Saturday, 6 March 2021

Seed Grown Dahlias

My daughter grew a dahlia from a seed a few years ago.  It bloomed in its first year, died down over winter, the following spring it grew larger and had far more flowers.  That thing is in its third summer now, and it covered in incredible yellow flowers.

For some reason I haven't been able to collect any seed from that plant.  I'm not sure why.

Last winter I bought a packet of mixed dahlia seed to grow with my daughters.  Much like the first dahlia, these seeds grew and have started to bloom in their first year.  My daughters have done well with the dahlias and I am proud of them.

As they are mixed seeds they display a lot of genetic diversity.  So far we have flowers that are yellow, or pink, or white, some have purple backs to yellow flowers, some have flowers with the occasional red stripe down one petal.  Some plants have green stems, others have red stems.  Most plants are short but some plants are three times as tall as the others.

Seed grown dahlias blooming in their first year

One thing I am enjoying about these dahlias is how they attract honey bees.  Each plant produces many flowers, each with ample pollen and nectar, and the flowers are produced late in summer when there is usually little else in bloom.  My bees are collecting a lot of pollen and raising a lot of brood.  This should mean they have strong hives going into winter.

Some of the dahlias have very long stems, making them perfect as cut flowers.  Others have shorter stems and need a short vase if they are cut and brought into the house.  All of them look great in the garden, and every plant seems to have a long flowering period.

Being perennial means the dahlias should come back year after year if looked after properly.

Large bright yellow dahlia

Pink dahlia

Yellow dahlia - the colours are washed out in my pictures

White dahlia

Yellow dahlia with mysterious red stripe

Dahlias make a good cut flower

Every time they start to fade, my kids pick more to replace them

I want to buy seeds for a few more types of dahlia and try to grow more of them next year.  My daughters want to grow a few to keep and a few to sell to make money for Christmas.  Dahlias are edible, and I would love to aim for better tasting tubers, but unless I can collect seed I won't be able to do any breeding.  Either way, dahlias are lovely flowers that are worth growing in my climate.

Next year we will likely have some small dahlia plants for sale, if we do I will list them on my for sale page.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Variegated tomato plants

I was given some seeds of a variegated tomato.  They spent a while in the post, under who-knows -what conditions, so lost some viability.

Only 1 seed germinated and I have no way to get any more, so am really trying hard to save a lot of seed from this one plant.

The variegated tomato seedling grew like any other seedling, maybe a little slower, but not noticeably slower.  When small they had very little variegation, as they got larger they got more variegated.

When my little seedling had a few true leaves I transplanted it into the vegetable garden.

Variegated tomato leaf

Variegated tomato plant

After transplanting this into the garden a bird came and stripped all its leaves as well as all the leaves from three nearby tomato plants of other varieties.  I had a lot of trouble with birds this year.  For some reason the birds wanted to defoliate all the plants at that end of my garden.

I caged the little tomato seedling stump, and for some time it did nothing.  Eventually it grew one leaf, then after a very long time it started to grow again.  As it grew I covered it and all my other tomato plants with bird netting to protect them.

After a while some tomatoes were getting too large and difficult to manage to keep under bird netting, so I removed the netting and hoped for the best.  It appears that my variegated plant was large enough at that point because the birds left it alone.

Variegated tomato - red and round fruits

Young plant starting to get variegation

Variegated tomatoes are some of the most ornamental of tomato plants, even the stems are striped and interesting looking.  I love ornamental looking vegetables because as well as looking attractive they also produce a crop of tomatoes.

The leaves are green, yellow, pink, and white.

Striped stems

Variegation starts yellow, then turns white

I have tried to do a little breeding to get the variegated trait into other tomatoes.  It is far too early to tell how much success I had, and lots of generations before any new lines are stable.

I found it interesting that my variegated tomato produced lower leaves that were mostly green, and upper leaves were mostly white.  

The tomatoes the variegated tomato plant produced are round and golf ball sized.  Most were completely red, while a few had interesting stripes and swirls.  Inside the tomatoes was mostly red with red/green pulp.

Variegated tomato - inside the fruit

The variegated tomatoes taste sweet and nice.  I don't know why, but I expected such an ornamental plant to have fruit that tasted sour or insipid, so the sweet taste was a nice surprise.  While not as good tasting as some of the other varieties I grow, they taste far better than anything I have bought from the market.  I think they are worth growing just for the tomatoes they produce, and the incredible variegated foliage is just a bonus.

I have started saving seed from these variegated tomatoes.  I don't have any photos of the ripe fruit on my tomato plant, I plan to save every seed I can so have been picking them a little early and ripening them on the bench prior to saving seed.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Heirloom Tomatoes 2021

I grow a lot of tomatoes each year, I really love tomato season.  Some varieties are far better than others.  

My kids help me grow the tomatoes, collect the fruit, eat some of the tomatoes, bag some flowers and save some seed for the future.  

I don't have enough space/water/time to grow every tomato I have every year.  I have two tomato varieties that I do grow every year because they taste incredible (Japanese Black Trifele, and Verde Claro), and the rest I grow on a rotation to refresh the seed every 3 years.  

On second thoughts, I also grow micro tomatoes every year, but they are more for novelty and for breeding rather than for feeding my family, plus they take next to no space, so I don't tend to mention them.

Various tomatoes I grew

Some of the tomatoes I grow are very old heirloom varieties, others are more modern, while others I am breeding myself.  This year I grew 14 or 15 varieties of regular tomatoes (dwarf, or determinate, or indeterminate), and a small handful of micro dwarf varieties.  The plants range from a few cm tall to about 2 metres tall depending on the variety.

I also grew some wild relatives of tomatoes and some wild x domestic cross tomatoes.  I really need to take some photos of them and save some seed before winter comes. 

I thought I would show off some of my tomatoes below.

Tomatoes: Tommy Toe, Unnamed, Reisetomate, Igloo, Japanese Black Trifele, Verde Claro, Snow White, and Black cherry

My absolute favourite tasting tomato is called 'Verde Claro'.  It is a green when ripe cherry tomato that tastes incredible.  They look similar in size/shape to a grape.  Whenever people try these they love them.  

Every time I let people try these along with any other variety they always say that verde claro is the best tomato they have ever eaten.  They aren't the perfect tomato, but their taste is absolutely divine.  There is good reason I grow them every year!

Verde Claro and a bunch of grapes

I love the red tomato called reisetomate.  The flowers and fruits are fasciated, the fruits are red and lobed and can be pulled apart into segments.  

Reisetomate tomatoes are very sour, a little salt brings a true depth of flavour that I really enjoy.  Each and every tomato has a unique shape.  

Reisetomate tomatoes

I have been working on developing an improved black tomato for a while now.  The unripe fruit is purple and beautiful, it almost looks like an egg plant.  The ripe tomatoes have greenish yellow under the black, and the flesh colour is green.  

The black comes from high levels of antioxidants, and only appears where the sun hits the fruit.  They are roughly ping pong ball sized fruits and possibly my second favourite in taste after verde claro.  The fruit are a bit too small, but still large enough to slice for sandwiches.

I need to name these and start distributing the seeds as they are an incredible tomato variety.  I would hate to lose them if anything were to happen to my stock.

One of the varieties that I am breeding

This colour in tomatoes was unimaginable a few years ago

Another I grew this year was a variegated tomato.  I grew them to do some breeding and a few other genetics experiments, but after talking to some other growers I don't think anyone else in the country has variegated tomatoes so I should probably try to distribute the seeds so this allele is not lost.  Like many variegated plants, these aren't quite as vigorous as all green plants.

These are truly beautiful variegated tomato plants.  The leaves and stems get variegation of green, yellow, white, and pink.  The fruit is mostly red and round (although some fruits are slightly variegated) and tastes nice and surprisingly sweet.  

They could happily live in a flower garden and are a stunning showpiece of a plant.

Variegated tomato foliage

Micro dwarf tomatoes are heaps of fun.  These Micro Tom plants are thriving yet not reaching 5cm tall!  I am doing some breeding with them and hope to have something incredible to show for my efforts next year or the year after.  

You won't feed your family with micro tomatoes, but they can grow in a cup of soil on a window sill.  Traditionally they can taste a little insipid so they need some work in improving their taste, which is why I am breeding new micro tomatoes.  Some of my newer lines taste better than others.

I grow everything organically and sometimes sell some tomato seeds through my for sale page.  If you see something you love and I don't sell them let me know because I may be able to get you in touch with someone who does.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Thornless dual cropping raspberry

I don't think it is any great surprise to anyone who knows me that I dabble in plant breeding.  I particularly like growing edible things.  One I have been working on for a while now is a raspberry.  

I had a few good lines, some I culled because they weren't great, some died off last year with the drought and smoke, I still have the best one.

It is a completely thornless red raspberry that is dual cropping (primocane).  The berries are sweet, reasonable size, fragrant, don't seem to crumble, and are produced abundantly in rather large clusters.  

Being a primocane variety it flowers and fruits twice a year, if the weather is odd it can sometimes sneak in a (small) third crop, once they even produced a tiny fourth crop in winter and didn't go dormant.  Pruning is simple, you can just cut it to the ground at the end of autumn, or you can tip prune, or you can leave it, no matter what you will get a crop.

Like most/all other varieties of red raspberry, this sends out underground rhizomes and divides rather well.  

Lacking any thorns means that it is not a hassle to work with, and even children can easily harvest the delicious berries.  

The berries are produced in large numbers, each cluster can have dozens of berries.  I counted 48 individual flowers in one cluster!  When some berries are ripe there will still be unopened flowers in that cluster, meaning you get a long time of berry harvest.

All in all this is a great raspberry variety for back yards.  No thorns, great taste, multiple large crops, easy to harvest, simple/no pruning, quick to divide, there are no down sides to this variety.

I really need to name these, I am quite proud of them.  Most years I sell bare rooted crowns in winter through my for sale page.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Carnivorous Plant Seedlings

I grow a few carnivorous plants from seed.  Some are fast from seed, others take a long time. It is important to keep different types separate as they are so small that drops of rain could potentially splash them into each other's pots (don't ask how I know).

Most people have never grown carnivorous plants from seed, and have no idea what to expect, so I thought I would show some of mine.

Drosera capillaris

I had some unknown sundew seeds hitch hike in with a venus flytrap I bought through the post.  They eventually germinated, started to grow, and appear to be Drosera capillaris.  I plan to grow them to maturity, identify them properly, and hopefully collect seed to grow some more.  

If you look closely at the tiny plant at the top left you will see it caught a mosquito that is over half the size as the plant!  I don't understand why, but my drosera always seem to catch a lot of mosquitoes. 

I have grown capillaris before, they are small plants that are simple to grow and I think they look nice.  If all goes well they should flower before winter.

Drosera capillaris - caught a mosquito at this tiny size

Drosera burmanii

I bought some seeds of Drosera burmanii.  This is a small rosette sundew that usually only lives for a year.  They are meant to drop a lot of seed over their short lives and be simple to grow.  I usually grow perennial sundews, so this tiny annual is something a bit different.

Drosera burmanii have snap tentacles, and are the second fastest moving tentacles of all Drosera species.  I can hardly wait to see what they are like when they reach maturity.  At this tiny size they are catching springtails.

Drosera burmanii - tiny seedlings


A very generous person sent me three types of Sarracenia seed.  I cold wet stratified them, planted them, and they have started to germinate.  

Sarracenia cotyledons are like any other plant, they are not carnivorous at this stage.  The first true leaves on the other hand are carnivorous. The photo isn't great, but if you look closely you can see the first true leaves are tiny carnivorous pitchers.  I can't imagine any insect gets caught by the first carnivorous leaves, but the second set of carnivorous leaves should be large enough to catch tiny ants and gnats.

Unfortunately they got hit pretty badly by a recent storm and many of my seedlings were washed away.  I still have the largest seedlings and there are plenty more seeds in my fridge.  It takes a few good years before these plants will grow to a decent size.

Sarracenia rosea growing their first true leaves

Drosera capensis

I really like Drosera capensis.  They are simple to grow, look great, catch incredible numbers of insects, and reach a large size pretty quickly.  They can go from a tiny speck of a seed to flowering size in under a year, plus the plants are perennial and can live for many years if looked after.

I grow a few types of capensis and like them all.  Below these seedlings were sown thinly and are just starting to get their carnivorous leaves.  It doesn't take them long to grow reasonably large.

Drosera capensis seedlings

Utricularia bisquamata

Another hitch hiker seed was from a small terrestrial bladderwort called Utricularia bisquamata. For some time I didn't pay much attention to it because it is so small.  I thought it was some type of moss, and every time it put up a flower stalk I tore it off and threw it away thinking it was moss about to set a spore capsule.

After looking more closely I realised that this is a bladderwort, and had I left it alone it would have sent up many lovely little flowers.

Bladderworts have tiny bladders on the roots that they use to trap tiny animals.  The mechanism the traps use is fascinating, they literally suck in their prey.  Its trapping mechanism is one of the most intricate and complex in the plant world.  Unfortunately you don't get to see any of this happen as it all occurs under the soil.  The leaves sticking above ground are small, only a few mm long.  

Luckily bladderworts throw up a lot of pretty little flowers for much of the year.  I should write another post on this later and show off its flowers.  I tried to take photof of them, but the pots that look good are all blurry, and the only clear photo there is a lot of moss and hardly any U bisquamata.

Utricularia bisquamata seedlings among the moss starting to send up flower stalks

I have a few more carnivorous plant seedlings, most look like the ones above so there is not much to say about them.  

This year I didn't grow any venus flytraps from seed, for some reason my plants just did not produce seed this year even though I had several varieties flowering at the same time.  If you would like to see what venus flytrap seedlings look like I wrote a post on them earlier.  It takes venus flytraps a few good years to reach a decent size.

Sometimes I sell carnivorous plants and seeds through my for sale page.  I don't have a large range, I only really sell when I grow some extras.  While I really prefer people to pick up carnivorous plants, I can post seeds and plants through Australia.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Venus Flytrap non-carnivorous leaves

I have a few different venus flytraps, one of the names varieties I grow is "Low Giant".  It was a nice enough plant that had a low rosette of large colourful traps.  This variety divides well and never has upright growth.

The Low Giant venus flytrap produced a lot of leaves and looked healthy, then in spring it decided to flower.  Sometimes I allows the flytraps to flower, other times I remove the flower stalk.  This time I cut off the flower stalk so the plant could put more energy into getting larger and stronger.

Low Giant Venus flytrap producing non-carnivorous leaves

Sadly, after I removed the flower stalk the plant did not produce any new leaves for a very long time.  A few months passed before it grew any more leaves. 

I started to wonder what was happening to this little plant.  It was growing next to a few other venus flytraps that were all producing a lot of new leaves and some plants were getting rather large.

Low Giant vft, not long after I removed the flowering stalk

Now it has started to produce leaves again, it appears to have divided, and is starting to produce small leaves instead of the large colourful leaves that it used to produce. 

As well as the normal flytrap leaves some of the divisions are also producing some non-carnivorous leaves.  I imagine this is short term, and it will get back to producing carnivorous leaves soon enough.  Hopefully it has time to do this and be fed before winter.

If all goes well this plant will over winter and I should be able to divide it into several plants in the spring.

Venus flytrap with non-carnivorous leaves

Interestingly , many of my venus flytraps seem to have female redback spiders (Latrodectus hasselti) living around the base of their pot.  Initially I thought they were catching insects that were drawn to the water, but most of my other carnivorous plants don't seem to have the spiders, only my venus flytraps.  I can't think of any reason why this would be.

Redback spiders are rather dangerous little spiders with a rather toxic venom for such a little spider.  Usually they won't bite unless provoked by something, something like picking up the pot they are living under!  For some reason they keep living near my venus flytraps, but not near any of the other carnivorous plants.

These spiders make picking up the pot to look at my plants a little more dangerous than I would like, and it means I have to tell my kids to keep away from the carnivorous plants for now.  Sometimes it rains and the pots get flooded and the spiders get washed away.  It normally doesn't take too long before a new spider arrives to replace the previous one.

Red back spider living near venus flytrap

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Black Raspberry Plants in Australia

I got some seeds of black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) a while ago.  I scarified and cold wet stratified the seeds, forgot about them for far too long, eventually planted them, and had a surprisingly good germination rates.

At this young age they look similar to red raspberry plants, but have rather vicious thorns.  

I am told black raspberries grow more like a blackberry, and have long arching canes that root at the tips when they touch the soil.  

Given how fact they have grown this large, there is a good chance they will flower next year!  I can hardly wait to see what they taste like (assuming I can get past those incredible thorns to taste the berries).

Seed grown black raspberry: 3 or 4 months old

Strangely enough, some seeds stayed in the soil and are only starting to germinate now.  So as well as those large plants you can see the pot also contains some tiny seedlings with their first true leaves.  

Those tiny seedlings may not survive summer, or may not be large enough to over winter.  Hopefully at least one of these plants fruits next spring/summer.

Black raspberry thorns are large

Red raspberry thorns are small and petite

At this stage they are growing in a pot of soil.  I should probably divide them so they can grow faster, but think I will keep them in a pot for now so I can move them around easily if needed.  

We haven't really had summer this year and I don't want them to be scorched by the sun if I can help it.  Or maybe the heat will not phase them at all, I don't know.  Time will tell if they grow well in this climate.