 75

      A copy of a listing in the Philadelphia Inquirer of Christmas gifts under $20.

The season's cutest plant. Sinningia 'Lil Georgie' tops out at 1 inch tall and 11/2 inches wide, making it one of the smallest flowering plants ever, says Gary K. Hunter, longtime wholesale specialty-plant grower in Drumore, southern Lancaster County. This new "micro-mini" hybrid is a steady bloomer, perfect for miniature and fairy gardens, terrariums, or open pots. To buy: $12.99 at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, which also sells Hunter's Sinningia 'Prudence Risley' ($12.99) and Poinsettia 'Ruby Frost' ($14.99). His website is, but he does not have a retail outlet or online sales.

- Virginia A. Smith

        I’m sure you missed it, so here is a permanent record of the announcement.  And a picture.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Mentor

 Story # 74

     In the book, Mastery, that I’m reading, the author proposes that the great masters of Science or the Arts had a mentor at some point in their training.  Masters like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford or Benjamin Franklin worked as apprentices and were then influenced by a mentor.

      My mentor in the greenhouse business was Donald Layser, a self-made man who created a plant business to make it into the top 100 greenhouses in the United States.  It was by chance that I got to work at Layser’s Flowers for several months during the Spring retail season.  My greenhouse production professor at Penn State, Dr John White, had a request for an intern and suggested that I try to get it for some real greenhouse experience.  The job was to work for Mrs. Layser in the retail greenhouse as the stock boy refilling plant inventory.

      I got to see how the whole place worked and as part of the deal I was to write a report on my observations.  

      Over the years, after I started my own business I would visit Layser’s to buy plants and get counsel from Donald.  Every once in awhile he would pull out that report and remind me that he valued it even though many of my observations were either off the mark or na├»ve.

      His genius in the plant business was that he would perceive what size and price the customer wanted and then figure out how to grow it at a profit.

      My business was small and his large so I always wanted to get his advice on things, so I could do the opposite of what he was doing.

      My mentor gave me a chance to see how commercial horticulture worked.  I would have worked there for nothing.  Of course, I didn’t tell him that until years later.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

One extra flower

Sinningia 'Prudence Risley' - Three leaf
Story # 67, Part II,

      One extra flower.

      The three leaf Sinningia shown before, did it once---- A flower for each leaf axil.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What should plants cost on e-Bay?

Streptocarpus 'Wow' bought on e-Bay
Story # 73

      What should plants cost on e-Bay?

      I’ve been a buyer on e-Bay but not a seller so I only know one side of this auction system.

      The internet has allowed this pure form of free enterprise.  Plants are shown and anyone is free to bid.  The plants that I watch are Streptocarpus or Sinningias.  Potentially there could be thousands of buyers.  In reality there rarely are more that 2 or 3 people bidding on any particular Gesneriad.  There are probably not more that 10- 15 sellers.

      As a buyer you are never sure how many plants are available or when you might see a rare one again. My observation is that the e-Bay system has allowed new or rare Sinningias to be distributed more quickly than any other way.

      My impression of auctions is that plants are always sold for more than they’re worth.

      Saying that is ridiculous, of course, because the winning bid is exactly what the plant is worth.

Friday, November 16, 2012

So what's it really like?

Sinningia 'An's Nyx' grown by Gary's Specialty Plants
Story # 72,

      This picture is the first flowering of Sinningia ‘An’s Nyx’ that was described in Story # 70.

      So what’s it really like?

      It is not as Yellow as I hoped that it would be.  More cream.

      It only has four possible flowers at first showing.

      It‘s unlikely to be a commercial plant.

     It will be lucky to be collector’s plant unless it produces better when more vigorous cuttings can be tested.  I’m glad that I get to see it first hand.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

100 Years old

Story # 71

      My Dad would have been 100 years old today.  Kenneth William Hunter was born November 15, 1912.  His parents, William and Clara Hunter, were Farmers and Dad was a Farmer.

     I was encouraged to leave the farm so that I would have an easier life.  It was decided for me when, in 1962, he had a heart attack and died.  At the time, treatment for heart problems was bed rest------ completely opposite of today’s angioplasty and stent treatments with full activity.

      The farm was gone and I was away from it but I eventually came back to growing things.  Through a great set of events, I ended up at Penn State studying horticulture and commercial flower production.

      In the greenhouse, I was farming in a building.

      Don’t let anybody tell you that we should go back to the ‘Good Old Days’.

      In the old days, there was no medical treatment for blocked arteries to the heart.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sinningia 'An's Nyx'

Sinningia 'An's Nyx'

Story # 70,

      Sinningia ‘An’s Nyx’ was one of the choice plants that I bought at the Gesneriad Society convention in Seattle in July.  Well my agent, Mary Schaeffer, was doing the bidding for me and was able to win the lot of Sinningias from Taiwan.

      We were unsure of what actual varieties were in the collection, but one was S. ‘An’s Nyx’.  This was a very lucky set of events since I had seen a picture of it on, a great source to see what’s going on with Sinningias in Taiwan.

      When Mary brought the plants back from the convention and got them to me, ‘An’s Nyx’ was a bare two little threads of a plant ------Will it survive?

      Of course it’s yes or there would be no need to tell the story.

      My interest in the plant is that it may be the first Yellow double calyx Sinningia in the world and the first clone of it in the United States.

      It remains to be seen if its other characteristics will be good enough, beyond Yellow?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Million Dollar Idea...

Miniature Indoor Garden

Story # 69, O T

      Back in our Grove City College days, a bunch of my fraternity brothers and I would have late night sessions where we brainstormed what great idea would bring us fame and fortune ------Well, mostly fortune.

      As far as I know none of us ever came up with the million dollar idea.

      What we were too naive to know then was that the idea is the easy part.  Execution is the hard part.

      In case you do have some idea that you are sure will work, you may want to go to and look at their free course on how to build a start-up business.  It will save you a lot of time doing the wrong things.

      I read that Intuit, the QuickBooks Company, gave an employee a million dollars for devising a product that turned into a 400 million dollar business.

      Where in the plant world is there a parallel story?

      Are indoor Miniature Gardens the next million dollar idea?

      Or will Sinningia ‘Li’l Georgie’, one of the world’s smallest flowering houseplants, be the next million dollar idea?

      Nobody knows.

                                                                                                      Sinningia 'Li'l Georgie'

Friday, November 2, 2012

'half-pint' Poinsettias are coming soon...

'half-pint' Poinsettia
Story # 68,

     ‘half-pint’ Poinsettias were introduced at Longwood Gardens Plant Shop last Christmas.

      The idea was to create a new size that customers would see as filling a need for small Poinsettias for small spaces.

     There was no need to compete with the very mini Poinsettias produced by Holtkamp’s Greenhouse in Nashville.  These are very cute and sell easily.

      The category in commercial production called 4” Poinsettias are usually in      4 ½” pots and branched to be smaller versions of the ubiquitous 6” pot that are the standard in the trade. (always wanted to have a use for the word ubiquitous).

      We wanted something that was smaller than a 4” and bigger than the 2’”minis.

      The name ‘half-pint’ was picked to suggest small and cute.  Many who grew up watching ‘Little House on the Prairie’ may remember Laura Ingalls’ little sister---- half-pint.

      A separate fact that’s not obvious is that this 3 ½” pot size holds one cup of dirt by volume-------- a ‘half-pint’.

     Several novelty varieties are being grown as single flowers or branched.

      Novelties like Jingle Bells, Cinnamon Star, Marble and Winter Rose will be there.

     But Ruby Frost and Ice Punch are the most popular.