Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Bit of Abutilon History in Russia

Sadly, few facts are known about abutilon history, origins, selection, etc. ... even less is known about its 'lifespan' in Russia. Luckily, among papers and books at home I've recently come across a more than 100-year-old seed catalog of some Wilhelm Ziegler & Co. (Вильгельм Циглер, прейс-курант, иностранного депо семян, цветочных луковиц, роз и многолетних растений).

And there, on page 59, I found this:

Yes, back then they sold abutilon seeds of two kinds: some select mix and a 'maximum', which means giant hybrids with flowers up to 9 cm in diameter.

Now, this catalog proves that abutilons have been grown in Russia for more than 100 years already. They had been grown before the 1917 Revolution. Who knows, they might have even grown in the Winter Palace, the Tsar's residence!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

 Bell-Shaped Happiness


I've been getting my re-specialization in Clinical psychology lately; therefore, my blog had been abandoned. Blog, but not the plants! This spring the crossing results pleased me like maybe never before. Plus I have become somewhat wiser with the plants: giving them more time, more chances to show their full potential. I even gave a second chance to the last year seedlings -- with rewarding results. So let me start with them.

A little, slow-developing, seedling with fig-like leaves that changed its color from cream to white with pink veins totally won my (and not only my) heart. See for yourselves. The plant is compact, awesome, non-problematic, loves the sun rays. I called it 'Vesta'.
abutilon 'Vesta'
abutilon 'Vesta'
abutilon 'Vesta'
abutilon 'Vesta'
abutilon 'Vesta'
One of its cousins, that I was about to sell off, suddenly impressed me with its huge and painted blooms. Well, let me correct myself: it didn't impress me as much as it impressed my virtual epistolary friend and fellow breeder from France Pierre Rutten. It was he who convinced me to keep the plant. My, my, I must've been blind, but I love it now. It grows in moderation (being F2 to 'Tiger's Eye'), and the blooms are up to 10 cm in diameter. Branching is good, too. I call it 'Pierre' now. The plant is a real macho: it has already fathered many seeds -- and more to come.

abutilon 'Pierre'
abutilon 'Pierre'
abutilon 'Pierre'
abutilon 'Pierre'
And here comes my # 1 favorite: this year seedling AS 8-1/16 which I showed in the previous post. Its petals have a somewhat porcelain quality with something like an abutilon mosaic virus that makes petals' color uneven. The center is creamy-yellowish-white. Leaves are small; branching habit is good. It grows a bit too slowly (which drives me a bit nuts), but otherwise I think that this plant is a success. I called it 'Raduga' ('Rainbow').
abutilon 'Raduga'
abutilon 'Raduga'
abutilon 'Raduga'
abutilon 'Raduga'
abutilon 'Raduga'
After that, really nice things started happening. Some "children" of abutilon 'Fairy Coral Red' demonstrated excellent habits. Here is one of them. Other pictures of the similar plants will be posted soon. Frankly speaking, I admire the 'Lucky Lantern' and 'Patio Lantern' abutilon series, and would like to breed something similar. So far, I wasn't even close. But these latest seedlings give me hope. I already collected seeds from them -- let's see which qualities will be transferred to the next generations!

Monday, March 7, 2016

On My Way

Dear blog readers, happy Women's Day to you! A new abutilon arrival is making me happier every day. This hybrid is yet another step in the direction of the picotee abutilons.

The picotee color scheme is quite but not widely represented in the wild abutilon species such as A. tridens, A. sandwicense, A. ranadei and A. pauciflorum (hulseanum/commutatum). It is also found in some modern abutilon hybrids, such as 'Blushing belle', 'New', 'Solnechnaya dolina' and my very own 'Aquarelle'. However, in the above mentioned hybrids, this quality is still not distinctive enough.

Thus, I'm very happy to get this little beauty. I look forward to watching it grow, hoping it would "stay this way".

I am no botanist, so I just wonder why the 'blush' comes only in pinks and reds, and not in orange and yellow, for instance. Does anyone have an answer?

Saturday, February 6, 2016


It's winter, but we're welcoming a new abutilon season up here. This year -- spectacularly early, but it works for me. Here is what I have to say. Mind you, I keep thinking and reflecting upon my amateur abutilon breeding, and gradually come to realize things which might have been clearer from the start, should I be versed in genetics and biochemistry. But alas!

The first thing that bothers me is how to store seeds correctly over the winter months. Of course I could purchase a phyto-lamp to germinate seeds all year round, but I don't want to. If you're a plant grower, you know that it's a 24-7 job. So I use up winter months to get some rest, to take (at least partly) my mind off the malvaceae. Thus the question: how to store seeds so that they wouldn't lose their vitality? Last year, I kept well-dried abutilon seeds in my fridge in the vegetable department. When I sowed them in spring, sadly, only 3-5 out of many germinated. I blamed the refrigerator, but I might have been wrong. Let me tell you why.

This year, I kept the abutilon seeds in my double-glazing enclosed balcony with the temperature of +15+17C. After storing them this way, prior to sowing, I cut the teeny-tiny tips of each teeny-tiny seed off with manicure scissors. Tedious job! Exhausting! But I guess it worked, as many of the seeds germinated. Not all of them, though. In some pots only 1-3 seeds out of 10-15 started. In one pot there were (and still are) none alive. I wonder why. Is it due to the storage or the crossing was not that compatible so the embryos were not life-compatible? Was there anything that I could do to help them develop? I did soak all the seeds in a liquid stimulant.

Another thing on my mind is what kinds of abutilons are best for indoor growing in St.Petersburg, Russia (i.e. here where I live). We used to think that the Bella series were the best. Lately, however, many people started doubting it. You see, Bella hybrids are so much of a 'hybrid' that it's kind of difficult for them to survive the gloomy winter period here. Bellas are very sensitive -- to light, to temperature change, to everything. Lots of abutilon growers lose their Bellas over the winter, which is obviously sad.

Other, more recent abutilon hybrids, however, prove to be more vigilant and hardy. I'm talking about various pictum and megapotamicum abutilon hybrids. The most famous Russian fruit trees breeder Ivan Michurin (1855-1935) trained his hybrids in different conditions. He said that in tough conditions, plants resort to their natural, wild features to withstand the hardships. On the contrary, in good conditions, the plants demonstrate their cultured features (bigger flowers, better fruit). And here is my point: abutilons from the Bella series are genetically SO far from their natural, wild selves that when the conditions are unfavorable, these plants have no resorts and die, whereas pictums and megapotamicums are not so far genetically from their wild ancestors, so they have a lot of resources and survive Russian winters indoors easily. They clearly need much less light to bloom than Bellas because they are extensively budding now. This is my 'under-educated' guess.

To end this post, I want to answer your pending question: why am I posting photos of the same plant? Well, like I said, it's still winter here, so my abutilons are only starting to bloom. This one is the first of the 2016 season, and quite a nice one, too. So here are two last pictures, and let me wish you a productive breeding year to celebrate!


Friday, January 15, 2016

Last Year Results

I can't remember if I shared the pictures of this hybrid with you last year or not. Anyway, repetition is the mother of learning. The hybrid (no name so far) is pretty cool, especially its leaves. I would call it Abutilon ficifolium for their shape, if I could.

Last year, it boasted of a slow growing habit with short internodes. The flowers were medium-sized and quite wide, bell-shaped, looking downwards or sideways. At the beginning, the petals are cream colored, but on the second day of blooming they whiten, and the eye becomes more vivid (pinkish-lilac).
Unfortunately, abutilon hybrids are well-known for being deceiving and chameleon-like. Many times have I seen a hyrbrid change its color completely (even from light pink to deep coral) several blooming sessions later. So I only hope this one stays this way. Actually, this is my 'secret' mantra I repeat over and over again to the at-first-very-promising abutilon hybrids: 'STAYTHISWAYSTAYTHISWAYSTAYTHISWAY'. Maybe I don't repeat it loud or often enough because mostly it doesn't work.

Law and Order

Although we can rather safely claim that there are still very few abutilon breeders in the world, even right here, in St.Petersburg (and Moscow) the situation with new abutilon hybrids is getting confusing.

If we assign our hybrids only a number (and the average number of plantlings per breeder is perhaps about 50 a year), the numbers get repeated, and buyers get easily confused. Even the breeders can get confused: it's hard to keep track of the number sequence all through the sowing season. I rather prefer breaking the season into chunks, depending on the sowing "waves".

One might think that hybrid names can help. But it is not so. Unfortunately, breeders do not stay in touch or keep track of each other's plants all the time. And sadly, we got nowhere so far with a local abutilon hybrids register. As a result, such common names as, for example, 'Carmen' (for a red abutilon) started appearing in abundance.

Therefore, we have an obvious need for breeder's initials before the hybrid's name -- a common practice used by other plants hybridizers. From now on, I'm going to mark my seedlings as follows: AS (my initials) 1 (the number of hybrid in bloom) -1 (the number of series or sowing) /16 (the year when it started blooming). For example, this particular plantling was sown last year, but it didn't bloom. So this 2016 year it is going to bloom first in the first wave -- thus the number. 'AS' means that the seedling is a result of my own planned cross-pollination -- not a trick of nature, not an accident, not a self-pollination case, and not an outcome of someone else's or commercial seeds.

Those who know some Russian or use Google Chrome to auto-translate the web pages, can check out my website: