Green Inspiration – sowing in moss

‘Tis the season this year meant ‘enjoy the mild weather as long as possible’. A recent escapade into the woods inspired me to do more sowing in moss. Last year I sowed Saxifraga cuneifolia and Gaultheria procumbens, just for play and it worked very well; now I need more Saxifraga seedlings.
I cannot really replicate this boulder, but if this Saxifraga likes to grow and spread on moss, it makes sense to sow it like that, right? Nature is best source of inspiration.

Saxifraga cuneifolia ssp. robusta in wild habitat

Saxifraga cuneifolia ssp. robusta in wild habitat (Carpathian Mts.)

Of course I don’t have a big, mossy boulder, but I am creative – an old decorative clay pot looks good ornate in moss.

For sowing on moss:
Prepare a pot, mossy stone…, your moss pieces and potting mix (best to add some sand to it);
Place the moss pieces you gathered, press well, water;
Spread the seeds on top, water again;
Enclose the pot/stone in a Ziploc bag, or cover just the top;
Overwinter outside; in the spring start opening the Ziploc or remove the plastic cover.

The seedlings will be tiny (see in the images below taken last summer) and remain like that for some time, so keep it in a shaded spot and mist once in a while. A smaller pot can be kept in the Ziploc but watch it closely as the moss can overgrow the tiny seedlings (this can be rectified by trimming it). It depends on what type of moss is used.

Another Saxifraga that would enjoy this sowing/growing would be the North American Saxifraga virginica (correctly said Micranthes virginiensis).

Saxifraga virginica (Micranthes virginiensis)

Micranthes virginiensis (syn. Saxifraga virginica) in habitat

It is a fun sowing method and in the worst case scenario you will end up with a nice, green, mossy pot! It can be used for other shade loving species, particularly those that like a bit of acidic substrate like Vaccinium, Pieris, Rhododendron…Also it is a great way to germinate and grow any species which like a permanently moist substrate like Viola macloskeyi, Cornus canadensis and probably quite a few others.

Viola macloskeyi

Viola macloskeyi on a mossy hump in wild habitat – Why try to grow it in a different way?!

May the Green Inspiration follow you all throughout the New Year!

Unforgettable 2015

Part 3 – Light celebrations

I am jumping to August unforgettables, which are very appropriate for showing in this day of the winter solstice when the celebrations of light begin. Dahlia coccinea plants which had started to flower in the usual dark-red colour in July, surprised me with also some yellow flowers; this rarely happens! This is because it was grown from seeds, kindly gifted by Gill from Off the Edge Gardening two years ago. I would have never attempted to grow a Dahlia from seed otherwise (which by the way, is very easy).

Dahlia coccinea yellow
Then it came along Berkheya purpurea! I couldn’t take my eyes of this plant when visiting the Aspen Grove Gardens in early August. Grown from seed, in its full splendour and in the right light – it was simply stunning!
I wouldn’t have tried this South African plant, which is said to be hardy to zone 8! So, here’s to a more adventurous seed person than myself :) Watch here a video with this most beautiful garden, which incorporates a natural woodland setting typical for SW Ontario – Aspen Grove Gardens.

Berkheya purpurea

Berkheya purpurea flowering at Aspen Grove Gardens

May the light shine into your homes and hearts at this time of year!Berkheya purpurea single headA Merry Christmas to all!

You can also read more about Berkheya purpurea here.

Unforgettable 2015 – Trillium grandiflorum

Part 2
For May and June I had to do a shortlist to keep it short. Most notable was the finding of unusual forms of green Trilliums, as well as many pink forms. The reddish flower in the pictures is a fading pink form (T. grandiflorum fo. roseum Farwell).

And not just the colour variation was remarkable but also the variation in petals shape and size! A form with particularly narrow, long pointed petals attracted my attention, as did a truly gigantesque white specimen.

A most beautiful form of Hepatica americana with extra petals also made the shortlist:

Hepatica americana -2015

From the cultivated plants: the first flower of Gentiana clusii var. rochelii, seen above in the featured image, and the flowering of the neglected Dactylorhiza alpestris, from my Little plants series.

Dactylorhiza alpestris close up

Unforgettable 2015

Part 1

Waiting in line at the grocery store, one is always forced to stare at magazine racks overflowing with the latest gossip. Today, while gazing absently at a title – “Unforgettable persons of the year”…my thoughts jumped to – unforgettable plants and garden moments of the year.
There have been quite a few of them, and I will make a summary over the next weeks.

Seed growing wise, I germinated for the first time Epimediums and Helleborus and was amazed how easy and delightful they are to grow from seeds.

The winter was interminable; by early March on the shady side of the patio pots were still encased in a 10 cm layer of ice. And so were Primula frondosa, Hepatica americana and few others…

Slowly, signs of spring and more buds and flowers started to appear. I gathered most of my seedling production and donated it to the ORGS sale; kind souls took in for babysitting many of the remaining ones while we got ready to sale our place.

May came and Helleborus ‘Cherry Blossom’ flowered; an unforgettable sight every year…

Helleborus 'Cherry Blossom' 2015

Helleborus ‘Cherry Blossom’ 2015

New territory – Pedicularis

More seed adventures as I enter a new territory – that of the hemi-parasitic plants. Many beautiful and garden desirable species belong to this category, some not impossible to grow from seeds, most notably Castilleja spp. and Pedicularis spp. (Orobanchaceae, formerly Scrophulariaceae).
By coincidence, just after I collected a few Castilleja coccinea seeds, someone asked me if I would be interested in hemi-parasitic plants. And so, I got the chance to exchange it for Pedicularis oederi seeds ;)

Pedicularis oederi, Oeder’s lousewort, is an alpine species found in China, Japan, Russia, C and N. Europe (very rare in the Carpathian Mts.), and North America. Like many other Pedicularis spp., it has beautiful ferny looking foliage and it flowers for a very long time, producing yellow/crimson tipped flowers.

Pedicularis oederi

Pedicularis oederi – growing in the Carpathian Mts. at aprox. 2000 m alt.

Another Pedicularis that I am dreaming to grow one day is Pedicularis verticillata – whorled lousewort or Bumblebee flower, with whorled inflorescences of rich, purple-pink flowers. It grows in alpine tundra turf and rocky slopes from Japan, Russia, arctic C, N, and S Europe to NW America.

Pedicularis verticillata

Pedicularis verticillata with Bistorta vivipara in the Carpathian Mts.

An alpine meadow with Pedicularis verticillata in flower it is a sight to behold.

Pedicularis verticillata2

The good news is that most hemi-parasitic plants have a wide range of hosts and have been shown to germinate even without their presence. Various Pedicularis are parasitic on species of Poaceae, Ericaceae, Salix, Aster; but many others species have been also cited as hosts. Most notably, a study done on Bartsia alpina and Pedicularis lapponica found that both would form haustorial connections with Pinguicula vulgaris (Lentibulariaceae).

One method that is working somehow for these plants, involves the direct sowing outdoors – if you have something looking like a natural meadow, which I don’t. For my experiment, I split the P. oederi seeds in 4 portions. Even if I am not successful, I am sure I will learn something from it.

– Seeds sown by a gardening friend outdoors in the vicinity of an Erica plant.
– Seeds sown at our place, outdoors in the vicinity of Polygonum affine and Deschampsia caespitosa.
– Seeds sown together with Pinguicula vulgaris in a pot that will undergo cold/stratification outside over the winter.
– Few remaining seeds will be sown together with Carex grayi (a nice NA native sedge that can grow in full sun).

But there are many other wonderful Pedicularis out there! The excitement of a new territory…

Update 2016: I wasn’t succesful with any of the above,yet. Sometimes it takes 2 years for seeds to germinate so the ones in pots are not a lost cause. The ones sown in situ probably have been disturbed by the squirrels. More sowings have been done, this time only in pots in pieces of turf. One has to persevere :)

An apple a day

Once again I prepared a bit late for the Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina, who very kindly gathers together and inspires all the ‘wild gardeners’ on her My gardeners says blog. But later is better than never and a short break from the seeds is also good.
Throughout November we encouraged everyone to eat at least an apple a day, since an old apple tree has provided a bit too many of them and Tamiasciurus hudsonicus obviously saw the health benefits in doing so…

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Tamiasciurus hudsonicus – American red squirrel

And off we go, more work to do for winter-proofing the nest!

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My pictures are not really good but I hope to illustrate well enough our ‘plump-up’ for the winter squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis). With the long and warmer than usual fall, there are reports from all over Canada about this ‘phenomenon’ – certainly a situation that has become of national concern :)

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The rabbit didn’t get any apples; he has tried to fool me with a good behaviour, but it didn’t lasted long…I can’t tell if it is the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) or the White-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii). Given the size, I incline more towards the later.

6 (2)I am not doing too well, bird feeding wise; once in a while the cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) comes and sits reproachful on our only bird feeder (inherited actually from the previous owners). I don’t think he likes it, so I started a birds ‘wish list’ for Santa. Besides the chickadees and doves, a junco family (Junco hyemalis) has made its home for the winter here; they also enjoy picking up seeds from the ground rather than eating from the feeder.

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And, very important, we finally have a ‘bug hotel’! I mean a real one, since the lady bugs have taken property into possession in a corner of the shed. There is a wood pile nearby, but it seems the comfort of the shed won over their customary way of spending winter. On the account of their past and future exemplar garden service, they are allowed to stay for free until spring…(there is even an extra blanket, ie. a bag with leaves, if necessary).

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Ladybugs huddled together for the winter

To all followers of the Wild Wed., birds and butterflies, bugs and lizards, ants, squirrels, rabbits and all the others, I send my warm wishes for a happy holidays season and a new year full of nectar, pollen, seeds, worms, nuts, apples, and of course, lots of wildflowers!!!