There has been lots of goings on inside the greenhouse since winter. Not all of it great but there has been some positives.
Beautiful plants and fruit. The taste was sweet and I did like the flavor. The first fruits had a somewhat diesel aftertaste to me and I'm hoping this goes away as the plants mature. I planted a red and black inside the greenhouse and was selling the rest on Craigslist and Facebook...until some jackass soured that for me. More on that later.
That plant in the corner is a Rollinia Deliciosa I grew from seed I brought back from Puerto Rico. I love the annonas with cherimoya being my favorite...even though my big tree and I are not getting along at the moment. I'm hoping the rollinia will do well and can't wait for its first blooms.
I thought I was going to lose my big Sweet Tart mango I got last year...more on this later. So I conspired with a couple buddies down in Florida to obtain a couple new plants. I spent some time texting back and forth with Rob. He's got to be one of the most knowledgeable guys I know when it comes to mangoes. He was kind enough to spend time answering all of my questions about varieties and then obtained a couple very nice specimens for me.
My other buddy, Brandon, was generous with his time as well. He picked up the plants from Rob, packed and shipped them up here to me in Ohio. As you can see in the pics above, the plants arrived safely and look very healthy. The one on the left is Phoenix and the one on the right is Coconut Cream.
And the Downs
What a pain in the ass this was going to be. When we built the greenhouse, I ran black pipe out from the basement into the greenhouse...running beneath the dirt and gravel. I ran the pipe inside of some heavy PVC pipe for protection. Unfortunately, I must have gotten a little lazy with the corners coming up out of the ground because these areas were not protected. So for the past ten years, that pipe has been sitting in constantly wet dirt/gravel, and the occasional fertilizers leaching into the dirt. The black pipe was pretty much disintegrating.
Now the areas you see in the pics above don't really look like much, but they were big and deep enough especially when digging up wet clay and moving all that gravel around. I had to expose enough of the pipe and give myself plenty of room to work. The bad sections would need to be cut out. I then had to use a big, pipe thread cutter to put new threads on the pipe I cut. That was very difficult. If anyone reading this has cut threads in black pipe before, you know.
The second pic is my garcinia madronos on the left and garcinia humilis, achachairu, on the right. I had a hell of a die back on the madronos over the winter. My guess is that I got just too stingy with the water trying to drought stress the plant into a spring bloom. Must have got a little carried away with the withholding of water because I really thought I was going to lose both plants. They are recovering nicely now, but are mere shadows of their former selves.
The achachairu as disappointed me again this year. This bastard should be blooming by now and it's flipping me the bird. I've got a garcinia intermedia that nearly won't stop blooming so this one failing to bloom at all is a kick between the legs. It's mature enough and it is huge. Shit.
I'm not a bad grafted, but I am terribly slow at it. I also have a tendency to cut myself at least once. Damned if I didn't do it twice this time around. I did mostly cleft grafts and as you can see, a couple top work bark grafts. The bark/cambium was extremely thick too. I'm just not sure about these two grafts. Hopefully at least one each of the two varieties will take. I will continue to post updates on the progress on my Facebook page.
So hopefully the Imbe's will now serve to be a better root stock than they ever were for fruiting. I'm saving room on the plants for mangosteen cuttings I'll bring back with me from Puerto Rico at the end of July. Those will be a shot in the dark but I'll give it a try.
I planted this tree back in 2007. Seven years to fruit for me. Coming from a grafted tree, I think that sucks. Course, it is in a greenhouse. However, greenhouse or not, it grew very well and was always in a state of pushing growth. So no excuses! It's time for the Gold Nugget to go. It's time to graft some better varieties onto this tree. I should have started this years ago.
I wanted a yellow and orange fleshed variety. Cristela is a yellow fleshed variety and always has high marks. Red Morning was an orange flesh suggestion. Brandon wasn't sure that his tree was the actual variety. He said he had a seedling that was always everyone's favorite. Orange and firm. Sounds like I had a couple winners. He shipped out several cuttings of each variety.
As you can see from that first pic, I tried a couple of bark grafts for the hell of it. These failed within a few days. For the rest, I had two branches way down low on the tree. So I used the lowest one for the Cristela grafts...these were all cleft grafts. The opposite branch and a little higher was for the orange seedling cuttings. Most were all cleft grafts, but I did put 4 bark grafts at the end of the cut branch. I've had great success at this type of graft with apples. Not doing so well with tropicals. This was all done at the end of April, 2017.
Oh yeah...notice anything different in that first pic? For those who didn't catch it, I had cut down the rest of the tree to just above the branch with the orange seedling grafts. I did that a few weeks ago and it sure made the grafts kick into gear. And yes, I did sacrifice the one fruit on the tree. I figured at this point the grafts were by far my biggest priority. I wanted everything the tree had going into those grafts. I think it was a good call.
I'm sure somewhere in Thailand, someone is growing this. During my last trip, I asked so many people from nursery owners to orchard owners and the in-between...and found only one person who even knew what this fruit was. They were familiar with it only because they happened to run across it during their vacation in Malaysia or Philippines. Everyone else either knew nothing about it or if by chance they had, figured it was nothing more than a weed.
This is one thing that drives me nuts about Thailand. They love their rambutan and nothing else is going to get in the way of that. Surely there must be some private grower over there growing one of the better varieties. If you read this, send me an email!!!
I never knew what this fruit was until my first trip to Puerto Rico visiting Ian Crown. Since then, it was a bigger score than mangosteen. It's really that good. It became a personal mission to get plants for the greenhouse by any means available.
After long and disappointing internet searches, emails, and phone calls, I eventually nailed down two sources in Hawaii. This was many years ago and I seemed to do everything wrong that was possible. I killed at least a couple beautiful specimens. Those sources for the plants dried up. Now all of a sudden, you could have promised your first born and it would have done you no good. These plants were just not available...believe me, I exhausted every avenue there was.
Ian allowed John and I to do some air layers on one of his trees. Unfortunately, soon after, a hurricane ripped across the island and pretty much ended our air layer efforts. We just couldn't catch a break.
After a couple of years of begging Juan in PR to get busy and graft more pulasan, my wish was finally granted. Last year, Juan presented John and I each with a beautiful grafted plant. We were like proud parents holding a baby for the first time! We were going to do everything humanly possible to get these plants home in one piece...and alive.
I wrote a blog about our wonderful USPS delivery and I'm not going to rehash that again now, but I did get this particular plant home. It's been tucked away in the greenhouse under plastic to keep the humidity high.
I had a bunch of small seedling pulasan that were doing nicely until I transplanted them into a vermiculite mix. This was all in preparation for next year's trip to Thailand. I added a little fertilizer to the mix and the result was the pretty much the loss of all of the seedlings except for 3-4. I believe the fertilizer was enough to burn the roots and kill the seedlings. A stupid move for sure. I was real tickled about this as you can imagine. Made me really leery of transplanting the grafted plant...which I absolutely had to do.
Juan's farm is made up of the reddest clay-like soil you can imagine and must be nutrient rich. It has an average PH value of 4.5. All of this combined has made a soil heaven for every tree on his farm. The trees just don't thrive, they go freaking nuts! But that shit is HEAVY man. It has the weight of concrete. So not only can I not take soil products into Thailand, the weight itself would be a killer. So the plant had to be repotted into a soilless medium...and I was concerned that the tree would not survive the move. It did. Not only once, but a second time forcing it into a smaller plastic nursery bag..
But having one plant wasn't enough. I needed insurance! So John and I went internet hunting once again. John scored. A nursery we both had ordered from many years ago had semi gotten back into the game. They had new air layered pulasan due to come off some trees soon. We ordered two apiece... and what the hell? Let's order a four yellow rambutan air layers while we're at it! We really do need therapy.
John placed the order and received the shipment down in Florida. He took great care of the plants too. But even the best care couldn't save the rambutan. We believe they were taken off the trees maybe a bit early and immediately shipped. Was just way too soon for this type of stress. None of them made it. But the pulasan did well.
And wow! The plants were much larger than I expected. The trunks on these plants were every bit an inch across. Very healthy and actively pushing growth. While very excited about their size, I was also very concerned how the hell I was going to get them to Thailand. I could forget all about stuffing these plants into our hard-shelled luggage. These plants were all of 40" tall. With those thick, unbendable trunks, there was no way in hell I could get them inside that suitcase.
Why the concern? Airports and airport security. Their nature is to be nosy. We must appreciate them being nosy. Our lives depend upon it. Nosy is good. Laziness or just not giving a shit, on the other hand, is not. If they happened to open whatever box I construct to inspect the contents, it is a safe bet that they are not going to take the time and effort to put everything back as it was. This is my concern.
So the box has to be sturdy...standing up to the punishment of airport luggage handlers. These guys must have been former USPS package handlers! The box must secure the plants so that they are not tossed and banging around inside. It has to conform to the airline size and weight restrictions. I would like for it to NOT stand out any more than a regular piece of luggage. And last, but not certainly the least, if someone wants in it, I don't want them to have to struggle to do so...nor be so bad as to put it back together with plants safe.