Wednesday, June 22, 2022

It's better than I thought!


Begonia amphioxus

It’s even better than I thought.


Begonia amphioxus is an interesting plant to look at.  With narrow leaves and bright reddish spots, it is worth having in your collection.  We just need a good common name.


            The one I have at the North window does fine with no additional humidity needed.


            But here is how it’s better.


I went on vacation, and it was not watered for 12 days.  When I got back, it was very dry but suffered no damage --- no brown leaves or leaf drop.  The slight wilt perked up with water.


            Begonia amphioxus is the perfect houseplant.  Everybody should have one.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

It has happened again!


Primulina 'Xuan's Party Dress' with Sinningia 'Prudence Risley'

              It’s happening again.


            My Primulina ‘Xuan’s Party Dress’ is flowering with multiple buds and flowers at the west windowsill where it has been for years.


            Successful reflowering for Primulina is a major test which it has passing again this year.


            ‘Party Dress’ is one of the best for early flowering and the flower is blue, a change from mostly purple varieties.


            This year it is joined by ‘Prudence Risley’ with spectacular red flowers.  This plant’s early life was in the greenhouse, but the buds have been opening regularly here.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

There's a story here!


  • Garden Center Magazine

  • February 2022
  • Marketable miniatures
    Achimenes 'Petite Fadette'
    Photo courtesy of Gary Hunter

    Marketable miniatures

    Features - Plants

    Flowering miniatures tout colorful blooms and space-saving options for retailers to market as attractive alternatives to larger, more traditional houseplants.

    February 7, 2022

    In the last 50 years, houseplants experienced quite the trend cycle. With interest peaking in the ‘70s and ‘80s, demand waned in decades that followed, only to be resurrected by plant-happy millennials in the last 10 years. Of course, it’s hard to predict what comes next without a crystal ball, but Gary Hunter, owner of Gary’s Specialty Plants in Drumore, Pennsylvania, believes the latest trend may be flowering miniature plants.

    “When I started nine or 10 years ago, one of our sayings was ‘miniature plants for miniature gardens,’ and that was a thing that was going on at the time where people would make their own little miniature garden scenes,” Hunter says.

    While people are no longer as interested in the trinkets, there’s still a spot for miniatures — and that’s alongside traditional houseplants. Right now, Hunter says retailers are still very interested in houseplants and notes string of pearls and the Chinese money plant are some of his bestsellers.

    “We hope houseplant popularity continues but we don't have any control over this trend,” Hunter says with a laugh. “Why did it start? Why did it continue? Why did it go up? It will go down — we just don't know when.”

    However, he thinks flowering miniatures will start to take off soon, especially varieties found in the Gesneriad family — all of which are flowering houseplants. These include African violets, Streptocarpus, Aeschynanthus, Achimenes, Smithiantha, Kohleria, Sinningia and Primulina.

    “You can get a lot of plants in a smaller area for display and that’s a good thing. In general, the price went up on that stuff. When we started, the retail was about $4. Now it's almost $5 everywhere and some places they're selling it for $6,” Hunter says. “So that sounds like a lot of money for a little plant, but actually, if somebody can buy several little plants for not much money, that helps sell them and the customer gets more variety.”

    Here are some varieties to get you started:

    Achimenes ‘Golden Bells’
    Photos courtesy of Gary's Specialty Plants


    “Almost no young person knows about this one. We grew these 40-50 years ago. It’s most like an impatiens. It has pastel flowers and can flower in the morning sun and afternoon shade,” he says.

    Hunter points out that Achimenes have always been grown by Gesneriad hobbyists, but it is not in the commercial system.

    “The easy method for the homeowner is to grow it as a summer plant or a patio plant. In the fall, it will die back. You can either just put it in the basement and let it go until next spring, or you can knock out the pot and harvest those little rhizomes and save them, and start them in March or April and start the next year,” he says.

    There are many hybrids in all colors — ranging from pinks, reds, yellows, white and lavender — with single and double-flower, upright and trailing varieties.

    Sinningia ‘Li'l Georgie’

    Sinningia ‘Li’l Georgie’

    A micro-mini, Sinningia ‘Li’l Georgie’ is one of the world’s smallest flowering plants, Hunter says. Sinningia ‘Li’l Georgie’ contains many purple flowers on a compact plant, and, if grown from a tuber, can resprout if it goes dormant, he says.

    “I have produced these before and am in the process of reestablishing a supply from tissue culture. The breakthrough with this micro-mini Sinningia is that it does not require the extra humidity of a terrarium, but can grow on a windowsill,” Hunter says.


    Primulina 'Loki'

    African violets are already popular amongst houseplant parents, and Hunter believes Primulina is an excellent miniature option.

    “I’ve been growing Primulina for 10 years as a variegated small plant in our assortment of 2.5-inch foliage. There are hundreds of species and hybrids in the hobby world. Primulina are like an African violet, but better,” Hunter says. “The plants can survive being dry, low and high light. They flower after one to one and a half years from being propagated by leaf, similar to African violets.”

    According to Hunter, Primulina is in the same stage as African violets were 70 years ago, and he predicts that Primulina will eventually replace African violets. Native to South China and North Vietnam, most of these contain purple and blue flowers, but some contain white, pink and yellow flowers, he says.

    Sunday, March 6, 2022

    The Begonia amphioxus are coming!

    Begonia amphioxus


    The Begonia amphioxus are coming!


                This rare Begonia species was discovered at Strange’s Garden Center in Richmond VA.  It was in a terrarium display and I was told it may need extra humidity.  So, I bought one to propagate.  It is small and delicate looking but it may be tougher.


                I have a dome to cover it in the house but it’s doing fine with no cover and no extra humidity.


                I’ve never seen a Begonia with such bright and shiny spots.  It may only be for collectors, but I like it.


                Since then, I bought 8 stock plants to cut from and to grow in 2.5” pots for the world to see.


                It’s small so will take time.  Prices will be high, but if you find one, how can you not have one?

    Thursday, March 3, 2022

    What should I call it?

    Sinningia 'Prudence Risley' - Coming soon from the farm


    If you would decide to grow plants in the Gesneriad family, what would you call the business?


    First, you could reconsider your assumption that Genera within the Gesneriad family are worth producing.  The answer is if there ever is a time to try it, it is now.  Houseplant demand is so strong, you can sell any new plant that you have.  If it has a flower, even better.


    These Gesneriads would feed into the Gary’s Specialty Plants LLC distribution system.  Nothing has changed expect adding more varieties to the inventory list.


    I want to call it --- Gary’s Gesneriad Farm.  This will be my third plant business.  Coming after Hunter’s Greenhouse and Gary’s Specialty Plants, I like Gary’s Gesneriad Farm.


    My son warns me against having ‘Gesneriad’ in my email address.  Nobody knows what that is or how to spell it.  It must be better than tech companies that choose nonsensical combinations of letters.


    So why Farm?  The standard is ‘Greenhouse’ or ‘Nursery’.  They’ve always been wrong.  I don’t sell greenhouses or raise babies.


    Since I grew up on a farm, I’m returning to my roots.

                        Gary’s Gesneriad Farm ---- I like it.

    The tuber gets better with age!

    Sinningia 'Li'l Georgie'


    The tuber gets better with age!


                When you root a Sinningia tip cutting, you get roots, shoots and flowers.


                A tuber forms to replace roots and the next shoot grows from it.


                This shoot (top growth) is stronger, and you get more flowers.


                When you have an old tuber of Sinningia ‘Li’l Georgie’, it is spectacular.


                Another reason that Mini Sinningias are so interesting.

    Sinningia 'Li'l Georgie' - Old tuber

    Wednesday, March 2, 2022

    Gary's Gesneriad Farm


    If you would start a Gesneriad Farm...

    Mini Sinningias - Assorted

    If you would start a Gesneriad Farm, what would you do?

                Let’s suppose that the houseplant boom of the 1970’s is starting again.

                The leading commercial horticulture trade magazine, Grower Talks, gave its lead story to this idea.  The Sill, of NYC, gets a mention as a rising star by building a retail mail order source for foliage houseplants.  They also just opened their second storefront in Manhattan.

                If every apartment dweller in NYC suddenly sees the need for a plant, we will need a lot of plants.

                The grower at Costa Farms, FL, makes this novel observation:  “Urban markets are exploding with small apartments and rental units, and houseplants are, in a way, taking the place of pets.”

                Last time, the supply never did catch up with the demand.  Then it peaked, and houseplants proceeded to crash toward zero.

                While starting with easy surviving foliage plants, it quickly moved into more interesting oddities and flowering plants.  Enter---- Gesneriads.

                African Violets, the leading flowering houseplant in the World survived ---- most others did not.

                Are indoor gardeners ready for Streptocarpus, Nematanthus, Columnea, Aeschynanthus, Primulina and Sinningias?  Since there is very little supply, nobody knows.

                As Seth Godin says:  “Start small, start now!”



                This was written December 2017.  In four years, foliage houseplant sales continued to boom.

                 My prediction is that the next trend will be flowering houseplants.

                 What we need is Gary's Gesneriad Farm to grow some of these.