Monday, January 19, 2009

Creating Schlumbergera hybrids

Holiday Cactus. Obviously, I don't need more of them, but it's interesting trying to see if I can create hybrids and grow them from seed. I transferred pollen among the 3 colors that I had blooming at the time, red, pink, and white. According to various web sources, most are self-infertile, so hybridization is necessary in order to get fruit - and then seeds.

I wonder, what is the advantage to the species to be self-infertile? Some plants are self-fertile, and others are self-infertile. It seems like it would take a special mechanism to become self infertile. I suppose that 'enforced' genetic exchange might result in hardier plants due to mixing of genes, and also result in faster transfer of beneficial genes throughout a population.

Another possiblity is that since the modern varieties are all hybrids, the pollin-producing mechanism and the pollen-receiving mechanisms might originate from different, incompatible species, so another plant with matching mechanisms is needed from a different hybrid. Again, this is just a wild guess.

I pollinated these 2 or 3 weeks ago. Each was pollinated from another variety of a different color.

Here is a web posting about hybridizing and growing Schlumbergera from seeds.

Here is a posting on the gardenweb, with some individual challenges and successes.

It's interesting that the young fruit of the white-flowered variety is not pigmented, so is green.

And the pink variety is a bit more pigmented than the white one.

And the red-flowered variety has the darkest fruit pigmentation as well.

Now comes the long wait. According to some sources, it can take a year for the seed to mature, then 2-3 years to obtain flowering plants from seed. Faster than Clivias, which take a year for the seed to mature and up to 7 years to bloom. But patience is still needed. And luck.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Year's Tradition: Pruning the Grape Vines

I don't know how it started. Each year within a few days of New Year's day, I prune the grape vines. This year, new year's day was not possible, but yesterday was close enough. Pruning in Spring, after the sap starts to flow, leads to dripping of sap as it continues to run for a few days or week. That doesn't happen with mid-winter pruning. Plus, it's a nice chore to do for puttering meditation.

Most years I have gone with a combination of spur and cane methods, since I wasn't sure which was best. Last year they were quite productive, and it didn't seem to make much difference whether it was cane or spur pruning. I think that they may have over-grown the arbor, so this year, it's all spur pruning.

It's interesting how soon the trunks developed a gnarled, established look. I like that.

My approach with the spur pruning was to leave about 4-6 inches of growth from 2008, and remove the rest. That means that I removed about 95% of last year's growth. I left 2 to 4 buds in most cases. Most grapes seem to bloom from buds forming on last year's growth, and most from the first few buds on the cane. If I'm wrong about that, then this will not be a productive grape year. But I think that I'm right. We'll see.

This arbor has 3 vines: Interlaken (my favorite), Canadice (the most productive) and Venus (a nice change of pace).

I was more aggressive with Canadice, since it was too productive. That meant that the grapes were smaller, and there were too many. I left more of the Interlaken, since it is my favorite. Two vines would have been plenty on this arbor, but I wanted 3 varieties.

Over the gate, Price grape. Also very tasty, larger grapes in smaller bunches. Price has not been very productive so far. Squirrels eat the flower buds. In 2008 I added some screening, which deterred the squirrels somewhat. I'll have to do that this year as well.

Price was also pruned mainly as 2 to 4 bud spurs. Last year it was too unruly, so I was more aggressive this time.

The prunings were chopped into pieces about 3 to 4 inches long, and applied as a mulch around some shrubs. Last year, I did the same thing, but then applied compost on top of the grape vine mulch. That resulted in numerous small grapevines growing from the chopped pieces. This time, I'll leave the chopped vines on top so that I don't get unintended starts.