Seed adventures

Being seed adventurous doesn’t mean only going into the woods and climbing mountains in search of plant seeds. It also means, trying new species from seeds and looking to improve or find new methods of sowing/germination. Wanting to avoid having to handle too many small pots, last week I sowed in the same container a few species with similar requirements (germination/growing conditions) in rectangular wood-fiber container, which was ‘planted’ in the ground in a shaded location (but it could also be kept like other pots outdoors and planted in an appropriate place only in the spring).

Species with hydrophilic seeds sown together

Container with Trillium sp., Uvularia grandiflora, Clintonia borealis…Anti-squirrel mesh and owl for good luck :)

I planted a second container with Caulophyllum thalictroides in combination with Medeola virginiana. But, one could also use individual biodegradable pots if the mixing of species is not desired.

By the time the plants will be big enough to be moved/spaced out (if necessary), the container will be decomposed. This way the seeds and seedlings will have the advantage of a good water retentive sowing mix; of course, not all of them will survive, but this is how it also goes in a natural setting. This may be turn out to be a very good method for growing those species that need two years (or more) to complete germination and have similar growing requirements, like Trillium, Uvularia, Maianthemum racemosum, Polygonatum…and also for those species that have very tiny seedlings and don’t require transplanting until the second or third year.

And to give one more idea, the featured image shows Caulophyllum thalictroides seeds sowed directed on the woodland garden floor – but this will be a whole story for later…

Because the season of giving is upon us, in our continuous effort to encourage the cultivation of our most wonderful woodland species, the seed adventurous will find in the Shop a very conveniently priced ‘Make your own seeds pack’.

This the Season with ‘make your own’ moist seeds pack!

C. lutea - November

The warrior Corydalis lutea

Only a short note for this month’s end because I think Corydalis lutea (syn. Pseudofumaria lutea) deserves a special mention.
Transplanted during the summer in a crowded container where it lived for quite a while, made the trip to a new place, was dug & planted in the ground, not only it flowered continuously and provided food for pollinators and quite a few seeds, but it is still in flower today (featured image), after the last weekend’s temperature low of -9˚C (with snow cover).

It has shown up from seeds by itself in the spring, like it often happens, but I think it is a bit special. More of its seeds have been spread around today, so the ‘blood’ of this warrior’ will perpetuate in the new garden :)

C. lutea -July

Corydalis lutea in container, July

mid November

In the garden last week…

Warm & Cold Games

Part I

Suddenly it got cold and we have had the first snow; not unexpected for this time of year. Not the same I can say about the Hepatica americana seeds I found germinated, with their radicles quite extended! This is most interesting because Hepatica species have immature embryos at the time of collecting (May-June) and need periods of warm and then cold for embryo development before germinating.

Hepatica americana - germinated seeds without cold period

Hepatica americana – germinated seeds without cold period

This year I have been careful to collect and keep separate a few Hepaticas forms that I am personally interested in. All the germinated seeds belong to a collection made in 30 May from a plant with intermediate characters between americana and acutiloba (although the saying goes hybrids do not exist between these two). None of the other Hepatica collections are germinating and I sowed quite a few already.

Speaking of which, this is an excellent time to start sowing many species that need to undergo a cold/moist period to germinate, ideally outdoors – in our climate, the natural temperature fluctuations are the best to break the dormancy of many species.
If someone needs a bit of help, here’s what I do, plain and simple:

  • Have ready a few pots; sowing mix, labels; fill the pots 3/4, tap the mix lightly. Sow, label, top up with grit, small gravel or vermiculite (I used vermiculite only because I have a gigantic bag of it).

  • Place the pots in a shallow container and add water so they’ll absorb water through capillarity.

  • If you have only few pots, enclose them in a Ziploc bag and ‘hide’ it in a shaded position; you don’t really need a shed or frame; cover with leaves or a piece of cloth, and then the snow will act as insulation. A garden bench/chair can be easily used as ‘pots keeping’ location.

  • If you went all the way and have a whole tray, no worry- wrap it up in a sheet plastic/garbage bag, and ‘hide it’ as well in a shaded position. Early spring, start checking inside the Ziplocs/unwrap the plastic, and move the pots in a half sun location; eventually add a mesh on top to protect from critters.

  • Don’t forget to watch for the first signs of germination!!!

I’ll be back as more warm/cold games and sowing practices unfold…

Out in the woods – Moss pets & Hepatica revisited

Last weekend we went back in the woods; late fall is strangely similar with the month of April. If you ignore a few remnant fruits, all that is green on the woodland floor is represented by Hepaticas and mosses. Having had a very wet fall, there were quite a few of them, like green pets erupting from underneath the leaf carpet, asking to have their green fur stroked. Many others were on rocks, rotten logs…

Moss in the woods

Most Hepaticas grown underneath deciduous trees (ie. that get a fair amount of sun in early spring and fall), develop an interesting marbled foliage by late fall. In areas with large populations it is easy to observe variations not only in the flowers but also in foliage colouration. Like last year, we went scouting for interesting forms and the same plants I had admired for their marbled foliage last year, presented now the exact colouration pattern.
So, I maintain my opinion that a genetic component might be involved in the foliage colouration, which may be also true about the amount of leaf hairiness (actually Hepatica leaves are described as villous = with soft, long hairs).

Hepatica americana fall-winter foliage

Hepatica americana fall-winter foliage

Hepatica americana fall-winter foliage1

Hepatica americana fall-winter foliage2

In the featured image – backlit leaves of a Hepatica acutiloba in the garden. This is one of the most villous (long, soft hairs) H. acutiloba I have ever seen, with a delightful foliage from early spring to fall! Usually it’s not that shaggy looking, but it’s been through rough times over the last couple of years.

False assurance – Linnaea borealis

I had in mind to collect twinflower seeds this year but somehow I missed the right moment. Everyone likes the twinflower and probably would like to have it in their garden; even because it bears Linnaeus name is reason enough :) But, although widespread across its main circumboreal range, it is in fact a plant with a ‘little’ problem (well, not really little).
Linnaea borealis is a self-incompatible species which requires cross-pollination to produce viable seeds (or to produce seeds at all).

Linnaea borealis

Linnaea borealis

Wonderful, large patches can be encountered in the woods but they are mostly clonal (they are identical genetically) and they don’t produce viable seeds. In one research done in Scotland, among all the populations studied, 37% consisted of a single genotype! Such species that reproduce vegetatively but don’t produce viable seeds give us a false assurance. Small populations that disappear from various reasons cannot be reintroduced in old habitats and adaptations to future climate changes would be non-existent because it’s usually from seeds that species adapt and evolve into new, more resistant genotypes.

At a superficial glance, all seems to be fine. The flowering is spectacular and there are fruits. But it’s not… After patiently opening the dry fruits, one will find many of them empty. Luckily, I got some seeds and I can demonstrate. From a significant number of small fruits (about 400), I ended up with +/-75 seeds, so you do the math!

Linnaea borealis fruits and seeds

Linnaea borealis fruits and seeds

Of course, no one bothers to open the dry achenes (not that many people get them), but you see, there is another aspect – sowing such fruits (which contain no seeds) would make some conclude that Linnaea is either a difficult to germinate species (like the saying went about the Syneilesis) or that it has a very low germination %. Actually, I found someone stating that “germination rate is about one in thirty”. Most probably, there was only 1 fruit that contained a seed!!!

It’s not rare for dry fruits, especially achenes, to be mistaken for ‘seeds’. Many times things are not what they seem to be….