Our Adventure With Victoria 2004
This section of the web site reviews each year of our adventure, with details not found in other sections of the site -- things like plant and flower numbers, successes and failures, big and small things we've learned. It also discusses thing we want to do, things we want to know, things we speculate about. It is sequential, often with questions raised one year answered the next. We don't go back and rewrite. Index

Tank 4

 Survivor Paradise


by Kit & Ben Knotts
Click images to enlarge

 In the fall of 2003, our improved seedling survival rate provided us with a number of young Victoria plants that we couldn't bear to just toss out so we decided to experiment with them. (See 2003 Breakthrough! Seedling Survival) We had successfully (and almost accidentally) brought two small plants through the winter of 2002-3 which jump-started our 2003 season, so we knew it was possible.

We have only rarely been able to over-winter adult plants. The timing of "turning" or "chopping and dropping" them is so critical and weather-dependent that we usually lose them. We could not help but wonder if younger plants that had not developed big growth rhizomes, in small pots, might have a better chance.

Our heated tank space was very limited so, probably as an excuse to keep all the plants rather than trash them, we found two (then three) spots where we could put temporary tanks and easily supply them with water and power for heaters. They provided a variety of conditions.

Tanks 1 and 2 - Our main seedling tanks, heated with 1500W stock tank heaters to not less than 80F, six hours of sun in the shortest days of winter, slightly more in summer, protected from wind.

Tank 3 - A plank tank adjacent to Tanks 1 and 2, heated with only one 100W submersible aquarium heater, six hours of sun in winter, in partial shade in summer.

Tank 4 - A temporary plank tank on the dune next to Reflection, heated with two 150W aquarium heaters, full sun all day year round, no wind protection.

Tank 5 - An emergency-home-for-too-many-seedlings preformed pond near Tanks 1 and 2, heated with one 100W aquarium heater, wind-protected.

All had a small flow of water through them; were balanced, and could be covered with clear plastic on nights under 50F. All plants were well established in 6" pots, a few in 8". All tanks had, at some point, both species and both primary hybrids.

We were interested in learning at what temperatures the plants could survive and if there was a difference in survival between less heat/more sun (Tank 4) and more heat/less sun (Tanks 1, 2 and 3).

Tank 1 

Tank 2

Tank 3 

 Propagation Tanks - December, January, Febuary
   Size and type  Location  Heated with  Lowest low  Highest high
 Tank 1 3' x 6' stock tank  South of house   1500W  85F 93F
 Tank 2  3' x 6' stock tank  South of house  1500W  80F 92F
 Tank 3  4' x 8' plank, liner Dune  100W 66F  88F
 Tank 4  4' x 16' plank, liner  South of house  2 - 150W  62F 82F
 Tank 5  3' x 6' preformed  South of house  100W  61F 90F
 Reflection  18' x 32' concrete  Dune None  52F 79F

Our lowest survival was of V. amazonica in Tanks 3 and 4. It did fine in the stable temperatures of Tanks 1 and 2 but also did extremely well in the shallow preformed Tank 5. Because it was black plastic, the water temperature rose rapidly on sunny days and retained more heat at night than would have been generated by its small heater. We think it was the high daytime temperature that allowed amazonica to thrive there.

V. cruziana did not do well in Tanks 1 and 2 after the first few floating leaves. It appeared that the difference between warm water and cold air at night caused melted spots on the pads. They did very well in Tanks 3 and 4 where there was more of a drop in water temperature at night. We had no losses of cruziana in 6" or 8" pots in any tanks.

We also had no losses of 'Adventure' or 'Longwood Hybrid', most of which were in duneside Tank 4. As an additional experiment, we put same-age sibling 'Longwood Hybrids' in Tank 4 and Reflection. Though we almost lost the one in Reflection, it survived but not in as good condition as the one in Tank 4. This indicated to us that even the (average) 3-4 degrees additional heat in Tank 4 made a difference.

The more heat/less sun compared with less sun/more heat question was answered. Results were more or less the same, with the exception of amazonica. Duneside plants were more battered by wind and spotting from the cold but most survived in spite of it.

There are two other factors that may have affected the survival, or lack, of the V. amazonicas in Tank 4. This spring we learned that the size and number of holes in the pots makes a difference - the more the better. It isn't necessarily that roots benefit from escaping into soil on the bottom. Even some plants on racks (where the roots couldn't reach any soil) did far better than others in pots with smaller and fewer holes.

We also learned more recently that refreshing the peat in the bottom of the pots after 6 weeks to two months greatly enhanced plant health, especially amazonica's. As mentioned elsewhere, we don't know for sure which properties of peat are so beneficial to Victoria - just that they are. If we had known to refresh the peat over the winter, it's possible more amazonicas could have survived in the colder Tank 4.

These experiments have raised a new question that we will be looking at over the next months -- do some of these older stalled plants increase in size more slowly than younger plants? In 2003, Rich Sacher observed that an over-wintered 'Longwood Hybrid' grew very slowly compared with a spring-started plant in equal conditions at New Orleans Botanical Garden.

We are currently growing out six over-wintered plants. As we write this in mid-May, two are increasing in size as rapidly as we would expect and two are increasing very slowly. It's hard to tell yet with two that have been more recently planted. We have such a long growing season that we can wait to see if the slow plants eventually catch up. One of the slow plants puts up new leaves every third day and the other only about one a week, so speed of growth doesn't seem to make a difference..

The Hurricanes
What Makes Victoria Seeds Sprout -- Or Not?
Survivor Paradise

Reflection Gallery Month By Month

 1998 The Adventure Begins | 1999 The Adventure Continues
2000 A Very Bad Year | 2001 A Banner Year
2002 An Even Better Year | 2003 We Like It Like This
2005 Recovery | 2006 Normal? | 2007 Weird | 2008 Year of the Hare
2009 Year of the (White) Tortoise

 Our Adventure Overview
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