My first post realizes two New Years ambitions: One of this year’s, to finally start a blog while I have time in the slower winter months; And one of last year’s, to attempt some crosses within the genus Cardiandra, herbaceous Hydrangeaceae members from China and Japan that I’m quite taken with. I grow a few forms of three different species, alternifolia, amamioshimensis, and formosana, with alternifolia being the best garden “do-er” of the three here in RI. This past autumn in England, Fortuna’s wheel had my hands on C. moellendorfii, a species I’ve long sought as it is supposed to be the best garden plant of all, but it’s incredibly scarce in cultivation, with no plants even in the US and available at very few nurseries abroad. I did manage to bring it back into the US, alas as a favor for a friend, but I hope to have one of my own soon!
A few years ago (seven now, to be precise) I came across an interesting piece in The Plantsman about Crug Farm’s cross between alternifolia and formosana, xagricola, which incorporated the larger, serrated sepals of the latter into the former, and immediately felt hunger pangs. Six years later, Crug still hadn’t released any of its clones, and I realized I was no nearer acquiring one, and that the only way I’d probably get my hands on one was to take pollen to brush, as it were, and repeat the cross here. As I’d grown out alternifolia from seed before it wasn’t too great a leap. I’d also found a spontaneous seedling, which I suspect was a hybrid. It lived long enough to flower, but, unfortunately, my inattention caused it to croak last winter.
However, when it came time and the plants were flowering this past year, I decided not to replicate, but instead to imitate, and so used formosana rather than alternifolia as the seed parent. I also attempted some crosses with amamioshimensis, as I’d never noticed any seed set on it before, and it’s an enigmatic plant, supposedly from the Ryuku Islands in Japan, yet known only in cultivation.
I’m still waiting for ovaries on amamioshimensis to ripen to see whether there has been any seed produced. In the meantime, seed from Cardiandra formosana has begun to germinate. As with this blog, they may flourish or fail, with a great deal depending on luck, and my attention. Time will tell. It’s only the beginning.