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Party in the Greenhouse!

Monday, April 6, 2015

It's really coming on here. The forsythia is opening a few tentative blossoms, and the peonies have curled red fingers pointing toward the sky. I've finally gotten all the garden beds cleaned out and the first spring weeding (always the worst) done. I plop down on my butt in my Round House Overalls from Woodward OK and scoot along digging up grass and grass and grass.

I go out and watch the rhubarb grow every morning. It's thrilling, and not as slow as you'd guess. But I have already bought two bunches at the grocery store because I just couldn't wait for that spring tonic, that tangy bite, those soft strings on my tongue.

Note dogbomb above. I am getting creaky enough that I don't want to get down on all fours for every photo, so I am not always sure what I'm getting when I put my iPhone on the ground. I was trying for him...Got eeeem!

So spring is here, in a quiet, hang-on-I'm-coming way. 
But in the greenhouse, there's a party going on. 

This little orange abutilon, saved over from last summer, did the funniest thing. It put out a sport branch that has two all-yellow bells, and one orange bell with a yellow petal. I think I'll keep it.

A "sport" is a mutant shoot that shows up on an otherwise normal plant. Sometimes you cut them off, which is why I said, "I think I'll keep it." Sometimes they're undesirable because they're throwbacks to an earlier form of the plant. Geranium "Frank Headly" will grow along being superdwarf and heavily variegated with white, throwing salmon blossoms, but sometimes from the root will come this shoot that's all green, very vigorous, with red flowers. A parent variety, I guess. Because I like the dwarf variegated type, and I've noticed the plain green sports grow like mad and sap energy from the rest of the rather delicate plant, I usually cut off the sport shoots. I'm not completely sure what's going on there, but I find it fascinating. It's not as if gerania are grown from root grafts, so where does this wild type limb come from? Just a branch reverting back to its original type?

Wikipedia says:
In botany, a sport or bud sport is a part of a plant (usually a woody plant, but sometimes an herb) that shows morphological differences from the rest of the plant. Sports may differ by foliage shape or color, flowers, or branch structure.
Sports with desirable characteristics are often propagated vegetatively to form new cultivars that retain the characteristics of the new morphology.[1] Such selections are often prone to "reversion", meaning that part or all of the plant reverts to its original form. An example of a bud sport is the nectarine, which developed from a bud sport from a peach. Other common fruits resulting from a sport mutation are the red Anjou pear and the white currant.

So apparently you can propagate sports via cuttings, but not seeds, because they're just a mutant branch of a plant. Ironically, the variegated salmon-flowered Frank Headly geranium was probably originally a sport off the vigorous plain green form that I choose to cut and remove when it arises on my weak-growing but treasured Frank. If you can follow my bizarre thought process. If not, read on...

 Here's another sport, this time off geranium "Wilhelm Langguth." The flower, interestingly, is normally colored, but oh those pure-white leaves! Obviously they have very little chlorophyll in them, so they can't photosynthesize to feed the plant, and don't do it any good. This sport is pretty, and I'll leave it for now because it looks so cool. Generally white sport shoots wither up on their own as the plant realizes it's made a mistake, putting out leaves that can't feed it. I do like the dash of green in the center! We'll see where this one goes. It's all a big experiment for the Science Chimp.

See, if this sport off the white-edged "Wilhelm Langguth," which was probably a sport off a plain green-leaved geranium, had, say, a nice big green patch in the center of the leaf such that it could make enough food to sustain the plant, I could cut it off, root the cutting, propagate it vegetatively, and name it "Zick's Weakling" or something similarly funny. If I cut this sport off right now and tried to root it it would die without delay, because it is entirely dependent on the mother plant for its survival. But given a little more green on the leaf, I could develop a brand new geranium variety. I'd be RICH I tell you RICH!!! Yes. I am crazy. Poor and crazy.

Pallid winter blooms of "Gartenmeister Bonstedt," my favorite garden fuchsia. They'll be deep coral red when I put the plant outside. I'm so happy this one has prospered. I'm about to divide it and get an entire shade garden's worth of expensive fuchsias off this one plant that I successfully carried over the winter. Here's to not driving around looking for it, here's to the fun of dividing it and spending nothing for all the plants I'll get from this one pot. We'll ignore what I spent on the new heater and 10 rolls of Gorilla Tape to hold the Groanhouse together...har. So far so good, though I cowered and covered my head when the March gusts hit 50. High winds now evoke a powerful PTSD in me. I know the boundless joy I get from the Groanhouse is worth it, but the real prospect of losing it all with one strong gust is not a pleasant one. It makes me afraid to go away, afraid a windstorm will blow panes out when it's in the teens and kill everything. It's made me an even worse weather nerd and Intellicast freak, if I weren't already one. Guilty!

A close contender for fave fuchsia: "Trandshen Bonstedt." I'm frantically trying to get cuttings from this marvelous plant to root, because she's losing vitality after blooming hard and fighting aphids for most of the winter. She does not send up new starts from the root like her cousin does--her stems get incredibly long and woody instead. This pot has a fountain of yard-long woody stems blooming like crazy, and no new root shoots I could divide off. Please, cuttings, root. Then I will replicate you many times over. It's your shot at plant immortality. Give thyself over to my care.

My iPhone is unable to capture the deep velvet-curtain maroon red of this geranium. It pumps it up to scarlet. Bah.

It's in contrast to Scarlet Graffiti, which is just the color of a tanager. The maroon flowers in the foreground are sort of close to the right color for the big geranium.

Hibiscus "The Path" is going NUTZ I tell you, BONKERS.  Got buds?

Losing her mind at the prospect of being sent outside for summer vacation, she is. Honey, don't sing "School's Out" just yet. We have some freezing nights to come. But I do adore your enthusiasm.

You keep singing. Does my heart good. 


Two thoughts: (1) not being known for my knowledge of flora, I didn't know about "sports," so I learned something today. (b) Thank you for the plural of "geranium" being "gerania"! Even the spellcheck on my iPhone wants to change it to "geraniums"!

@Ron H: Inspired by you, I went back and elaborated on plant sports. Turns out my seat of the pants definition was pretty close, and now I understand a bit more about how they work. Thanks!

Wow. I LOVE that hibiscus. How large is the blossom? I could stare at that all day!

So that's what it is! Our neighbor's weeping cherry tree has a branch that doesn't weep. This started soon after the former owners planted it about 4 years ago. It goes straight up with branches off of it that are also straight. I noticed this year that the blossoms of the straight part are white while the weeping branches are pink. I was saying it was a mutation and wondering if that was common.
Now I know it's a sport! Fascinating.

@Sharon: Flowers are 7" across! Logee's Greenhouse, Danielson, CT.

@Cowango: Yep! The mutant branch is a throwback to the parent stock, and the weeping branches were originally sports off of that type. This is why all weeping cherries are grafted onto straight trunks of normal cherries. They can't be reproduced any other way than by grafting. Kind of a silly tree if you ask me, but people love them. They are lovely, IMHO, when they aren't trimmed up along the bottom like dopey umbrellas. Your neighbors really ought to cut off the normal branch to keep the tree's looks consistent.

I dream of green houses. So nice to be able to have plants blooming including that lovely hibiscus!

I always feel calm and peaceful after reading one of your blog posts. This one was so informative too! Thanks.

Posted by Suzanne Wagner April 13, 2015 at 10:29 AM
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