What gets you excited when you look at a great plant?
What gets me excited is the actual physical body of the plant. The thickness of the stem, the space between the inner nodes, the structure of the plant, the way it sets up. I look for something that’s shaped kind of like a menorah–a lot of space between the inner nodes, and not a lot of leaves. I’m not into bushy plants. I like sexy, long-legged plants.
How can you tell if a plant is promising before it’s fully grown?
I look for a plant that has vigorous growth, like very rapid growth. I look for thick, fat leaves-but not a lot of them. The fingers on the leaf can be fat or thin. If they’re narrow, people associate that with sativa, and fat leaves are more commonly indica. But indica plants are short and bushy and that’s not my style. I like that sativa-style growth pattern, but with thick, fat-fingered leaves like an indica.
What color and shapes should the leaves have?
When plants are just getting to their vegetative state, I’m looking for a certain shade of green: rich, almost dark army green with a sheen on the leaf. I want serrated edges that aren’t too sharp, but a little rounded off, a bit softer. That’s my favorite.
Are you able to observe changes in growth pattern along the way?
The moment you turn the lights to 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of day, you get a reaction from the plant. Within six to eight days, there’s rapid growth, and the plants can double or triple in size in three weeks. The biggest growth spurt is from day eight to day 16. Sometimes a plant will grow two to four inches a night.
It’s just incredible. The plant understands that this is its moment to get as tall as it can. A female plant is trying to receive pollen from the air from a nearby male plant to make seeds and continue its existence. So it knows: "This is it. I have a limited amount of time to put my energy into growing tall and to try to receive that pollen." And that's what it does. It really stretches during that time period. And that's what I like to see, a plant that at least doubles in size. I like to see that 100-200 percent growth during that time period.
What's your ideal time range for flowering?
I like to see the flowers setting out about day 10 or 11, and I like to see a certain space in between those bud sites. They should stack up like a neck bone, like every inch there should be a flower site. So I'm looking for a certain amount of stacking so that I know I'm going to get a nice, filled-in spear. Then as the flower starts setting, we should see some crystals, some trichomes.
Are there differences in the kinds of trichomes you're after?
I like to see the crystals start forming on the little tiny buds and spreading out onto the near(by) leaves. And those trichomes should be shiny, almost greasy. These are two or three kinds of trichomes there, the greasy ones that you touch and they kind of smear and almost feel like water. But then as you rub them on your finger, they become really sticky, like ultra-sticky.
Those are the best types of trichomes for me. They stay on the plant the longest. But then there's also a sandy type of trichome that feels like grit. Those usually break off, but they definitely make the best hash. That sandy, dry trichome is the kind hash makers love. But I like greasy trichomes, I think they look beautiful on the plant. They give it a sheen.
Then they start to shine like diamonds. If you shine a good light on it, it's like looking up at the stars. There are all these drops of color, and ultimately they're created to protect the plant from the sun's rays and pests. And thank God the plant produces those, because that’s where the cannabinoids are.
What are you looking for as the plant reaches maturity?
Around day 20 to 30, you start seeing the development of bracts. The calyxes form together on top of each other and that forms a bract, which is the first formation of the bud. You get hairs–pistils–coming out of it and I'm looking for a certain color. I like them really thin, I don't want thick red hairs–that was cool back in the 80s, but it's not my style. A bract has to be shaped a certain way to really catch my attention.
So all the buds are setting and it's really the best time of the life cycle of the plant. They're just in full form. Their immune systems are at their highest and it's really beautiful to look at, just like any other flower. To be a great grower, you gotta be one of the guys who really stop and smell the flowers. Most bud guys grow all kinds of other flowers. Like, I just got a plumeria yesterday that was hybridized by one of my breeder buddies and there's an incredible structure to that plant. If you're really into this, you get this vibe off all plants.
I really think it's something elemental. It's why people love being in nature, why we buy flowers for each other, why we grow them in our garden. And for sure there's an interaction between humans and the cannabis plant. When I'm looking at the plant, just observing it, it has some sort of magnetic force on me. And so I'm looking for those traits that give the type of flower that I want to consume.
What are some signs that the plant is going to be great at harvest time?
When it's sexy and long and lanky, on the thinner side of branching, with a lot of big leaves. When the buds are just calyxes on top of calyxes, and they're covered in trichomes with very little leaf, that's what I'm looking for in a plant, ultimately.
The plant basically comes to a halt as far as growing. It will only like probably expand another few inches as it focuses all of its energy into creating the buds. I love plants that are four to five feet tall.
I like to see 7-11 heads (or shoots or tops) coming off the plant. I count them every time. I want to see each of those branches come up to the same height, almost like a menorah. And we trim out excess leaves so they have good airflow. Airflow is so important to the plant, to its health, and to guard against mold or mildew. A lot of people don't understand that concept and they end up with a lot of botrytis. Correct spacing is real important to me.
And every time you pick off some leaves, it puts more energy into the flowers at the top. We'll even take off some of the spindly or little branches that we know are just going to produce fluffy buds, and when we do that, all the energy goes to the best flowers. It's important to have a dense, perfect flower on each bud site and each shoot. The plants that I love are small yielders, so I'm always focused on getting the very best out of each one. We go a little bit smaller than some other varieties, but it's well worth it.
What do you look for in the flowers?
I love the idea of purple flowers, but it's really not my thing. I'm looking for a plant that's almost gray because the crystals on it are so pronounced. I want it to become a silvery green. When it's completely covered in dense trichomes, if you look at it under a certain light, you can almost see the colors of the rainbow in there. It's like a prism effect.
I also like the little leaves coming out of the bud to have a little lavender edge, almost like it's putting on eyeliner.
A plant really has to shine, like in a jewelry store. Like at Tiffany's under a jewelry light, where you can see all the facets of a diamond, and it's like, wow. And they come out clear, then as they mature they get cloudy. I think it's important to look at cannabis under an appropriate light so you can observe those qualities. Most of the time we're looking at cannabis under the wrong light. But under the correct light, you start seeing parts of the plant that you couldn't see otherwise. In fact, I bring my own lights when I look at someone else's cannabis. Because I want to see what's really there, what the plant itself has to show me.