Saturday, 29 September 2012

Yampah: My Cup Runneth Over

The yampahs reprieved from Death Row haven't taken much notice of the clement intercession I made on their behalf - their development continues at a glacial pace. Unlike an iceberg, however, 7/8ths of their volume does not appear to be located below the surface.  If anything, the shoots and leaves outweigh the roots by a wide margin.  If this suggests lush leafiness, forgive me; the majority of the plants produced just three or four delicate leaves in the spring and then grew no more.  A few individuals looked marginally more vigorous and then blew all that stored rooty goodness by going on to develop flowering shoots.  Only one amongst them somehow survived the rasping radulas of the slugs and is now bedecked with small, frothy parasols, with a faintly parsley-like aroma - not unpleasant. This development has coincided with yet another period of very heavy rain. Under these conditions, a parapluie is much more useful than a sun shade, so I have brought the survivor indoors and am attempting to hand pollinate the flowers using a small paintbrush. If I can't feast on the roots, I might at least get to try the seeds.





Friday, 14 September 2012

Ocaupy Everywhere

Here's something I wrote a while back and then failed to publish. Life got in the way, as life so often does. 

The Occupy Movement created a bit of a stir a few months ago, with mass protests and encampments.  Even Plymouth, our nearest city, had a tent hamlet for a while.

Although Radix is firmly apolitical, the ocas in my charge seem to be staging their own takeover.  I have well over 150  genetically distinct varieties now, the majority of which were raised from seed either by me or Frank van Keirsbilck.  Of this total there are  perhaps fifty seedlings sown this year and had circumstances been different, I might have managed to grow many more.

The first of these seedlings are now starting to flower, which will hopefully lead to another abundant seed crop.









A few seedlings have appeared spontaneously again this season and Carl Legge has several dozen, maybe fifty by all accounts, the progeny of a mixed bunch of tubers I supplied to him in 2011.

The relative ease by which this total has been achieved seems to bode well for the future of oca breeding. The next step is to crank up production by an order of magnitude or two and apply a more systematic approach to the selection of better-yielding varieties. Our best hope of discovering a day-neutral plant is by letting this riotous assembly cross with promiscuous abandon; the breeder's job is then to eyeball the progeny and pick out those whose ample charms mean they stand out from the crowd. Think A Chorus Line for ocas and you won't go far wrong.

The more I ponder on all of this, the more this apparently harmless horticultural hobby seems to be expanding to fill all the available space and time. My available space and time, that is.   Maybe I should consider turning oca breeding into a mass movement and enlist help (yours?) to scale up operations.  Let's see whether we can get oca to occupy its rightful place in our gardens and on our tables. Can I rouse a rabble of gardeners to raise new roots?

I'm pleased to say that I am now harvesting seeds from my 2012 seedlings. The cycle continues.















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