Saturday, 23 February 2019

Winner of the Flower Blog Award 2018

Recently I received an email from someone who claimed to work for offering to nominate my blog for the "Flower Blog Awards 2018".

It was a blog competition, they had 10 blogs for people to vote for, and they offered to make mudflower the eleventh blog in the competition.

I had not heard of them before, and I never click on links that are emailed to me, so I googled them.  I found the following description of
  • Online Shopping, Discount Store, Vouchers, Our mission is to provide all Swiss with the latest and best offers of all online shops in Switzerland.

They are located in Switzerland.  That seemed odd.  Would my blog really be good enough to be nominated for an international flower blog award?

I did some more googling and it all appeared legitimate, so I replied to the email and agreed to be nominated.  It felt like the competition had been running for some time prior to my inclusion as there was less than a week left until voting closed.

I had a look at the other blogs in the competition, and they were all really amazing blogs, so I was delighted that my blog was considered worthy to compete with such high quality blogs.

It was a great honour to be nominated for an international flower blog competition!  Even if I didn't get a lot of votes this would still be a great experience and I was really excited to be part of it. 

If you voted for me in Flower Blog Awards 2018 thank you, I really appreciate it. 

The voting progressed and at the end the most amazing thing happened, I won!  My blog won the Flower Blog Awards 2018.  Seriously, I really won!  This blog got 40% of the votes.  Second and third place each got 7% of the votes.

Wow, I honestly wasn't expecting that.  

They emailed me the HTML for a cool little badge thingy to put on my blog (it is over on the right hand side somewhere) and sent me some prize money that was kindly provided by their sponsors Ricardo, Easyjet, Swisscom, and Autoscout24.

It isn't every day you win Switzerland's flower blog award! Thank you Sparpedia for allowing me to be part of this, and thank you to the sponsors who made this all possible.

Marshall's Bananaphone Pea

This past year I grew a rare variety of pea named Marshall’s bananaphone. What an amazing name! I grew them in the hope of building up seed numbers and distributing them.  Unfortunately it didn’t really work out that way.

The birds decided they were going to dig up and eat most of my pea seed, so I didn't get many more seeds from any variety that I planted this year. Marshall’s banana phone is no exception to this. I protected a few plants, but nowhere near as many as I planted.

To top this off, every time I looked away the kids would eat a few more of them. As I couldn’t increase the seed numbers significantly I thought I would write a description of this variety of yellow podded shelling pea.
Marshall's Bananaphone not yet ripe

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Massive Leaf Parsley

Last year I tried to do a bit more wide plant breeding.  I have a few things I am trying that may or may not be worth doing, but it is fun learning.  I seem to be achieving a few things that people say are impossible, as well as other things that it appears that have never been attempted.

One thing I attempted to do was cross members of the Apiaceae family.  Crossing Apiaceae is fiddly and time consuming at the best of times.  So my success rate is low and my confidence levels that I have made the cross I had hoped for is even lower.

Then I grew the most remarkable plant.
Possible skirret parsley intergeneric hybrid
My mystery seedling

I attempted to cross skirret and parsley.  I had many hundreds of parsley seeds germinate, as well as many skirret seeds.  As well as those seedlings a mystery seedling grew.

When it was tiny it looked a lot like skirret but something was different.  I like skirret, and I like plants that grow from seed by themselves, so I decided to leave it to grow.  Who knows, it could turn out to be something special?

After the plant grew larger, the leaves looked different from skirret.  It didn't look like anything else I am growing either.  The leaves kind of looked a bit like parsley. But not flat leaf parsley, and not curly leaf parsley.  Each leaflet had rounded lobes.
mystery plant - possibly skirret x parsley hybrid

Skirret and parsley are both in the Apiaceae family so crossing is not entirely out of the question.  Skirret is Sium sisarum, while parsley is Petroselinum crispum.  Wide crosses between different genus is very uncommon, but not always impossible. 

There is very little information on skirret on the internet so it is not surprising that I can not find any reference to any skirret hybrids at all.  It is too bad, skirret deserves to be grown more and understood better.

I found reference to a few parsley x celery hybrids and a parsley x carrot hybrid that was achieved using protoplast fusion.  I read one study where parsley and celeriac were cross pollinated, only  three seeds out of 1,000 were hybrids and the others were not. 

It appears that some hybrids within Apiaceae are possible, but very unlikely.  So it is a good thing I planted (and accidentally dropped) so many seeds!
Parsley leaves at top and middle, skirret leaves lower
The leaves of my mystery plant do not look like parsley or skirret leaves.  The mystery plant's leaves have rounded lobes, while parsley tend to have pointy lobes.  Skirret leaves tend to show a bit of diversity and can be pointy or rounded.  The mystery plant's leaves each grew five leaflets, each of which were about the size of the palm of my hand.  I am not yet certain, but this is either a hybrid, or a remarkable massive leaf parsley.

As it started to flower the leaflets became more pointed and thinner, eventually resembling fatter flat leaf parsley leaves. 
The leaves taste and smell like parsley

The leaf petioles of skirret tend to be almost round in cross section, while the petioles of parsley often are not.  Most parsley tends to have crescent moon like shape in cross section, like a tiny version of celery.  That being said, I do have a few parsley plants with petioles that are almost round.  The leaf petioles of my mystery plant are almost round, resembling skirret petioles.

My skirret often grows a small leaf from the where the base of a larger leaf  joins the plant.  This mystery plant is also demonstrating this behaviour.  Oddly enough, some of my parsley do this while most others don't.  This small leaf became a growing point that eventually put up up flowers.
The base of each leaf became a growing point that eventually sent up flowers

Some of my skirret have purple petioles while others have green.  I don't know if this is due to environmental factors or if it is purely genetic.  Parsley has green or white petioles. The mystery plant has green petioles.

I have not dug up the plant so do not know what the roots look like.  I am very tempted to dig and have a look, but fear that will not end well for my little plant.
The leaves are fascinating

Skirret is a perennial plant that flowers in its first year when grown from seed and goes dormant over winter.  Most parsley is biennial only flowering in its second year, after which it dies.  If parsley flowers in its first year it tends to be due to stress, and the plant is small and weak.  Parsley does not go dormant over winter in my climate.

My mystery plant is currently flowering in its first year.  The flowers are small and unremarkable, much like the flowers on any Apiaceae, but closely resembling parsley flowers more than skirret flowers.  Both my skirret and my parsley are flowering at the same time too.  I do not know if my mystery plant will die after flowering, if it survives I don't know if it will go dormant over winter.

It is widely documented that in parsley is diploid and 2n = 22.  Bell (1966) states that skirret is diploid and 2n = 22, which would mean that a hybrid between the two could possibly be fertile and may be able to set viable seed.

Unfortunately, several other sources contain conflicting information and state that in skirret is diploid and 2n = 20.  If this is the case then this hybrid will likely be sterile and none of its seeds will be viable.  I have no way to determine ploidy levels at home, so will have to wait and see what happens.  

At this stage the seeds appear to be forming normally, so I would be surprised if they are not viable.
Parsley usually reaches about 2 to 3 feet tall.  Look at the size of this monster!
At this stage it was 157 cm tall, it got much taller than this

If this plant is an intergeneric skirret x parsley hybrid, it will be the first one to have ever been grown and should be resistant to almost every disease that bothers parsley.  If this plant is just parsley, then it is the most remarkable parsley I have seen.

This plant may be fertile and produce viable seeds, or it may be infertile and none of the seeds will germinate.  This plant may be perennial and produce offsets like skirret, or it may be annual and die after flowering.  If it is infertile and annual then this will be possibly the first and only intergeneric skirret hybrid to ever be grown. 

Hopefully this plant proves to be fertile and I can save viable seed.  I would really love to grow the F2 seeds and see what they are like.  Hybrid or not, I would love to stabilise a massive leaf parsley.

I can hardly wait to see what happens.  I plan to write another blog post after the seeds have been planted and I know more.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Strawberry x Raspberry intergeneric hybrid berry taste

Earlier I wrote a post on strawberry x raspberry hybrid experiment update, now it is time for a description of the berries (botanically they are not berries, but let's move on).

I tried to think of how to describe the taste of these berries, saying "they are really delicious", or "I like them", probably isn’t all that useful to anyone.  So I thought hard about how to describe the taste of strawberry x raspberry hybrid berries.

To me they are sour, but not in a bad way, and certainly not as sour as store bought strawberries or raspberries.  They taste like strawberry mixed with something tropical.  They taste warm (is warm a taste) and floral (is floral a taste) and really nice.  They are very fragrant, the smell is delicious and similar to the taste.  The fragrance is like strawberry mixed with something tropical.  That is the best description I can come up with.

I asked someone else to describe their taste, and was given the following elaborate and rather fancy description.
  • They taste sour and warm with a delicately intense combination of wild strawberries, apricots, bananas, and raspberries. They have the unmistakable heavenly scent of a lolly shop.
Wow, I don't know what to say.  I guess they are far better at words than I am.

I asked someone else to describe the taste and was told:
  • are AMAZING!!!!!!!! They’re little flavour explosions!  So YUMMY!!!! 
Than when I asked for a better description was told:
  • Booom!
I guess the taste of strawberry x raspberry hybrid berries inspires the overuse of exclamation marks and capitalisation?  In all seriousness, they do taste sensational and unlike anything else I have eaten, so their taste causing a lot of excitement is understandable.

The texture of strawberry x raspberry hybrid berries is different from that of either parent.  Perhaps something akin to a ripe pear, but without any grittiness that pears often have. 

The hybrid berries all look similar to strawberries.  They have achenes (the true fruits that most people refer to as 'seeds') on the outside of a fleshy receptacle.  These achenes are barely attached to the receptacle, and I wonder if they would fall off from the lightest hint of a breeze, yet somehow they stay attached.  The skin and achenes are red, and the flesh is white all the way through.

They are vaguely strawberry shaped, but all of them are odd looking, lumpy, bumpy, and bulbous.  They all have irregular bumps, some are curved, in some the end is slightly forked, or the berry is twisted, some are short and fat while others are elongated.  The weird shapes do not appear to have been caused from issues with pollination.

At this stage I don't know if they are self-pollinating, or if they are being pollinated by strawberry or raspberry plants growing near by.  I don't know if any of these seeds are viable and will grow.  I have many breeding experiments I want to try with this hybrid and will try to write more blog posts as I discover more.

All the following images are of strawberry x raspberry hybrid fruit off the same plant.
Strawberry x raspberry hybrid fruit, has lumps and the end is slightly forked

Strawberry x raspberry hybrid, note the base is bulbous

Strawberry x raspberry hybrid, note the irregular shape and the leaf arising from the calyx

Strawberry x raspberry hybrid, berries are all irregular

Strawberry x raspberry hybrid berry

Strawberry x raspberry hybrid

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Strawberry x Raspberry Hybrid Experiment Update

It is time for an update on my strawberry x raspberry hybrid experiment. 
Strawberry x Raspberry hybrid semi double flower (it is missing a petal)