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A word about first overwintering of variegated seedlings

A word about first overwintering of variegated seedlings

I still can't snap a photo which shows the true orange color of the culm
I still can’t snap a photo which shows the true orange color of the culm

Winter is finally coming to an end. Days are getting longer, snow has almost melted and mild spring-like temperatures are on our way. This winter was quite cold with temperatures down to -16°C and strong north-eastern wind that emphasized the windchill index. Luckily, we’ve also had quite a large amount of snow during the cold weather. It was not hard to protect bamboos using snow this year, so I expect minimal damage on my larger bamboos, moderate damage on my Moso seedling and no damage on my Phyllostachys arcana seedlings.
I can only hope we don’t get hit by severe freeze in late spring like we did the last few years. It did not affect the bamboo much, so I’m more worried about other plants and fruits around the garden.

Interesting variegation on one of the culms
Interesting variegation on one of the culms

I’m keeping my variegated seedlings in a raised bed. To keep the bamboos protected, I covered the whole thing with a PVC tunnel. It did OK throughout the mild first part of winter, but as it got really cold, I’m not sure the seedlings would be able to survive without better protection. Lucky for us, the polar blast brought some snow, so I was able to pile it up around the raised bed. There was enough snow to cover the bed completely. Later, we’ve got quite a lot more snow and tunnel finally collapsed under thick snow cover. When the worst was over, I removed the snow and found the seedlings completely unharmed. They were in better shape than I hoped they would be. I hope to see a decent upsize this spring. Last year, there were hardly any new shoots, all of them seemed to be survival shoots. They managed to grow long rhizomes in all directions, though, so I expect them to upsize… eventually.

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Variegated Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings – Winter 2016/2017

Variegated Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings – Winter 2016/2017

First half of winter

In the late January, winter slowly starts fading, nights become shorter and days a bit warmer. We’re half way through winter! Since, I’m  overwintering my variegated bamboo seedlings inside, they have no idea about our brutal winter outside. At this point, it seems, two of my Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings will gain in size a lot. The first and previously the largest seedling remained alive and still refuses to grow. For now, at least, it’s the smallest of three variegated seedlings. It grew many shoots as soon as I brought them inside and all but a couple of them died off and rotted. It’s getting better, but it lags more and more against it’s younger siblings.

Seedling #1

Seedling #1 became the weakest of three variegated seedlings
Seedling #1 became the weakest of three variegated seedlings

The oldest seedling, which grew quite well during last winter is not doing exceptionally well this winter. In the beginning, it was infested with aphids and it soon started losing even the youngest leaves. I decided to spray all three bamboo seedlings with insecticide to eliminate any possible pest I had brought inside. I also trimmed the seedling considerably, removing all the highly damaged branches, leaves and a couple of dead culms. At that point, it started shooting heavily, but ended up losing most of the new growth.

Branches on severely damaged culm.
Branches on severely damaged culm.

Eventually it started to look much better. It actually ended up being the only of three seedlings without the strange fungal infection. I have left old culms that were still alive and they soon started branching out. The leaves were miniature, but they showed nice variegation. On a couple of leaves, I could observe another type of variegation. Some leaves were not progressively turning from lime green to yellow-green gradient kind of variegation, instead, the variegation was present from the very beginning, (completely green) dark green stripes on yellow leaf. Like last winter, I have had difficult time preventing leaf tips from drying out. I’m still investigating what actually causes that issue as it sometimes appear on other seedlings as well. I’m almost sure it’s water or nutrient related.

 

Seedling #2

Seedling #2 is showing accelerated growth
Seedling #2 is showing accelerated growth

The weakest seedling that somehow recovered after being neglected for almost a year started strong from the very beginning. It merely had one shoot when I brought it inside, but it managed to push out one pretty large shoot. That single but large shoot used the energy from the previous stem, it died off when the shoot leafed out. The second seedling has shown incredible ability to survive and it actually grows much faster than the first seedling. To fight off the fungal infection I mentioned earlier, I regularly sprayed it with Aspirin dissolved in water. It looks like it’s working, the infection of the leaves slowed down considerably. Aspirin triggered another thing – growing branches and shooting. I’ve grown many bamboo seeds by now and I never used Aspirin. I have also never seen a bamboo seedling that would start branching out that much, or in the case of the third seedling – shooting insanely.

 

Seedling #3

Third seedling is shooting insamely
Third seedling is shooting insanely

The least variegated seedling ‘exploded’ immediately after I brought it inside. It also got infected by the same fungal infection as the second seedling. Fungal disease did not slow it down as it remained vigorous and looked strangely healthy, if I count out the darkening leaves. It produces a lot of green matter, which makes it heavy feeder. It shows signs of nutrient deficiency soon after I stop giving it daily dose of water soluble liquid fertilizer. After treating with Aspirin, it went completely insane, pushing out more than 20 shoots at the same time. At the same time, older shoots branched out on nearly all of their internodes. I can’t tell for sure if it was the salicylic acid that did the magic, but it sure look so.

Seedling #3 is growing vigorously
Seedling #3 is growing vigorously

The infection doesn’t seem to be spreading now, and the seedling looks even healthier. The seedling showed three types (perhaps I could call them stages) of variegation. There are some completely unvariegated green leaves. There are loads of seemingly unvariegated leaves with a stripe on the edge of the leaf blade. Stripe sometimes have gaps of unvariegated leaf tissue which makes the stripes look a bit fuzzy. Some leaves have more pronounced stripes that appear in the middle of the leaf as well as on it’s edge. Lately, I am able to see leaves with same kind of progressive variegation as on the previous two seedlings. Strangely, it only appears on some of the shoots and they then have the same kind of variegation through the whole culm. Perhaps that could show chimeric nature of the seedling?

More than 20 shoots at the same time must be the new record
More than 20 shoots at the same time must be the new record

It’s much darker than other seedling’s variegation, it looks very similar and it also ‘grows’ progressively from more uniform lighter green color. Darker parts get darker while leaf matures and paler stripes get lighter green. These stripes are never (so far) yellow, compared to other seedlings, which makes the leaves look healthier.
I am not sure if these variegations will change with time, if one of them will become dominant or just fade out eventually.

 

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Overwintering Cyperus papyrus “King Tut”

Overwintering Cyperus papyrus “King Tut”

Papyrus waiting to be saved
Papyrus waiting to be saved
Cyperus Papyrus “King Tut” is only hardy to a bit below freezing and even that only for a short time. After first frost that did no damage to it, I decided to take a division and take it into protected place in the basement.

If grown from seed, it doesn’t get large enough the first growing season and I really need to save it. This summer it grew a lot, even with a lot lower temperatures than usual with abundance of rain. I saved some seeds, just in case I end up losing the mature plant. Some say, that with a lot of protection, Papyrus can handle the winter if it gets protected from freezing temperatures. I intend to keep most of it outside, covered with layer of dry grass, branches and straw, and large sheet of PVC above that to insulate the roots from winter cold as much as possible. If it can survive the winter outside, I’ll have one less plant to worry about next winter.

Overwintering Cyperus Papyrus Rhizomes are thick and hard to break using a shovel, so I had quite an exercise getting it out of the waterlogged soil. I dragged it into the large plastic container without drainage holes. I used concrete mixing tub – it’s strong enough so it won’t break when filled with water and large enough to accommodate the division. Hopefully I didn’t damage the roots too much in the process.

Papyrus in it's temporary container New division had to be trimmed first, so it doesn’t lose too much nutrients trying to keep the green parts alive.

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