Here's a quick update on the two mauka varieties that Frank van Keirsbilck sent me as cuttings this summer - mauka blanca and mauka roja.
The mauka blanca cuttings rooted straight away and have grown vigorously. The mauka roja took much longer to root. I suspect that this was not necessarily due to inherent differences in vigour, but, perhaps, a result of the differing age and nutritional status of the stems from which the cuttings were taken. Although mauka cuttings usually root very easily, it took a bit of bottom heat and artificial illumination to get the mauka roja going. For a while it just sat and sulked. Now that it's grown roots, though, I'm expecting it to be fine.
Roja is on the left, blanca on the right.
For another look at these varieties, go to the Homegrown Goodness forum, where Frank has uploaded some infinitely better and more informative pictures - they're towards the bottom of the page.
What puzzles me is how to get mauka plants to flower. Frank van Keirsbilck and Jean-Luc Muselle have both managed it, using plants overwintered in greenhouses at different locations in Belgium. All of which is proof that Belgium is so much more than the sum of its stereotypes: beer, chocolate and micturating mannequins. The fact that the flowers appeared in spring may mean that flowering is initiated by increasing daylength. Alternatively, some physiological change caused by stem maturity may be involved. Perhaps our growing season is just too short for the plants to get big enough before winter sets in. Looking at the massive, sprawling stems and dense glossy foliage of my two seedlings makes that seem unlikely. Actually, I'm simply doing the doggy paddle in a sea of unknowing: I have no real idea. Nor, I suspect, does anyone else. So, there's another addition to the list of mysteries to be solved in 2010.