Late snow in the end of April

Large Moso shoots when it started to snow.

Large Moso shoots when it started to snow.

After several weeks of extremely nice and warm weather, polar blast brought much lower temperatures and a ‘shipment’ of heavy wet snow. Most of bamboos already started shooting some time ago, trees are all leafed-out and most of the fruits have already flowered. The day started warm with strong southern wind, but the wind direction changed instantly, heavy low altitude black clouds appeared temperature dropped from around 15°C to just a bit above freezing. When it darkened in the middle of the day, thunderstorm brought sleet and first half melted snow which instantly started to pile up on plants, even if the soil remained warm enough to melt it.
It snowed for the rest of the day and by early evening, I could hear distant breaking of tree branches. Luckily it only snowed for a couple more hours and stopped completely by the end of the day. Total amount of snow was around 15cm. Considering the fact that a lot of it melted, because of nicely warmed ground, there might have been more on the completely flattened bamboo.

Only an inch of wet snow flattened Spectabilis to the ground.

Only an inch of wet snow flattened Spectabilis to the ground.

Like I already mentioned, most of my bamboos already started shooting, especially early shooters like Fargesia sp. ‘Rufa’ and Phyllostachys edulis ‘Moso’. These two started shooting early this year and many smaller shoots already started poking over the canopy of last year’s culms. All those shoots were not nearly hardened enough to handle the weight of heavy snow alone, not to mention the weight of whole bamboo flattened to the ground. Large Moso shoots have been growing on the northern side of the older clumps and that’s what saved them from breakage – bamboo grew more leaves towards south and the culms always fall down into south-eastern direction.

Here's how the Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Spectabilis' culms look like in the snow.

Here’s how the Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ culms look like in the snow.

Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ was lucky to have started growing the shoots slowly. The largest shoots were pushed towards the ground by the weight of the culms, but so far, there’s no visible damage, even if they point into different direction. Other bamboos were only slightly damaged, because new branches already started to grow, shoots were either too small or not existent.

When the snow finally melted, most of the shoots that were bent to the ground recovered. Some of them snapped and died off, but most of them recovered with culm deformation which resembles genuflection, often seen on P. aureosulcata.

Some of the shoots have snapped under the weight of snow

Some of the shoots have snapped under the weight of snow

None of the larger shoots got damaged and they took off instantly after the snow was gone.

Fruit trees and walnuts were also lucky enough to survive without a lot of breakage. Could be much worse if there was just a little bit more snow.

 
 
 
 
 

Shoots that did not snap are seriously bent

Shoots that did not snap are seriously bent

Damage was not as severe as it seemed

Damage was not as severe as it seemed

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Phyllostachys edulis shoots

Moso shooting 2016

I tried planting bamboo seeds in 2011 and failed miserably with old Phyllostachys pubescens Moso seeds. I’ve tried 100 seeds and couldn’t get one single seedling to sprout. Second batch of seeds was supposed to be fresh and much more viable. I was able to get several seedlings to grow slowly from tiny little plant to not so tiny bamboo seedlings. I’ve learned Moso bamboo is hard to keep happy. I’ve been slowly learning about bamboos on my onwn mistakes and growing them in containers was a nightmare. In the end I’ve ended up with 2 living seedling, one is declining and is now hardly any larger than one year old seedling, but the second one managed to survive all the torture and eventually escaped the pot in its second year. It started growing in tight space where I left it, knowing that some day, it might become too large and I’ll have to remove it. That day seems to be getting close.

Smaller shoots appeared all around last year's culms.

Smaller shoots appeared all around last year’s culms.

A year later I’ve bought Phyllostachys aureosulcata rhizome division, and learned how much faster they grow, compared to tiny little seedlings. Well, all that was true until this year (Well, Spectabilis should also upsize considerably this year – can’t wait)! The tiny little Moso seedling finally took off after completely covering the area with thick rhizomes.
Last year I’ve been a bit disappointed in the spring, when it only managed to put out around 10 shoots which did upsize, but not as nearly as much as I had expected. Largest rhizomes were around the diameter of the largest shoots, but… rhizomes were everywhere and upsized shoots only grew in a tight clump on south-eastern position of the bamboo.

A bit larger shoots are not as packed together as the smaller ones

A bit larger shoots are not as packed together as the smaller ones

The last summer and autumn, seedling further increased rhizome growth! Some of the rhizomes that were ‘dolphining’ around the clump were a bit over 1cm diameter, which is larger than last year’s shoots. I expected upsize. And I expected more shoots than last season.
I haven’t been fertilizing the beast much, except for the bucket of wood ash or two over the winter and a thick layer of mulch in the fall, which I removed when warm weather came with first signs of spring. I noticed first shoots quite early, compared to previous years, so I wasn’t really aware, what to expect regarding the shoot size. After the first real rain, the shoots instantly took off.

Haven't even noticed the largest shoot until now!

Haven’t even noticed the largest shoot until now!

Some of the shoots have white hair.

Some of the shoots have white hair.

The winter this year was quite warm, and the bamboo didn’t suffer almost complete defoliation like it did a year before. Like usually, first shoots that appeared were the smaller shoots of the shooting season. They appeared a week or to before the large shoots started to appear. And when they finally did, I knew why I like this time of the year so much. :)

The upsize of new shoots is  extreme

The upsize of new shoots is extreme

New shoots growing out behind last year's culms.

New shoots growing out behind last year’s culms.

Is the coin getting smaller, or are these shoots getting thicker?

Is the coin getting smaller, or are these shoots getting thicker?

It's quite easy to determine the rhizome direction

It’s quite easy to determine the rhizome direction

Some of the shoots show white variegation

Some of the shoots show white variegation

Some shoots seem to be quite compact at the bottom

Some shoots seem to be quite compact at the bottom

Incredible variegation looks even better on larger shoots

Incredible variegation looks even better on larger shoots

The same kind of variegation in low-light overcast conditions

The same kind of variegation in low-light overcast conditions

Like last year, variegation returned

Like last year, variegation returned

Like in previous years, white variegation of the shoots returned and with this seedling’s first more mature shoots, variegation started to show completely different effect. On juvenile shoots, variegation was nothing more than white striped leaves, sometimes even with a hint of purple. Variegation seemed fabulous, but then I’ve seen how mature shoots look like! On mature shoots, there is much more purple and red pigment, which brings out beautiful bright orange coloration. I’ve taken two shots, one in bright sunny condition and one in low light overcast weather – shoots look great in both cases, but the light emphasizes the bright color even more. Like previously, the variegation builds up with each additional node. At the beginning they start without variegation and the shoots look like regular Moso shoots.

Shoots are getting thicker

Shoots are getting thicker

This year, the diameter of the shoots increased considerably. There are still a lot of juvenile shoots, especially after some late snow related damage, but the majority of the shoots only started to show mature form. It will be interesting to see how the shoots look like in a couple of years, when they receive even more features of an adult plant. The pattern of spots and speckles on the culm sheath also became evident this year. Shooting season is not even over yet and I can’t wait to see the next one. :)

Shoot variegation on juvenile shoots

Shoot variegation on juvenile shoots

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Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings at 5 months

First couple of Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings are now 5 months old. They grow fast and perhaps started showing some of their growth characteristics. Most of them are low and bushy, but two of them started to have much taller appearance with less branches and perhaps a bit longer internodes. Soil, fertilizing / watering cycle and light intensity are the same, which should eliminate possible environmental differences. The soil mix was made in the same bucket, but there could always be slight content difference.

Dense roots help it drain the water from container on the bottom of the pot

Dense roots help it drain the water from container on the bottom of the pot

All the seedlings have started showing signs of nutrient deficiency with yellow stripes on their newly grown leaves. I started introducing them to diluted liquid fertilizer which somewhat helped with the issue, but not entirely eliminated it. Water consumption of the fastest growing seedling is unbelievably high. I water them once daily and always leave some of the water in the bottom container, which allows roots to get the water from there as well. If I only skip one day, I get curled-up bamboo, with completely dried out substrate. I early lost two large seedlings, which are still recovering.

Soil was pushed up, out of the pot, because of all the roots.

Soil was pushed up, out of the pot, because of all the roots.

Currently, the largest seedling is also the tallest one. At one point this seedling started growing tall shoots with culm diameter comparable to other seedlings that were only half it’s height and enormous leaves (again – large for it’s size and age). Most of the seedlings are now 20 cm tall and the tallest one is over 40 cm. Largest leaves are up to 15 cm long with yellow striping that indicate nutrient deficiency, which is most likely caused by very fast growth in a rather small container.

Largest leaves are over 15cm long

Largest leaves are over 15cm long

All the shoots are choosing to get back into the soil

All the shoots are choosing to get back into the soil

The large seedling started pushing out 14 new shoots that are all eager to turn back into the soil. The shoots are growing into all directions and they certainly look like whip shoots to me. If rhizome growth actually started, it would explain the lifted soil that is getting pushed upwards almost daily. I will need to up-pot the seedlings before they get completely root bound. Heavy thirst drains water from the soil in about a day, which means any neglect would result in loosing the seedlings.

Bamboo decided it's time to run

We’re crowded here guys, let’s RUN!

There are no signs of either leaf nor culm variegations on any of the Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings from that batch, except for the highly variegated one, which is growing slowly and often shows signs of stress. Its first couple of leaves on young culms seem to be the palest, sometimes almost completely yellow, those leaves are extremely susceptible to drying of leaf tips. Issue might also be caused by unnaturally strong grow light and will disappear when I plant it outside. The second batch of seedlings seem to have given another two variegated seedlings, one has the same kind of variegation as the one mentioned above, but is at least 30% greener and should have faster and more healthy growth. The second one is even darker green and might be inverse version of those two yellowish seedlings – this one shows yellow variegation on green leaf.

To force the rhizomes to turn into whip shoots, I started peeling off the sheaths as soon as they started drying

To force the rhizomes to turn into whip shoots, I started peeling off the sheaths as soon as they started drying

There's no more doubt, these are 100% rhizomes. They refuse to turn into whip shoots, despite being exposed to strong light.

There’s no more doubt, these are 100% rhizomes. They refuse to turn into whip shoots, despite being exposed to strong light.

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potato-flower

Growing potato seeds

Flowering potato looks quite  ornamental

Flowering potato looks quite ornamental

Sometimes, potatoes manage to produce tomato-like fruits in late summer and fall. When they get ripe, they start turning yellow and soft, but the fruits usually (well, I’d say always, but I kept one fruit :) ) get discarded, because they are supposed to be poisonous if ingested. Potato propagation is usually done by planting small potato tubers, which means there’s no use for the seeds. Vegetative propagation by tubers allows potatoes to grow large during their first growing season, compared to tiny plants and mini tubers that can grow from the seeds. Asexual plant propagation also gives identical plants, compared to genetically diverse plants, received when growing from seeds.

Potato seeds are rather small. They can be found in ripe potato fruits

Potato seeds are rather small. They can be found in ripe potato fruits

I never tried growing potatoes from seeds and even thought they would germinate poorly or not at all, so I decided to pick one of the fruits that were ripe, collected seeds, dried them and packed them into zip lock bag just to forget about them.

When I started to prepare for the spring and started germinating my chilli peppers, I have found the small bag with potato seeds, and threw most of them into the same pot with a couple of chillies. My expectations were low and I believed, that potatoes were already genetically manipulated to the point of no return – complete sterility.

Cluster of tiny potato seedlings

Cluster of tiny potato seedlings.

After just a couple of days, I have noticed that practically all the seeds started sprouting. Extremely high germination rate came as a shock and I was kind of disappointed, because I sowed all the seeds on the same spot, which means only a few had a fighting chance to survive the transplanting. I decided to plant them into containers for the first year, and perhaps use their small tubers the next year and plant them with the rest of potatoes.

I intend to update this post on regular basis when the small plants start growing and when I finally get the tiny potato tubers.

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