ALOCASIA FROM SEED, OUR ANNUAL PRIMULA SOCIETY MEETING AND A RARE NASTURTIUM ARRIVES

REGULAR SUPERMARKET PRIMROSES CAN LOOK MORE INTERESTING  IF CAREFULLY CURATED SO THAT ONE HAS NICER COLORS, AND WHEN POTTED UP IN A NICE HUY WOLFF POT THEY CAN SHINE!

Here it is -mid January and the temperatures outside are dipping down below 0º F, but this weather doesn’t seem to be stopping some of the tropical plants which are spending the colder month of the winter in the house, since even the greenhouse is too cold for them. This weekend we hosted the New England Primula Society for a lunch and greenhouse garden tour as they are planning the national primrose exhibition which they are hosting this year at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA in May. I was too busy to take photos this year but we had about 40 guests including folks from Blythewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum, author and garden designer Kris Fenderson and many cross-over NARGS friends like Ellen Hornig, Elizabeth Zander and plantswomen Amy Olmsted.).

 I am always surprised at how far people drive here with many coming from New York State, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island. I tried to keep it easy on myself so that I could enjoy some of the meeting, which lasts most of the day beginning at 11:00 am. I made grilled cheese sandwiches with fancy cheeses, a sorrel, lemon, and golden beet salad and tomato soup.

When we were cleaning up after our meeting Joe pointed out that one of our large Alocasia macrorrhizos  ‘Borneo Giant’ plants which sits in the corner of the studio had ripe seed which somehow we missed – probably because the leaves are still larger than we are, reaching a height of 10 feet or so. The seeds, which are berry-like and dark orange ( they should be red). Even though they are almost ripe, I am going to sow them as in the past, we’ve even had green seed germinate.

If you brought an Alocasia indoors this autumn, you too may find one of these ‘pod’s.  Here is how I treat such seeds – but note, this is not a strict, scientific method, and I am not an aroid collector (even though I do grow a few), but the seeds on many aroids are treated similarly. When ripe, the ‘pods’ split open and curl downwards revealing the white, light green or bright, red fruits which look like ‘berries’  but they are toxic so do not eat them and it is recommended to handle them with latex gloves as the flesh can irritate bare skin.

The fruits must be cleaned before sowing, which is a simple task – smearing them across a few paper towels will do the trick. Some growers soak the clean seed overnight, others rinse them off in a sieve, but neither is necessary, and one could simply sow them in good, professional soil mix which is what I did. My seed is not completely ripe, as the fruit is not deep red, but I have had seed germinate throughout the greenhouse in past years, so I am hopeful that this almost-ripe seed will germinate.

Most aroid seed if tropical, require warm temperatures in which to germinate well, and most aroid collector sites recommend soil temperatures no lower than 70º F and no higher than 85º F. Because of this, I am keeping my pot of seed indoors for a while. We keep many selections of Alocasia so I am curious if any of them have crossed with this plant ( I am not even sure if the plants are pollinated via beetles, insects or wind! I am being a bit lazy botanically, I admit.). I am rather certain that any offspring will not truly be Alocasia ‘Borneo Giant’, perhaps I can label them ex. ‘Borneo Giant’? Yes, that would be safest and the most proper way to label these seeds.

My Alocasia seed is spread about in one of my clay pots ( I know, it’s a bit dirty and unwashed). A layer of fresh soil is added to the top so that the seeds are set a depth of about 1/4 inch.

The soil is tamped down with hardly any fuss, as I have Alocasia seed popping up in pots all over the greenhouse, so I am expecting that at least a few seeds will germinate for me.

The rare double sterile nasturtium named ‘Margaret Long’ is treasured by those who know about such things. It can only be propagated by cuttings,never from seed, is so much more than a mere ‘hand-me-down plant – a sport off of a double red Victorian plant named ‘Hermine Grashof’ , a similar form that dates back to the 1880’s, this apricot sport appeared on a plant in Ireland in the early 1970’s, and had been passed on since then. Such double sports where treasured as pot plants and remain terribly rare.

I am so excited to tell you that I finally have this Nasturtium in my collection!!! I don’t use explaimation points that often, so I suppose that you can tell that I am truly excited.  I have been on a hunt for it ever since I first read about it (I wrote about it here). As such things go, plant folk are of a good and generous soul, and thanks to a few people (mainly Gail Read, the garden manager from Blythewold and Kathy Tracey at Avant Gardens – I hear, who passed it on to Gail  for safe keeping in their greenhouses until Gail could get it up to me. Really– What a dedicated bunch of plant people!). Please don’t’ ask them for one, as I know they don’t have any to share, but apparently Avant gardens does carry it from time to time, as does Annie’s Annuals, but currently, they are not propagating it.  I am so grateful and of course, delighted. More on these rare nasturtiums soon! First, I am off to make some cuttings.

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