Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Texas Bird Peppers growing!

Texas Bird Peppers!

The Horticulture Committee finished up our year by enjoying our annual JELLO LUNCHEON and making MAY BASKETS for affiliate members and planting Texas Bird Peppers, otherwise known as Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum.  

These seeds were collected from Monticello of plants known to have been grown by Thomas Jefferson!  Seeds and instructions were distributed to each club president in GCA Zone VII on March 1, 2016.  Our Horticulture Committee met and planted on May 3, 2016 in soiless mix, in small peat pots.  This batch has been happy in a sunny window (morning sun) covered loosely with a dry cleaner plastic bag.  Some members planted seeds earlier, some later by different methods.  

I have had fun watching these.  100% germination rate for me.  These must not be hard! haha

I will soon transfer peat pots to an 8" terra cotta pot.  When to move outside?  That is my question to all you bloggers???

~ Symphony Sprout
So glad to hear from Symphony Sprout - I have some comments and photos from some of the others.
First, here's a little history on the Texas Bird Pepper.
From the shop at Monticello:  Jefferson was sent seeds of this pretty, dwarf pepper by Samuel Brown from San Antonio, Texas in 1812 and 1813. Brown stated how the dried peppers we as “essential to my health as salt itself.” Jefferson, hopeful this species might be hardier than others, sowed the seed in pots and in square XII of the Monticello Vegetable Garden. He also forwarded seeds to Philadelphia nurseryman, Bernard McMahon, who apparently popularized the Bird Pepper as an ornamental pot plant in Pennsylvania.

The Texas Bird Pepper is a lush, compact plant (one foot height) covered in early fall with tiny (1/2”), reddish-orange peppers. Samuel Brown said, “The Spaniards use it in fine Powder & seldom eat anything without it. The Americans … make a pickle of the green Pods with Salt & Vinegar which they use with Lettuce, Rice, Fish, etc.” Sow the seeds indoors a month before the last Spring frost, then transplant the seedlings into sunny, well-drained garden soil.

Photo from Monticello.org
And a little more from Monticello:  Common Name: McMahon's Texas Bird Pepper
Scientific Name: Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum
Thomas Jefferson first obtained seed of the Bird Pepper in 1812 from Captain Samuel Brown, who was stationed in San Antonio, Texas. Jefferson recorded planting this pepper in pots and in the kitchen garden in 1814.  He had high hopes the Bird Pepper would prove hardier to other species, and forwarded seeds to his favorite nurseryman, Bernard McMahon of Philadelphia, in 1813. McMahon played a key role in spreading this plant around the U.S.
This native of southwest Texas, Mexico, and Central America, had potentially important medicinal qualities as well as culinary uses in vinegars, sauces, and pickles. It is a tender ornamental vegetable with petite, sparkling red, berry-like peppers covering the plant from mid-summer through fall.

Kathy McC reports on her experience and provided some photographs:

She put her seeds into small peat pots provided by our Hort Chair, Symphony Sprout.  This was done at a Hort Workshop on May 3. Kathy followed the directions provided by the host club and used a heating mat.  She purchased an Apollo Horticulture Seedling Mat, approximately 10x20" in size for around $15.  The seeds germinated very quickly with a high germination percentage.  She says the mat takes up very little storage space and she will use it again in the future.

Seeds germinated using a heat
mat in about 5 days.

May 21


May 26

Germination in
my 'living lettuce'
Sara H reports:  I like my 'tried and true' simple method of using a living lettuce container, poking drainage holes in the bottom and setting in a saucer.  Plus it makes me feel slightly good as I am recycling the container.  As I was leaving on vacation the first two weeks of May and a slow germination was fine with me, I seeded about 10 seeds into moist seedless soil mix and left them on my kitchen counter.  When I returned about 6 had germinated.  Another club member did not use her seeds, so I added 4 or 5 more about 3 weeks later.   They germinated a little bit quicker.  I have raised the lid permanently on the container and am waiting until they are a little larger to transplant into 4" peat pots and then will harden off, put outside and put a few into the 8" terra cotta pot required for the zone meeting hort show.  

May 28 and first real set
of leaves starting to appear

Mary P. got off to a late start - but is catching up.  Her seeds were started a week or so later than the others.   She used the Soil Blocking method described in our June 14 post and put them in baggies to help hold the moisture while she was gone.  One June 15 she repotted into peat pots and will give them some TLC - A great germination % of 15 seeds (and one lone crocosmia).


June 15
Buffy shared a photo of her plants.  She took seeds and supplies home from the workshop and planted in early May.  She planted directly into peat pots, kept in baggies til just a few days ago and has now set outside.  Success!

June 17, 2016
Lynn also got a late start but hers are catching up, too. 

Germination 6.3.2016
Jennie has checked in!  Our new club President has lots to do - and she is growing bird peppers.
She planted 13 seeds in Miracle Grow potting soil in June.  She reports that she kept them in a warm but not sunny windowsill, watering a little every other day or so to keep the soil damp.  My first three sprouts appeared on June 29, and at day 15 (today) I have ten, each about an inch tall with two leaves.

Jennie's on July 5

End of August update:
Our peppers are at various stages!

September heat brings blossoms and baby peppers!




Friday, May 27, 2016

May and our Milkweeds

I've been having a bit of trouble getting myself organized enough to start posting on our blog this spring. 

First a wonderful vacation with family in Colorado and Utah and a 5 day raft trip organized by our sons on the San Juan from Mexican Hat to Clay Hills.  Couldn't be better! 

Not all days were like this - a 45 minute
thunderstorm with winds blowing us
back up river.

Most days were like this!
As I sit down to write, my background music is that of the 17 year cicadas.  They are in my woods big time!  The other day on the phone with a friend it was stereo - we could each hear the noise from both yards through our phones.  
Oh yes, this is about milkweeds!  Before I left for vacation.  I asked our club members for updates and photos on the milkweeds we started from seed last year - successes and failures.  I've decided to combine all of our milkweeds into one story for this summer.  It will be a lot easier to follow.  If you would like to see the 2015 posts on each milkweed, please just refer back to the posts on the right sidebar.  We started  several varieties that would work in our area:  Whorled, Spider, Prairie, Butterfly Weed and Purple. 
We distributed several dozen small pots to the membership at our June 2015 picnic.  Those that did plant their milkweed directly into the ground instead of holding in pots seemed to have the best success.  The other problem that was mentioned repeatedly is that the marker wore off over the winter and many members cannot tell what variety they have - we will just have to wait and look at the leaves and flowers as they develop.

  • Ann O. replied that none of hers came up as well as none of her already established milkweed. 
  • Jennie replied that the gutter cleaners knocked her pots over and they never recovered.
  • Buffy reports that hers also died.
  • Jane S's also died in the end of summer drought period. 
Debbie E replies that none of hers have appeared, but she does have the native growing by her mailbox.

Debbie April 27 photo
Mary Anne replied that she seeded 2 jugs of milkweed, one of which survived.  She took 6 seedlings from club members, of which 5 survived.  All of the name stakes have faded except the pots of A. verticillata.

Mary Anne April 28 photo
Anne S. took 3 pots - one milkweed pot hasn't done anything since I covered and put up against the garage brick wall to winter - over.  These two pots are sprouting! YAY! I will take a better photo when the sun is out tomorrow and check their labels so we know which two have survived the best!  I am going to put them into the ground soon in a sunny place so hopefully they will spread!

Anne S. April 28 photo
Nina R. reports:  Against all odds I have three of my four milkweeds growing this spring. Of course the tags are unreadable but I guess in time it will be obvious

Nina May 5 photo
Our big success story is Judy!  Although Judy loves Conservation she really should be a Hort person - she excels in growing.  From the beginning she had great success with propagating seeds on her windowsill for Zone meeting seed challenges.  Judy planted hers directly into the ground last year and hers appear to be the best so far.

Judy April 29 photo

Judy May 10 photo
Look how much it has grown in such a short time.
Judy updated today:  May 27, 2016.  34" and still growing.  She will be the first to get a bloom!  Congratulations on your success.

Judy's milkweed on May 27, 2016.
34" tall.
These are mine and hopefully over the holiday weekend I will get them in the ground and have some better photos soon.

Sara late April photo

Sara May 28 photo
I usually like to open a post with a 'tidbit' or quote, but milkweed quotes are a little hard to find.  I did find an interesting energy article about the use of milkweeds  Energy Quote of the Day: ‘It’s Less Expensive to Use Milkweed’ to Clean Up Oil Spills

And I went back to 'Bringing Nature Home' - we were fortunate to have Doug Tallamy speak in Charleston last year.  Such a great speaker and I knew I would find something there. 

"...The degree to which your neighborhood interacts with the monarch butterfly is limited only by your imagination.  I can think of no better way to reconnect with nature than to adopt a species such as the monarch, or any number of plant and bird species with declining populations  Being part of a group that successfully restores the local population of a species in trouble will not only build camaraderie with your neighbors, but may be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things you will ever do."
I think all in our group would agree with that!

To be continued soon....

Spring 2017 and our milkweeds are prospering.  Kathy has hers in pots on her driveway in order to get enough sun.  This is April 30 and they are up and looking like they are forming early blooms.

Kathy's pot sits outside her garage doors.
Lots of bottom heat from the pavers.

Another shot of Kathy's from the top.