Wednesday, 5 January 2011

To celebrate a Century.

Pelargonium "Santa Maria Centennial"
2004 was the centenary year of the City of Santa Maria, California, and as the ‘geranium’ is their official flower, it was decided to promote a new ‘geranium’ for that occasion.   The hybridiser, Jim Zemcik of San Diego, California had an un-named plant and it was suggested that this would be Santa Maria’s centenary plant.  But what to call it?  There were already two pelargoniums named Santa Maria but Debby Lipp, who was involved in the introduction of the centenary plant, suggested Santa Maria Centennial.  And, as Debby says, “The rest is history”.

Santa Maria Centennial has to be one of the prettiest pelargoniums in my collection with its soft peach pink double flowers on a dwarf stocky plant.  It is an Hybrid ivy leaf, i.e. an ivy-zonal cross.    In the U.S.A. these plants are known as Ivy-Zonal Crosses.

I’ve been sowing pelargonium seeds this afternoon.  A couple of species and some bee crosses from last summer.   Hybridising is not something I’ve ever done before, so the bee crosses are a first step.   Sowing pelargonium seeds is something I’ve done lots of times before, but not at this time of year. The first job is to  very carefully remove the seed from the husk.  Not easy as they are so small and it is easy to lose seeds when they go flying off in all directions. (It would never surprise me to find pelargoniums growing out of the side of  my 'fridge freezer).  I don’t sow these seeds in the conventional way, but rather use a method devised by Cliff Blackman of Australia.   I do deviate from his directions in that I take a sliver off the pointed end of the seed, whereas he scores along the length of the seed with a needle. (It’s useful to have a very good magnifying glass for this job).  The seeds are then placed on kitchen paper inside a petri dish. Seeds and paper are sprayed with cooled and boiled water to which is added a small amount of Phostrogen and placed at an angle in a heated propagator.  The seeds will swell and begin to open within 3 or 4 hours.  It is important not to let the paper dry out, and to rinse the seeds twice daily with clean water with added Phostrogen to wash off any toxins.  Growth will be noticed within about three days, and when seed leaves begin to open and the root is about 15mm long, the seedling can be carefully potted up into small pots.  I’ve had success with this method; it is also quick and means I can start more seeds off in days, rather than weeks.

I’ll keep you posted on the success, or failure, of my seed sowing at this time of year.

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