Sunday, December 31, 2017

Greatest thing since sliced bread, O. T.

Maurice Sendak
            I’m no longer impressed with sliced bread.  If anything, the advancement is to actually get bread that is not sliced.

            To me it should be:  The greatest thing since flannel sheets!

            Flannel sheets must not be that common.  No motel features soft flannel sheets.

            My history started as a kid on the farm where my farmhouse upstairs bedroom had no heat.  My Mother had warm flannel sheets for Winter and smooth cotton sheets for Summer.

            I don’t remember how I got back to trying flannel again as an adult but it’s great, year around.  If your skin is shocked by cool slick sheets, try flannel.  After three nights of soft and warm, you’ll never go back.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Who wants this plant and why?

Pilea peperomioides

There is demand for Pilea peperomioides, the Chinese Money Plant.


Apparently, there has been viral circulation of pictures and stories about this green houseplant.

It’s just been sitting there in the mix with other carefree foliage houseplants.  Like most ‘hits’, it would be impossible to predict or plan for.

A few years ago, it was the ‘Peace Lily’ – Spathiphyllum.  Everybody wanted one.   Then it was ‘Fiddle Leaf Fig’ – Ficus lyrata.  The World’s supply is just now catching up.

If growers could anticipate which plant is the new hot one, money could be made.  If growers could create this demand for their ’championed’ variety, Primulina 'Loki', money could be made.

The only answer is to use the Walmart method--- watch what sells, get more of that.

I’m going to start growing Pilea peperomioides until nobody buys it anymore.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

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!”

Streptocarpus 'Rose Halo'

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

To Champion...

Sinningia 'Prudence Risley' - Where are you?

To Champion…

            Synonyms:  advocate, promote, defend, uphold, support, back, stand up for, crusade for…

            “To Champion” a particular plant takes a lot.

Sinningia 'An's Nyx' - Where are you?

Sunday, December 24, 2017

What ever happened to S. 'Li'l Georgie' ?

Sinningia 'Li'l Georgie' grown by the late John Lindstrom
What ever happened to S. ‘Li’l Georgie’?

            Sinningia ‘Li’l Georgie’ was and is a most amazing plant.  The hybrid Sinningia (S. concinna x S. muscicola) made by Jim Steuerlein in Florida was a breakthrough.  Through testing, we learned that this micro-miniature Sinningia could be grown in the open without any extra humidity.

            It’s not false advertising to say that it is one of the World’s smallest everblooming houseplants.

            I gave the history, starting here, of my attempt to distribute it into commercial horticulture channels.  We sold several thousand.

            And then what happened?

            My second tissue culture lab closed its business.  With the end of the only practical source of propagation, the ‘Li’l Georgie’ project died.      

            Will it come back to life?

            The plant is too good to stay hidden.

Sinningia 'Li'l Georgie' - Always flowering

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Remember when... , O. T.

Joe's Pizza & Pasta Maplewood NJ

Remember when you could get Pizza by the slice?

            The lunch special at Joe’s Pizza & Pasta in Maplewood NJ has two slices and a drink for five bucks.

            When traveling on deliveries, I’m trying to be more adventurous by trying local, non-chain eating places.  With a national chain you know what you’re going to get --- assuming you like something on the consistent menu.

            With local diners you are not sure, it’s the fear of the unknown.  This is foolish to worry because independent restaurants do not exist unless they are good.  ---- Small Town U S A.

            The lunch crowd was lining up at Joe’s.  I got 2 slices with Pepperoni.  Remember the kind with the Pepperoni grease running down your hand --- delicious!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

There's a new Frosted Jade in town...

Primulina yungfuensis - Original Frosted Jade
There is much interest in the species Primulina yungfuensis, first shown and distributed by Jim Roberts.  It has distinctive variegated foliage and I’ve proposed a marketing common name of ‘Frosted Jade’.

            Once I got stock established, I have propagated hundreds.  Its only weakness is brittleness --- its leaves want to snap off.  I think that it could be a stand-alone plant, promoted as Frosted Jade.

            Awhile back, I noticed a different leaf pattern----a mutation in the population of yungfuensis.  It has much more silver and is distinctively different from the original clone.

            I’ve propagated these leaves to prove that it is stable.  Once I have a group to test, I can decide about naming and possible release.

            A new Frosted Jade…

Primulina yungfuensis- New clone from vegetative mutation

Who is the Asian Violet Leader?

Asian Violet - Primulina 'Diane Marie'
            If you do a Google search for ‘Asian Violets’, you will find my Blog stories at the top of the list.

            Isn’t that wonderful!  I’m the leader of the ‘Asian Violet’ movement, bringing Primulina into the light to make the World a better place.

            As with most ‘Fifteen minutes of fame’, there is more to consider.

            If I’m the leader, where are the followers and why aren’t there hundreds of references to Asian Violets?

            If you follow Steve Blank’s framework of how to segment a market, he would call Asian Violets a New Market.

            The great thing about a New Market is that there is NO competition.  The bad part is that there may be NO customers?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Name a daylily...

Primulina 'Loki' grown by Paul Susi

If I ask causal gardeners to give me a name of a daylily, they likely will say:  “Stella de Oro”.  They won’t know that the genus is called Hemerocallis, but somehow, they’ve heard of ‘Stella de Oro’.

How did this happen?

Relentless promotion by somebody.

The breakthrough in daylilies was new hybrids that flowered more than a “day”.  This was followed by flooding the market with plants, so the story perpetuates itself. 

What would it take to make the answer: ‘Loki’, for the question:  “What Asian Violet are you familiar with?”

It’s been 42 years since the hybridizer, Walter Jablonski, released ‘Stella de Oro’.  When will everybody know ‘Loki’ as the breakthrough that started Asian Violets as a common houseplant?

Can or will this happen?  Of course, it can.  There has been enough practical testing of Primulina ‘Loki’ to prove that it is a durable houseplant with interesting variegated foliage.  It is attractive with or without blue flowers.  Peter Shalit, the hybridizer, released it as a good plant.  I believe that it is the best one to lead.

Will it?  Today, there is virtually no commercial supply.  Today, there are few commercial growers who know about this plant.  Only dedicated hobbyists have Primulina or could name a few varieties.

‘Stella de Oro’ perpetuated its popularity because it was a breakthrough---a continuously flowering hybrid.  It sells because it’s advertised as the best.  Growers produce it because it sells.

The Asian Violet, ‘Loki’, could change the future.  Like an African Violet, but better.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Are Asian Violets 10X better...?

Primulina 'Loki' grown by Karyn Cichocki

Are Asian Violets 10X better than African Violets?

In Peter Thiel’s book, Zero to One, he argues that a new product must be 10 times better than what’s available to have any chance of success.

If Asian Violets (Primulina) are going to challenge or overtake African Violets, why will that happen?

African Violets are the top selling flowering houseplants in the World.  How could that change?

Let’s compare: 

African--    Abundant colorful, double or single flowers, all shades and colors.
Asian--  Clusters of single flowers, mostly blue.  Limited pink, white or yellow.

African--  Stick a leaf for plantlets.
Asian--  Stick a leaf for plantlets.

Home growing:
African--  Tricky until you find the right system.  Flowers sporadically.
Asian--  Survives neglect.  Flower sporadically when old enough.

African--  Many leaf shapes, green or variegated leaves.
Asian--  Attractive variegated leaves.  Some plain green leaves.

African--  Limited
Asian--  Unlimited

Commercial production:
African--  Holtkamp Greenhouse is dominating force in worldwide production.
Asian--  No large-scale production.  Limited to hobbyists and specialty mail order.

            Asian Violets will be compared to African Violets.  Today, it is no contest.  Primulina has zero market share.  Survivability as a houseplant is their only 10X advantage.  Is survivability the trait that overrides all others?

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Word at the Show

Primulina 'Diane Marie' - Runner-up Best in Show - Gesneriad

The word at the DAVS show.

            Saturday was the Delaware African Violet and Gesneriad Show and Sale.  There were many interesting, superbly grown plants to see and discuss.

            Among them, were entries of Primulinas in flower and non-flowering classes.  I was fortunate to win Runner-up Best in Show – Gesneriad with my Primulina ‘Diane Marie’.  As they say with flower show timing: “You should have seen it two weeks ago when it was really flowering”

            Overheard was a visitor who asked about the Asian Violets.  Since this was an un-coaxed comment, I had to find out how my preferred common name had come out.  The gentleman explained that if we had African Violets, we must have Asian Violets.  When I told him that Primulina are native to South China and North Vietnam, it was even more obvious that Asian Violets is the logical name. 

            Pam was there, so I asked her for another quote.  She said: “Primulina are easy to grow!  African Violets are too temperamental.”  She has switched most of her hobby growing to Primulina.

            We talked about their forgiving nature of surviving a dry period.  Ray speculated that: “Primulina might be the Succulents of the Gesneriad World”.

But Tom said: “Yes, but not P. ‘Betty’”, which from his experience did not survive.  So, the toughness is probably variety specific.

I think that it’s a good analogy.  We’ve all been saying that Primulina recover from a drought without damage.  So, let’s just call them:  The Succulents of the Gesneriad World!”

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Violet and Gesneriad Show

Sinningia 'Prudence Risley'

Please join us for a very special show and sale, featuring Venetian opera masks decorated with violets and unique arrangements inspired by Venetian balconies.

Delaware Center for Horticulture
1810 North DuPont Street
Wilmington, DE
· Friday October 6th, 2017 from 3:00 to 7pm during the Art Loop
· Saturday October 7th, 2017, from 9am to 4pm
Parking and admission:  Free

Additional Information: of page) or

     An invitation from the Delaware African Violet and Gesneriad Society to their judged Flower Show.  There will be interesting plants for you to see and buy.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Unlimited Potential, Part II

Primulina - Unknown, First Flowers
           A great Primulina clone was shown with unlimited potential and many knowledgeable growers are on the trail of its proper name.  These flowers opened from buds in two days.  Flower faces are distinctive.  Maybe this will settle it?

Primulina Unknown, 1.5" long

Primulina, Unknown, 1 1/4" wide

Primulina, Unknown, Bud count - 13

          The  working theory is that it is P. 'Diane Marie' or a sibling of the original cross.  Here is the description from registration by Bob Stewart in 1994.

Primulina ‘Diane Marie’. 1994, IR94481 Robert Stewart. [Stewart, 1990] (P. dryas (C. sinensis)‘Angustifolia’ x P. species). Plant is a flat rosette; leaves green (RHS 137 A) with extensive silver on veins; petiole 3-4 cm long, faintly reddish. Leaf blade 6-8 cm long, 4-5 cm wide, hairy; ovate, acute tip, base cuneate, margin double toothed. The calyx red (59A), split; pedicel 3 cm long; peduncle 4 cm long with 4 flowers on each peduncle. Corolla 6 cm long, 3 cm in diameter, violet (88C) with white in the throat, violet stripes extending onto lip, yellow lines from anther, and yellow spot at tip center. Flower similar to C. sinensis var. angustifolia but larger and darker, and the plant is much more compact, with flat instead of upward leaves which are ovate instead of lanceolate. Blooms in December and sporadically in other months. First listing 1994, CODA Gardens catalog.

Constant Exposure Makes Hits!

Primulina 'Loki' -  Hybridized and Grown by Peter Shalit

Constant exposure makes hits. 

I’m reading the book, Hit Makers by Derek Thompson which main theme is to make a song popular, you must play it over and over until everybody likes it.  This trick has been known for years, which is why record companies paid radio stations to play songs----Payola.

            The author argues that we humans seek the ‘New’ but we buy the ‘Familiar’.  The best strategy is to relate the new to the old.  My tag line is perfect:  ‘Asian violets are like African Violets, but better!’

            How many times must you see Asian Violets to feel like you know about them?

            First, buy one, grow it.  Tell your friends--- Over and over until everybody likes it.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Unlimited Potential...

Primulina loaded up with buds

             “There’s no greater burden than unlimited potential”                                                       --- Snoopy from Charlie Brown.

            This unidentified Primulina is loading up with buds and will be spectacular soon.  There will be multiple blue flowers.

            This gives hope that Asian Violets could be a commercial flowering crop.  The problem remains that it is more than a year old.

            There is a limited market for Premium Hanging Baskets.  It could be worth growing 50 of these and see?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Asian Violets --- Like an African Violet, but better!

Primulina 'Loki' - The easy houseplant

            This Primulina ‘Loki’ has been growing at the West kitchen window for three years.  It’s in a 2 ½” pot, has never had fertilizer and has wilted many times.  Yes, the foliage is perfect.

            This flowering randomly occurs two or three times a year.  Most casual houseplant growers would consider this one of their easiest flowering houseplants.

            Why doesn’t everyone have one?

            A Golden Oldie repeat.  This story from last year could not be more true today.  This Asian Violet is budded again.

            Its care is occasional water.
            Primulina ‘Loki’ is the best Asian Violet.

           Asian Violets, like an African Violet, but better, are much easier to produce and survive as houseplants.

            Why doesn’t everyone have one?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Why can't I decide to buy that $0.99 cent book?


              I’m an impulse buyer of Kindle books on Amazon.  The Kindle is one of the greatest inventions of all time.  eBooks have driven down the cost of books such that $0.99 is a common price.

            But why is the decision so hard to order a .99 cent book? --- less than a drink at your favorite fast food.

            If the book’s topic is of no interest, then it’s no bargain.  If the topic is exactly what you want to learn about, then why are they selling it so cheap?

           I think the issue is time.  I don’t want to waste my time reading a trivial book.  The .99 cents makes the value suspect.

            The mind has trouble evaluating plants, also.  We try to make plants low cost so there will be no resistance to buy.  But customers hesitate ---- ‘I don’t want to kill it”.  Sometimes you can’t even give a plant to people who think this way.

            If I find a plant that I want, I don’t care what it costs ---within reason, of course.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Buy American, if..., O. T.

Buy American, if...
                 Buy American, IF, it is the best value !

            I buy plants from Florida or Mexico---- depending which is the best value.

            If you think that garden plants and houseplants are expensive, you should consider their cost if we did not have Free Trade around the World.  International sharing of new plants and production has improved the quality and lowered the cost of Horticultural Products.

            Every Economist knows that “Free” World Trade is obvious.  Most every politician yells for tariffs (taxes) on imports, thinking that is what Americans want.  Clearly, that is wrong since isolationism has never worked and is simply stupid.  There is no tariff on plants shipped from Florida to Pennsylvania.  Why should it be any different shipping from Mexico?  

            Free market Capitalism will bring you high quality, reasonably priced plants.

            Continue to Buy American, but only if it’s the best value !

Monday, May 29, 2017

What's Possible with Codonanthe carnosa 'Libby'?

Codonanthe carnosa 'Libby' with multi-buds

          What is the genetic potential for Codonanthe carnosa 'Libby'?

          Nobody knows until hybrids are made and the results are evaluated.

          Here is the species with a few leaves removed to show the flowering potential.  There can be One, Two, Three or Four flowers per leaf axil.

          If that trait transfers, the hybrid would be exceptional !

Sunday, April 16, 2017

It ain't bragging if ...

'Mini' Plants with Custom  Blue Tags

For years, my tag line was:

            “Nobody does what I do with plants.  They could, but they don’t!”

It always seemed like bragging, but six years of developing the ‘Mini’ plants program has proven it true.

"It ain’t bragging, if you can do it."

My ‘Mini’ plants for Miniature Gardens and your Windowsill have substance---they are full pots of unique varieties that indoor gardeners want.  Serious collectors recognize my custom blue tags when seen at one of my 30 retail outlets.

A Specialist beats a Generalists every time.

      Gary K. Hunter, Grower
   Gary’s Specialty Plants

‘Mini’ Plants for Miniature Gardens and your Windowsill !

          1610 Fern Glen Drive         
            Drumore PA 17518
   (717) 951-4507 – Cell (Voice Mail)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Modern Day Codonanthe 'Gina'

Codonanthe gracilis 'Joinville'

            Forty years ago, I made a cross between Codonanthe carnosa (small white flowers) and Codonanthe gracilis (bigger white flowers).  I only got a few seeds but the resulting hybrid was a trailing plant with bronze narrow pointy leaves.

            At least that is what I think happened. 

            I took my hybrid, Codonanthe ‘Gina’ ---- named for my second greenhouse employee, to the National Gesneriad Convention in Silver Springs, MD.  Hans Wiehler took notice immediately and told me I had the first known Codonanthe hybrid.

            Over the years, the finer points have been lost.  Codonanthe ‘Gina’ has been lost to cultivation.  The pictures I had cannot be found.  The original parents are uncertain due to name changes.  Codonanthe ‘Gina’ can not be duplicated.

            However, something better may be possible.  If we cross C. carnosa ‘Libby’ with C. gracilis ‘Joinville’, we should get a large white flower on interesting foliage.

            An improved ‘Gina’ cross will deserve a new name.  If successful, it will be exciting to see ---- Same concept, different parents.

Codonanthe gracilis 'Joinville' (top) and Codonanthe carnosa 'Libby' (bottom)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Codonanthe carnosa 'Libby, Part II

Codonanthe carnosa 'Libby'
          From the wisdom of the crowd, I'll start with the conclusion from Ron:

     "It's just as Gary suspected, this large-flowered Codonanthe appears to be the "original" C. carnosa distributed by Hans Wiehler many years ago.

Good to see it in production, and hopefully widely distributed. Thanks to Gary!"

          If you hate details, you can stop reading .  If you are always looking for historical clues read further:

Mauro, Brazilian Seed Fund comments:

     "Alain is the best one to “give the verdict” and he will correct me  if I’m wrong, but it seems that the name confusion came from long ago when Wiehler described C. digna and C. paula that are in fact Codonanthe devosiana.
Codonanthe carnosa has the biggest flower among the four species with small leaves from Southeast Atlantic forest: (devosiana, serrulata, gibbosa and carnosa) and Gary’s plant fits on C. carnosa flower size.

Probably some plants labeled as C. carnosa are in fact C. devosiana…"

Alain answers:

     "I fully agree with Mauro, the material posted as Codoannthe "Libby" matches exactly the clone I got from Hans Wiehler in the early 980's, it pertains doubtless to C. carnosa."

Then Mauro says:

     "Yes, to me, it is a standard sized C. carnosa flower. It “should” have at least twice of the size of C. devosiana ‘Paula’ since the later has one of the smallest flower from all clones of C. devosiana that I’ve seen.
The attached picture is C. carnosa  (not fully open) that I grow from seeds of the Seed Fund since 1995, it looks to be the same as Gary’s plant. The ones that I collected don´t have the red on the back of the leaves."

          And so it goes----The clone I have designated as 'Libby' is the species carnosa which somehow got to Libby years ago.  It has red on the back of the leaves which is different from those collected in Brazil by Mauro.

Friday, March 31, 2017

How did this happen?

Sinniniga 'Esther' - four buds

            Remember when I told you about Sinningia ‘Esther’?

            This red flowered Sinningia has cardinalis-type flowers but it is limited by only one flower per leaf axil.

            This picture of a rooted side shoot from my original plant is budded and flowering.

            Four flowers per leaf.  How can this happen?

Sinningia 'Esther' -- How?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hey Jude

Columnea 'Jude' grown by Ron

            This spectacular Columnea grown by Ron in Canada and shown at various Gesneriad shows had a tough journey to my greenhouse.

            The picture of Ron’s plant grown in his home always attracts a lot of ‘Wows’.  And, where can I get that?

            I met Ron years ago, at National Gesneriad conventions ---- he has an encyclopedic knowledge of Gesneriads and is a skilled grower.

            When I asked, Ron offered to get me stock of Columnea ‘Jude’ for commercial production.  Now, for persistence --- The first batch of cuttings sent in November froze, the second batch in March froze (every leaf fell off) but the meristem was green.  I propagated and hoped for one cutting to establish itself.  I got one or two.  Ron then saved the project by hand carrying his show plant to the Delaware National Gesneriad Convention in 2016.  After winning an award, he gave his plant to me.  Finally, a stock base.

            My goal is grow stock baskets ---- when tips are budded, direct stick into 9.5 cm (4”) pots, 3 cuttings per pot.  By the time they root, the cuttings are flowering ---- sell.
            Will they look like Ron’s specimen plant?  Highly unlikely.

            But, it is a good clone.  The salmon pink flowers at every leaf last for weeks.  It’s not a wimpy hybrid.

            The fatal flaw of Columnea is that cold water and sun burn the leaves, which is why they are not seen often.

            But, Columnea ’Jude’ is worth the effort.

Columnea 'Jude' grown by Gary's Specialty Plants