Dale's Story

By Dave G. (Strepbystrep) on December 5, 2015

s KartuzGreenhouses in Vista, California, would travel a couple of hours each year to give my local gesneriad chapter a talk and to help judge the annual show. He’d bring dozens of Streptocarpus, Sinningias, and other gesneriads to show and sell. I was mostly a Sinningia grower, but the Streps began to appeal to me. Michael kindly stayed after his talks to answer my questions about growing and hybridizing Streps. He is my mentor.

In the mid-1980’s Michael Kartuz who owns KartuzGreenhouses in Vista, California, would travel a couple of hours each year to give my local gesneriad chapter a talk and to help judge the annual show.  He’d bring dozens of Streptocarpus, Sinningias, and other gesneriads to show and sell.   I was mostly a Sinningia grower, but the Streps began to appeal to me.  Michael kindly stayed after his talks to answer my questions about growing and hybridizing Streps. He is my mentor.

 

My very first hybrid that caused me to do the Happy Hybridizer’s Dance” was a seedling I named, ‘Texas Hot Chili’.  I took the compact sized Jonathan Ford hybrid, S. ‘Joker’ and put its pollen on itself.  That’s called a “selfing”.  I took the very smallest seedling and selfed it.  That seeding’s flower was a pinkish-magenta with lines in the throat.  I have no idea how I got a bright red flower with a yellow throat, but I was thrilled and danced around the room when it first bloomed.  

 

At the 1999 AGGS convention in Nashville something quite exciting happened.  Toshijiro Okuto broughtvariegated Strep leaves for auction.  Margaret Gurr in New Zealand asked her dentist to zap seeds of S. rexii.  One of the mutations was variegated and she shared leaves with Mr. Okuto.  Eventually that mutation was named, S. ‘Canterbury Surprise’.  At that same convention someone brought with them a variegated leaf hybrid that Michael had grown and named 20 years earlier, S. ‘Winter Dreams’.  Michael was shocked!  I won the auction for $100 for two variegated leaves that Mr. Okuto brought.  Gary Dunlap (commercial Pat’s Pets) ended up with ‘Winter Dreams’.  I asked him for a leaf and said I’d send him plantlets when ‘Canterbury Surprise’ made plants.  So I had both variegated Streps.  About a year later I also had new variegated seedlings from crossing those two hybrids.  Itturns out that variegation is not dominant as with African violets when used as a seed parent.  In fact selfing a variegated Strep or crossing two variegated Streps yields perhaps only 10% to 20% of seedlings with variegation.  There were some negative qualities about that first batch of seedlings that included weak flower stems and a deformed bottom center lobe.  I threw all of those away.  I ended up naming about 6 variegated seedlings and gave them as alpha names, “Ice” or “Iced”.  The three most popular ones are ‘Iced Pink Flamingo’, ‘Iced Artistry’, and ‘Iced Amethyst Showoff’.

 

From the start, I wanted to hybridize to genetically reduce the leaf size of Streps.  One of the club members grew the smaller species S. kentaniensis from seed and brought the blooming plant to show us.  I begged for flowers and he gave them to me.  I also tried using S. ‘Mighty Mouse’ that Michael gave me.  Later I used other species like, S. lilliputana, S. meyeri, and S. cyanandrus.  What I learned from my adventures was that “hybrid vigor” is common.  I would get plants larger than either compact size parent!  The other challenge was purple.  There are already too many purple Strep flowers, so I wanted to keep the smaller size of the various species, but breed out purple/lavender.

 

It easily takes 3 generations to achieve a goal involving recessive traits.  So that’s 2 months to ripen a pod, 4 to 5 months to see the blooming seedlings and then another 3 to 4 months to grow the seedling to see maximum leaf size and floriferous qualities.  That’s generation number one. We’re talking nearly 3 years to reach a goal.

 

When Jaco Truter shared seeds of the tiny species S. lilliputana, I shared those seeds with serious Strep growers.  Only a couple of us were successful because it is a fussy little thing that must never be allowed to dry out.  It seasonally blooms once a year and the flower color is light lavender.  I shared plants with Lee Stradley in New York and he was the first American to cross S. lilliputana.  He shared with me his new hybrids, S. ‘Fernwood’s Minuet’ and ‘Fernwood’s Silhouette’ even before they were named!  I began hybridizing Lee’s hybrids along with some of my own S. lilliputana hybrids to create genetically smaller hybrids.  In addition, I used S. meyeri which is a small,rosette shaped plant.  One of the exciting things from this experience was a variegated mutation.  Linda Row (commercial “Bloomin Jungle”) shared with me an amazing variegated seedling she named ‘Suzie’s Sister’.  It has S. lilliputana in the ancestry. Eventually after about 5 years of hybridizing, I created a variegated, compact size series with the alpha name, ‘Polar’.  What is compact?  Well, I polled African violet growers and found they would happily grow a Strep that wasn’t larger than the largest standard sized African violet that is between 12 and 14 inches in diameter.  

 

Most of my hybrids have S. lilliputanaS. meyeri, or S. kentaniensis in the ancestry.  When I cross them with each other, I am likely to get genetically smaller leaf size.  One of my hybrids was a cross between S. lilliputana and S. meyeri and I named it, ‘Heartland’s Baby Kisses’.  Ben Paternoster won Runner-up to Best in Show with it at the 2012 convention.  Yes, it’s lavender and it’s small.

 

In 2001 when the American Gloxinia and Gesneriad Society celebrated its 50th anniversary, I was asked to write for the journal about hybridizing and where I thought it was going to take us.  I said at that time that I thought Streptocarpus hybridizing was in its infancy.  Well, I was correct.  The hybrids produced now days are absolutely amazing and they’re from all over the world.  I’m thrilled to be participating in that adventure!

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How exciting Zanymuse Dec 19, 2015 7:16 PM 2

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