Featured Hybridizer - Brenda Bautista
Interviewd by RJ La Fraugh
Brenda, it's always a pleasure to catch up with you and have a virtual look through all of your beautiful crosses. I'd love to have everyone get acquainted with your garden, your never-ending projects, and your methods of coming up with such beauties. Here's a few questions that I think will be fascinating for our readers.
What year did you start growing Brugmansia?
I began growing Brugmansia in 1994. A friend of mine gave me starts of a yellow, white, and a pink one that his father was growing. These varieties had made their way from Florida to Georgia. I grew them in front of the restaurant I had at that time for 3-4 years, then I passed them on to my daughter-in-law Sandy, and enjoyed watching them grow in her gardens.
What is your first recollection of the start of your love for Brugmansia?
I had just planted a new bed along my driveway with Hostas and they needed shade. So, I planted a few Brugmansia there. As the hostas faded in August's heat, the brugmansias came into their “Glory.” By the following year, my brug collection had grown by being gifted with some nice varieties The following year, the Brugs took over that old hosta bed, and the hostas found a new home elsewhere in my shade gardens.
What is your single most favorite Brugmansia and why?
I really have so many favorites; however, I would have to say Dorthea is my single favorite. She has a form I love and the tendrils or "teeth" are impressive. She has been a good pollen daddy and a better (seed) pod mommy.
My favorite double is Gemini, with Tiara running a close second- Gemini produces petite semi-stuffed creamy white blossoms with a heavenly indescribable fragrance and with increasingly larger flushes. I just did a few crosses with Berkonigin on her; waiting to see if they took.
Have you got any interesting crosses you’ve done recently?
Yes. My interest in hybridizing is to produce disease resistant fragrant crosses that do well in the South. With that in mind, and when I can, I cross back to the "older" varieties that are still around, proving their survivability. In 2009, I used Dorthea, Amber Rose, First Belle, Inspiration, and Pink Perfektion, to name a few. In 2010, I will use promising seedlings more.
I also have a second interest in coming up with a small plant with petite horizontal blossoms. A double here would not hurt!!! I have some seedlings from a Tootie x Shooting Star cross from Seed Sprout Nursery 2008 that I am using to hybridize that have those characteristics.
What is your hope for the future of Brugmansia?
Not only would I like to have disease-free or more disease –resistant plants, but would also like to see smaller blossoms on shorter plants to appeal to the small garden owner, or patio garden owner. And they should all smell good. I don't want them to lose that famous Brugmansia perfume.
I would also hope to see that all Brugmansia seedlings or sports go through a 2-3 year trial and the plant be reviewed by a selected panel before being registered. Having said that, I pray that all the good names aren’t taken by the time I get around to registering any of mine!
Does anyone in your family share your enjoyment of Brugmansia?
My daughter-in-law Sandy grows Joli, Sam, Dream Angel, Berkonigin and several others. I make sure that she has the varieties that I don’t have so I have a handy source of pollen to work with! We joke about our love affair with Brugmansia quite often. How many is too many? Evidently we have yet to discover that limit!
Tell us about any seedlings you are growing this year.
I am growing a few of Gary Morales crosses he shared with me, and I purchased seeds from Liz.
My own crosses from last Fall that were started over the winter are:
PP x Miz Scarlett (NR)
Dorthea x Pink Perfektion/PP
PP x Dorthea
Amber Rose x PP
Sdlg. 73C (Tootsie x Shooting Star/ SSN 2008) x First Belle/ Pods #1 and #2
PP x First Belle
PP x Sdlg. 713A (Bergfeuer x Super Spot/Volker 2008- promising color and performance)
I have around 110 seedlings this year, too many again, but not 175-250 as in previous years! My seedling bed is packed!
How do you start your seedlings?
This is how I start my seedlings (I've have no damping off using this method):
I use seed starting mix, with half again perlite added to lighten it up further. I use large single- use aluminum roasting pans to heat the mix in a slow oven 275-300°. First I dampen it well, to help distribute the heat evenly, then "cook" for 60 minutes. I start my seeds by batch in new or sterilized quart pots filled 2/3's full. If fresh, the seeds are soaked for a few minutes in water with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide, and then pressed into the still slightly damp soil, and slipped into 1-gallon zip-lock bags then sealed and kept at around 70-75° until they sprout, in about 7-10 days. Older seeds are soaked 24 hours in water with a little hydrogen peroxide added to it, then slightly peeled, and planted and cared for the same as the fresh seeds.
I learned to sterilize everything, including the seeds, when I was hybridizing and starting hosta seedlings back in winters of 2003-2005.
And how do you over-winter your Brugmansia?
I over-winter potted Brugs and cuttings in my sunroom or in my basement. I defoliate and spray all Brugs before bringing them inside. In the sunroom, where I keep my pregnant Brugs and tropicals the temperature is 65-70°F during the day and 50-60°F at night. They get 16 hours of florescent "daylight". No fertilizer until mid-February. And the sunroom sees lots of bug brigades. This last winter it was aphids! Seems like there is always a critter challenge! Inthe basement, I put sheets of insulation on my concrete/tiled floor. Before I bring the pots into the basement, I dip them in a 1-10 solution of plain ammonia and water, to rid the pots of hitchhikers. I trim the branches to six nodes, if possible. I use 3-10 gallon pots for my Brugs; nesting smaller pots into larger pots helps on floor space. It gets down to about 35° in my basement and no warmer than 50° all winter. There is very little light. I water 1-3 cups of water about once a month, depending on the size of the pot. In the spring, as early as mid-February, I begin moving the plants in and out of the house, until the final move-out after the last frost. I lose a few in the basement every year but not usually more than 5%. This last winter was especially challenging because of the bitter cold we had in January.
What other plants do you love collecting or growing?
Hostas , shade plants. I love the fragrant oriental lilies, but most any lily will do. Louisiana and Beaded Irises are other favorites. I also like to grow vines; clematis and passiflora, morning glory and some of the more exotics (for me!) like aristolochia tribolata and vigna caracalla.
Do you have anything you would like to add to our interview that I have not covered?
I think gardeners and collectors interested in Brugs should try a few growing a few Brug seeds for the fun of it! Someone from one of the Brug forums shared some Brug seeds with me and I grew them in the winter of 2005-2006. I did everything wrong with the seeds. Three seedlings managed to survive my ignorance and neglect. As I watched these seedlings bloom that summer, I was hooked. There is so much potential in those little seeds, as we have seen in a relatively short time. There’s magic awaiting!