The cranberry

Another belated Friday’s seeds would have been unacceptable, so a plant portrait instead (seeds included ;) about the cranberry – Vaccinium macrocarpon, American cranberry.

The Cranberry is a North American symbol. Recently I’ve seen it growing in the wild and asked myself how many people actually know how the plant looks like?

Vaccinium macrocarpon fruit

It is very surprising to see that the large fruits are formed on a small trailing vine, which has thin, graceful branches. Is this indeed The cranberry?

Vaccinium macrocarpon

Yes, it is; after all ‘macrocarpon’ means ‘large fruit’.
Another species, Vaccinium oxycoccos, the small cranberry, is very similar and distinguishable by its pointed leaves (and few other details). The cranberries are specific wetlands species: they grow on swamps, fens, and occasionally on glacial deposits in kettle holes on shorelines (like shown in the picture). Usually will form mats on Sphagnum moss; leaves are shiny green/glaucous beneath and turn bright red in the fall.

The American cranberry can be found from Manitoba to Newfoundland, and south into the mid-western and eastern U.S. Probably in some areas fruits are still collected in the wild but most came from commercial operations. It was one of the first medicinal plant crop to be grown commercially in the U.S.; maybe in Canada as well.

Traditionally, Native people have gathered and consumed the fresh fruits for their vitamin C content and also used them dried and mixed with fat/dried meat and fish.
To note only few of the modern utilizations: they are used mainly for juice and pie making, jams, dried fruits, and for naturopathic preparations (bladder and kidney infections).

Have a bog/wet, acidic area in the garden? – do not hesitate to grow this lovely North American shrub!

 

A well done job

Never enough gentians….

In my opinion the bumble bees did a great job with Gentiana andrewsii. There are enough seeds for Canada 150 Celebration sale, and also for the seeds exchanges! :)

Bumble bee pollinating Gentiana andrewsii

A well done job

 

 

Here they go!

Trillium grandiflorum seeds are just beginning to germinate! As well is Paris quadrifolia; I noticed the first signs last Saturday (with my x40 lens).

I snapped a few pictures when I was packing some today; they are advanced enough to be noticeable even if the pictures are not great.

Trillium grandiflorum seeds starting to germinate

 

Paris quadrifolia seeds barely showing the radicle

No matter what someone else says/writes, this is happening every year.

For these species, moist stored seeds kept at warm will always start to germinate around this time (roots only).
From all T. grandiflorum seeds, 70-80% will germinate now (roots) and then show the first leaves in the spring after a period of cold stratification. The rest will need a cold/warm cycle to go through the same cycle.

Paris quadrifolia seeds were also tested two years ago and at that time they all germinated by November (this year I only got few and were promised to someone).

On short, hurry up if you think about Trillium grandiflorum; right now I can select and send seeds that are just about to germinate (they are enlarged and lighter in colour – see the feature image).

 

 

October Newsletter

October arrived in Southern Ontario with the first night below zero temperature. It is not unusual and none of the perennials were damaged. Back to sunshine with 25° C today!

However, the more than unusual heat wave that blessed us at the end of September made it necessary to spend all afternoons watering the newly planted and the seedlings; watering with the hose gives one plenty of time for meditation….

Looking more closely I noticed that Centaurea salonitana was flowering leaning on a nearby Salvia! Quite exciting because this Centaurea has a pontic, sub-mediterreanean distribution: SE Romania (Dobrogea), Bulgaria, Greece to Russian (Crimea) where it grows in xeric habitats.  A nice addition to my ‘thistle-like’ plants collection and a consolation for losing Jurinea sordida after heavy rains this spring.

Centaurea salonitana

Another perennial not bothered by the high/low temperatures is  the truly ‘perpetually flowering’ Pseudofumaria lutea (Corydalis lutea); still going strong and it will do so until the first hard frost arrives (please ignore the word ‘ hard frost’). For those in love with Corydalis, nothing is much easier and satisfying than growing Psedofumaria species, formerly part of Corydalis. They will reseed around but is very easy to remove the ‘unwanted’.

A Pseudofumaria alba seedling of this year, also decided suddenly its time has come and started flowering.

Pseudofumaria lutea flowering right now

Scabiosa caucasica ‘Fama’ deserves a special note in this edition. First, I would like to announce for those who don’t already know that Snow White has been found — it was right under my nose (for explanation please read: Where’s the Snow White?).

Thanks to my bad habit of planting seedlings in bunches, the blue and white flowered varieties, ‘Fama Blue’ and ‘Fama White’ were mixed together in the same clump; last year only the blue variety flowered, and not in the deep blue shade of ‘Fama Blue’. The light bluish/lavender obtained in many cases are characteristic of the species (Scabiosa caucasica).

Regardless of the colour, after seeing it performing in my garden, I say Scabiosa caucasica is a truly outstanding perennial for many reasons. Most important, the extremely long flowering period (well into November and December!). Also, very easy to grow from seeds.

Scabiosa caucasica ‘Fama’ – December 10, 2016

Many thanks to Robert Pavlis for providing the initial seeds from Scabiosa caucasica ‘Fama White’ and ‘Fama Blue’.  They are offered now simply as ‘Fama’.

Scabiosa caucasica ‘Fama’

Scabiosa caucasica seeds heads

SAD NEWS

Under Sad news, the end of September has marked the passing of Prof. Norman C. Deno.
Well known for his work on deciphering the seed’s secrets and his widely available book “Seed germination, theory and practice”, which is still used as a reference by gardeners, growers and researchers, all over the world. You can read the obituary posted on the NARGS website.
He will be remembered.

SEEDS TALKING

The seed stock has been refreshed for many species; new ones have been added, and more are still to come. I think Amphicarpaea, Symplocarpus (skunk cabbage) and few more will be ready to collect soon (fingers crossed for Gentiana andrewsii).

Newly added to Canada 150 Celebration Sale category in September was Spigelia marilandica. I am happy that thanks to a patient friend there are more seeds available of this woodland gem. It is not the sort of perennial that flowers and increases much in the first couple of years, but it is worth the wait. In the picture is a 2 year-old plant re-flowering in my garden right now. Alas, the hummingbirds are gone…

Spigelia marilandica, Indian pink

 

It’s not easy to add new native species to the list when not traveling outside Ontario, so I was pleased to find and collect a few from Chamaedaphne calyculata (leatherleaf) and Rhododendron groenlandicum (syn. Ledum, Bog Labrador tea). I hope someone will give them a try. You don’t really have to slog into a bog to find the Bog labrador tea, so there are more opportunities to grow it in the garden.

Chamaedaphne calyculata

Rhododendron groenlandicum

Those interested may also like to know that Lindera benzoin (northern spicebush) and Prosartes lanuginosa moist packed seeds are now available. The nr. seeds/pck. has been increased for Lindera, giving a better chance to obtain a good ratio of female/male plants.

My Lindera seedlings have put up quite a nice growth in their first year; ready to be planted in the garden! A few will be shared, I don’t need that many. Keep in mind when choosing the pot size for sowing, that you can count on 99% germination (moist stored seeds).

Lindera benzoin one-year old seedlings

The ‘babies’ Prosartes were excused not being very photogenic at this time (slugs attack).

SEEDS EXCHANGES

Saying goes that people don’t like reading long posts on blogs, so I should better end; just few more lines about the Seed exchanges (on short Seedex).

October is the time to donate seeds to the exchanges organized by various plant societies. This much anticipated event is in the benefit of the Societies and their members alike, so please think about sharing some seeds (of properly identified species). I presume that those reading this newsletter already belong to a Society or two, but if you need ideas I recommend the ones where I donate (click for the links):
Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plants Society
and the larger than life – Scottish Rock Garden Society
Details about the Seedex can be found on their websites.

I will tell you a secret – it is not just about the few seeds that arrive in small packets. At a time when I had absolutely no possibilities to grow plants from seeds, I used to browse the Seedex lists just for the delight of seeing what species were offered.  I’m sure others did/do the same thinking: Oh! I hope to grow that one day or, I used to grow it, how nice it was…

Yes, plant geeks engage in weird readings ;) I hope these Seedex lists will always be available for those in need, either for sowing or the read!

My best regards and many thanks to all – enjoy the beauty of fall!
Gabriela

Friday’s seeds – Mitchella repens

I recently collected more partridge berries, together with Lindera benzoin and Prosartes lanuginosa (already shown, click on names).

Mitchella repens presents an interesting fruit, therefore worth a closer look. The red, fleshy, ‘two-eyed’ fruit it is formed after the fusion of the flowers ovaries – the white, fragrant flowers are disposed in pairs.  So, each pair of flowers will form one fruit. Each fruit has a spongy inside (a bit like Gaultheria) and will contain up to 8 seeds.

Mitchella repens fruits and seeds – Partridge berry, twinberry, squaw vine (Fam. Rubiaceae)

Why this perfect, evergreen ground hugging plant is seldom seen cultivated in the gardens remains a mystery to me. It can be easily propagated by cuttings as well.

Belated Friday’s seeds – Chamaedaphne calyculata

Instead of writing about seeds, I was in collecting them ;) therefore a combined post about Chamaedaphne calyculata, the Leatherleaf or ground laurel.

The sole member of the genus Chamaedaphne (Ericaceae), leatherleaf is a low growing evergreen small shrub (up to 1.5 m tall). It is native to cool regions of the Northern Hemisphere, from North America, NE Europe to N. Japan, Mongolia and Siberia, where grows in all types of bogs, sedge fens, and open wetlands.
It is characteristic of mature and late stages of moss shrub communities, where it forms colonies, with rhizomes spreading in the sphagnum moss. It actually helps the installation of other species with whom is found growing, like Sarracenia, Drosera, Kalmia polifolia, Ledum groenlandica, various Vaccinium species.

The common name comes from the thick, leathery leaves, which are turning red-brown in the winter. It has a dense branching and the older stems turn gray with a fine exfoliating bark texture.
The white, bell shaped flowers on long inflorescences appear in April-July, depending on the region. Somewhat resembles Andromeda flowers, which is why Linnaeus first named it Andromeda calyculata.

Chamaedaphne calyculata, Leatherleaf

Fruits are capsules with split open and release the seeds shown below (wedged shaped, golden brown).

Chamaedaphne calyculata fruits and seeds

 It would make a great addition for small and large bog gardens. For those who have conditions and enjoy growing Ericaceous species – the seeds require cold/moist stratification and probably best to germinate them like in nature on a piece of sphagnum moss (in a pot/or ‘in situ’). I showed in a previous post how to easily germinate Gaultheria procumbens and Saxifraga cuneifolia in moss (Read here Sowing in moss).

Chamaedaphne calyculata seedlings germinated/growing on sphagnum moss (look around the Tamarack branch :)

 

 

In kindness – Spigelia

Few years ago I bought a postal card that I meant to frame but never got around to do it. In a lovely aboriginal design by Terry Starr (Tsimshian artist), hummingbirds are shown sipping nectar from red flowers.
The drawing named – In Kindness has the following note:
“Hummingbirds symbolize the act of offering peace and the generosity of sharing wealth”.

In kindness – by Terry Starr

I don’t know what the red flowers are but they remind me of Spigelia marilandica (Indian pink) and a very kind and generous friend who takes care to catch its seeds (explosive capsules) in small organza bags every year :)

Spigelia, with its red flowers sought after hummingbirds and their symbolism it is such a good fit for our Canada 150 Celebration Sale that I can’t abstain to add it to the list.

Let’s celebrate kindness for a while!

Those in need can read more about Spigelia here.
*1 pck. limit/customer while on sale

 

To autumn – the lusty song of fruits and flowers

Images from out in the woods, from the garden and even along the margins of the roads, all reflecting the harmony of colours, shapes and textures that autumn brings, were flashing through my mind when cleaning fruits today.  Such an easy way to go into a lyrical mood…(I’ll keep it short ;)

“O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof…
………………………………………
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers”.

                                           W. Blake – To Autumn

 

Friday’s seeds – or is it a fruit? Triosteum

Sometimes we refer to ‘seeds’ without actually realizing that we are talking about the fruits.
This is the case of dry fruits like achenes, caryopses, samaras…, which tightly enclose the seed(s) and it would be practically impossible/or at least highly impractical to try to ‘extract’ the seeds.

So, why do we care if we sow seeds or fruits?
Knowing that we actually handle fruits, helps understanding why certain treatments are needed for the storage/germination process. Also, because in these cases we cannot see the actual seeds, we only make the assumption they are inside the fruit and will germinate in due time. Which perhaps they will, but sometimes there is no one there to do it!
To understand what I mean, you can have a look back at two notorious examples:
False assurance – Linnaea borealis
The Beauty and the Parthenocarpy – Acer triflorum

In the Caprifoliaceae family there are also species with dry fruits which we treat as seeds, like Morina and Triosteum. In both cases, they have hard teguments which play a role in retarding/obstructing the germination.

I wanted for a long time to have a closer look at Triosteum aurantiacum. I found no reliable info regarding its germination but someone who bought ‘seeds’ few years ago got back to me saying that by filing the fruits tegument, followed by GA3 and/or cold-moist stratification obtained good results.

So, I placed the fruits in warm water for a few days in an attempt to soften their teguments before I proceed to dissections. In Triosteum – and I refer here to Triosteum aurantiacum – the fruits resemble coffee beans, and only by looking at them one can imagine it will take a lot of time for them to disintegrate naturally in the soil.

Even after keeping them in water for few days I had to use a cutter to slice through them. The wall of the fruit is extremely thick and the seed is fused to it.
Here’s a plate showing the whole story in pictures:

I managed to extract one seed intact – inside, the embryo is invisible with the naked eye because of underdevelopment, pointing to the requirement of at least one period of cold/moist stratification.

This is a Triosteum aurantiacum SEED

Conclusion: these are the options to hurry up the germination for Triosteum – first, by filing the hard tegument with a metal file almost until reaching the seed, followed by cold/moist stratification 3 months.

Second, by nicking the end of the fruit (I used this myself for T. pinnatifidum), followed by cold/moist stratification for a few months. In this case, take care not to harm the seed when nicking the end and best to keep the fruits in water for a few days to somehow soften them.

A suplimentary GA3 treatment coupled with the cold/moist stratification may have some effect or not; I will try it this winter and we’ll know for sure.

About Morina next time…

 

 

 

September Newsletter

Bits of this and that from what’s happening right now.

Flowering wise

Many of the late summer/fall flowering species are now in bloom in the garden and elsewhere but nothing says September better than Gentiana andrewsii; everyone is in love with it! Another beloved gentian, Gentiana cachemirica, is reaching towards the end of flowering and the capsules look promising.
Talking gents (I already divert…) Gentiana cruciata seeds from my own production (mother plants were grown from wild collected seeds) are almost ready.
In the woods and margins of the roads, the goldenrods are ‘shining’; also the first Aster species and the turtleheads (Chelone) are in bloom.

Gentiana andrewsii

 FRUITS and SEEDS wise

Lindera benzoin, the spice bush, fruits are beginning to change colours and gradually they will all become deliciously red. By the look of them, collecting will happen somewhere at the end of September. Last year’s moist seeds have germinated in late spring by 100%.
Because the seeds require moist storage, they are not collected in large quantity unless pre-ordered. More will follow about Lindera – a most useful, shade tolerant small shrub/tree for part shaded/sunny and preferably moist areas. Most important – it is the favourite larval host for the Spicebush swallowtail and Promethea silkmoth!

Lindera benzoin

At this time of year it is a pleasure to go hiking in the woods, with many colourful fruits beckoning in the woodland filtered shade: red Jack in the pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum), golden mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum), bluish Medeola, dark-red Aralia racemosa, Euonymus obovatus….to mention just a few.

Also, various native dogwoods are getting towards their fall display with foliage and fruits changing colours. Cornus rugosa and Cornus alternifolia seeds can now be found in the Shop.

 

Back home, a few days ago I managed to painfully extract a few seeds from the prickly dry stems of Morina longifolia. You can read more about this super cool, thorny species by clicking on the name. Selecting Morina seeds, gave me the idea for a Friday’s seeds post which will focus on Caprifoliaceae (including Triosteum) – in the works…

Celebrate Canada 150 – Seeds Sale  category has seen new additions: Dictamnus albus and Teucrium canadense. Also, everyone can still take advantage of Asarum, Sanguinaria and Trillium moist packed seeds!

Peony species seeds will soon be available and the time is right for them to form roots, if sown immediately. This way, the first leaves will grow next spring; otherwise they need two years for complete germination.

Please keep an eye on the Seeds List, during the fall it gets updated every few days.

Meanwhile, if someone has any seed-related questions or wishes to pre-order fall collected seeds, please don’t hesitate to ask using the Contact form.

Enjoy the bountiful of flowers, fruits and seeds September brings!

My thanks and best regards to all,
Gabriela