Plant Parents & Parent Plants
“You know," said Arthur, "it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young." "Why, what did she tell you?" "I don't know, I didn't listen.”Many of us get our knowledge of plants, learn our garden skills, or discover a love of nature at a young age, from adults who care for us. Eating grass, picking flowerheads, holding a worm - it all counts as gardening when you're little!
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
And as you get older, there's nothing nicer than getting your hands dirty in soil and seeing something you planted, grow.
At Mother's Day, we celebrate all those caring people who share their love and knowledge of plants and gardening with us - at whatever age.
Show your love and gratitude to the nurturing people in your life in practical ways, by mowing their lawn, clipping their hedges, or weeding an overgrown bed. Everyone can use a little help around the garden!And if you have gardening know-how, pass it on to the next generations. Along with planting a tree for posterity, a love and understanding of nature is the best legacy you can leave them.
How plants pass on their genesHere we look at how plants themselves ensure their next generation has the best start in life. And how plants reproduce to create that next generation - sometimes with a little help from the botanists!
Parent PlantsKalanchoe Gremlin - the walking kalanchoe, spider plants (Chlorophytum), and strawberries all produce long stems - called runners - which have little baby plants on the end. These can root and grow independently into new plants. It's a way for mama to ensure the next generation is independent, while still making sure they get fed and cared for until they're big enough to grow it alone.Find out here how we propagate our plants at the nursery in three different ways - by cuttings, by tissue culture, and by seed.
Plant ParentsHybrid plants - combining two separate species - can produce valuable new garden plants. And just like two people creating a third little person, the results can strongly favour one parent, be a blend of both, or something surprising and unexpected! Grevillea Bonnie Prince Charlie (bottom right), Fire Cracker, and Charlie's Angel (bottom left) all get their fine, slender rosemary-like foliage from their Grevillea rosmarinifolia parent, (top left);
and their small scarlet and yellow cats-claw flowers from their Grevillea alpina parent, (top right).
Grevillea Bon Accord has one parent from the west coast - G. wilsonii - that grows in dry air and on sandy loam;
and one from the east coast - G. johnsonii - that likes humid air and rocky places. This makes Bon Accord more adaptable to and tolerant of a wider range of climates and soil conditions, and so more useful to a greater number of gardeners.
Rosmarinifolia image: Peganum; Alpinia image : Rexness; cropped to size.
Tibouchina Purple Star (shown in flower bottom left) is a perfect blended mix of both its parents. It's up to twice the size and with brighter flowers than its petite parent Tibouchina heteromalla Jazzie, (top left); and smaller in size and with deeper-coloured flowers than its fast-growing tree-sized parent Tibouchina lepidota Alstonville, (top right).
On the way, it's picked up a new distinguishing characteristic of its own, the rich coppery chestnut-coloured new leaves.
Purple Star is a very disease resistant variety - like mongrel pups, hybrid plants can often be more resilient than pure-bred species!
Paddy's Pink is a beautiful hybrid between two dry-climate natives :
Geraldton wax Chamelaucium (top left),
and feather flower Verticordia (top right).
The combination creates a big bushy shrub the size of a waxflower bush;
with abundant dense rounded clusters of flowers just like a featherflower bush.
Look closely at the image bottom left, and you'll see that each Paddy's Pink flower has a feathery set of outer petals inherited from its featherflower parent.
Closeup flower image: NHQ; bush image : Wildtech; cropped to size.
The new Agave hybrid Mangave® plants inherit big bold shapes and resilient sturdiness from their Agave parent (like the one shown top left); and fast growth and a wide range of patterns and colours from their Manfreda parent (one variety of which is shown top right).
The resulting plant 'child' is a new type of easy-to-grow feature plant, drought-tolerant and compact, that has a wide assortment of colours and patterns and leaf shapes.
“Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.” Robert A. Heinlein
Plant BabiesMany gardeners like us get a sense of motherly pride when our plant babies thrive and do well. A new leaf, a flower bud, a growth spurt - these are milestones to be celebrated and cherished!
Just like children, some plants need more attention and special treatment than others, to flourish. However self-reliant they are, all plants (and children!) grow better with a little loving care.
Take good care of your plants and raise them well - with regular feeding and watering, making sure they're healthy, pruning and shaping them, and giving them room to grow. Our Gardening Basics posts will give you the tools to get your plants off to a good start in life.