Certainty: Helleborus germination

Among the few life’s certainties ;), at this time of year there is also the Helleborus germination.

I only started to grow them from seeds a few years ago after I found a few seeds left on a Helleborus purpurascens specimen from the Carpathian Mts.; pure luck. Some of those seeds were swapped for other Helleborus x hybridus, H. foetidus and H. niger (some already planted in the garden and ready to flower).

Newly sown this year: H. x hybridus – a red picotee form.

Helleborus x hybridus seedlings

Invariable, if sown by late July/August, they all start to germinate by late February-March (kept in a frost free garage and brought indoors). The hybrids are very fast growing and easy to manage; some species, like H. purpurascens, may be slower to develop.

Helleborus purpurascens newly emerged leaf

In any case, the variation of forms obtained from seeds is unattainable otherwise, and the first flowers can be expected in the third year.

Helleborus x hybridus 2 year-old plants last summer


Wildlife Wednesday – horror and surprise

It’s been a while since I joined the Wildlife meme hosted by Tina at her lovely blog: My gardener says. As the saying goes – winter happened…

Finally last week in a midst of a ‘heat wave’ :) I was able to open my cold frames. They host a variety of small pots mainly with young seedlings and sowings; all wrapped in blankets, plastic, plus outside tarps, and mostly under snow (which is a good thing). It was a joyous moment to see that most were well, even a few new seedlings!

Then, unexpectedly, a slug started to crawl on the green tarp; horror and surprise! I didn’t know the temperature inside the frames would allow them to be active at this time. More than this, the very dry last summer/fall made the slugs rare/almost nonexistent in the garden.

Limax maximus probably

I am sure all gardeners are familiar with these pesky, horrible ‘things’. This one, if I’m not mistaken, is a Limax maximus (still juvenile); as the name says it can get very large. It resembles the European black slug, or black arion  (Arion ater L.) but the latter hasn’t been reported from Ontario (yet). Probably everyone knows that slugs are hermaphroditic – they have both male and female reproductive organs; and some are self-fertilizing, so one slug can start a population!!!

I know that even the slugs have a positive role in the environment, but I cannot allow my fresh seedlings to be destroyed. So, I apologize that my first posting of the year for the Wildlife Wednesday coincides with the first killing of the year. I hope to have nicest wildlife pictures for the month of April.



Seedlings appreciation day

It seems that I am getting behind with this topic. So, although this is a main flowering period, a short presentation of few seedlings (of last week actually, more on the way…).

From the Carpathian Mts. – Centaurea triumfettii ssp. stricta and Saxifraga cuneifolia ssp. robusta – sown directly in moss.

Centaurea triumfetti ssp. stricta

Centaurea triumfettii ssp. stricta

Saxifraga cuneifolia ssp. robusta

Saxifraga cuneifolia ssp. robusta

From N. American wildflowers, the beautiful Geum triflorum and Penstemon eatonii (seedex).

Geum triflorum

Geum triflorum (Prairie smoke)

Penstemon eatonii (Firecracker penstemon)

Penstemon eatonii

Penstemon eatonii

And, also quite a few Gentiana spp. are germinating :) (Gentiana lutea in the featured image).

The Magic of Germination

Using giberellic acid as an aid in germination

More species are germinating and because it’s still cold outside it’s a good time to ‘blag’ a bit about the germination. Each individual seed is a little wonder in itself: it does contain the plant we want – only if we can make it germinate! What I don’t like when growing from seed is not the ‘un-germination’ but the incertitude of what happened – what went wrong? – bad seeds, bad soil mix, too deep, too cold, too dry, not enough light, too much light… Also toooo much information on the web now can make things even more confusing. Here I’ll talk only about what I personally do.

Glaucidium palmatum seed germination

Glaucidium palmatum seed germination

Quite a few species (the most desirable) require ‘special treatments’ for germination like: stratification (moist & cold), alternation of cold and warm periods, incantations, sanding, soaking in GA3, frustrations… you get the idea. If you cannot easily provide a cold and moist period, the treatment with GA3 (acid giberellic) works in some cases wonders. I really like the convenience of GA3, which eliminates some variables from the process.


Aquilegia canadensis – semi-double flower form seedlings

There is no need to seed way ahead of time or get buried under endless small pots that will get lost in the sway of other spring garden jobs. If the seeds are viable, they’ll germinate; if not, at least you’ll know it wasn’t your ‘brown’ finger at fault. Good to know, however, that GA3 at inappropriate concentrations can also destroy the seeds or lead to poor quality seedlings.

 These are two methods I use:

 1. Keep seeds in their package in the fridge (dry storage). When time to sow, prepare a GA3 solution 500-1000 ppm, soak seeds until next day, plant them in pots, cover with a thin layer of mix – place under lights (or outside if you sow late spring).

 2. For the most recalcitrant – place the seeds into a moist paper towel inside a Ziploc bag, keep in the fridge (moist storage). When time to sow, squeeze the moist paper and add the GA3 solution over seeds, then keep until next day and then sow.

 Germination should occur in 1-2(3) weeks.

Most excited about Thalictrums I am trying this year: T. delavayi – a Chinese meadow rue, with large lilac-mauve flowers (petal-like sepals; the one I bought a couple of years ago was really small and didn’t make it) and T. isopyroides with a really tiny, steel blue foliage that can grow in full sun – would be good for a rockery (from Turkey, Iran, Syria, Altai Mts.).

Note: Aquilegia also prefer/require light for germination so you should cover them with a very fine layer of potting mix (in case you forget about this they’ll still germinate but much slower).





The point of no return…Spring Equinox

Spring air –
woven moon
and plum scent.

We’ve been told that officially today it is the first day of Spring.  I looked outside at the snow flurries dancing in the air and tried to act accordingly. I replaced the plum flowers with the flurries and I substituted the scent with a few potted dwarf irises.

Iris reticulata

Iris reticulata

But more is happening proving that spring is nearby:

New seedlings 2014

The first germinated seedlings are basking under lights

For a few years now I keep my seedlings and other potted plants in our (unheated) garage. What bewildered us in the first year – some plants remaining green and happy till spring (with some careful minimum watering), it has become a common way of going through the winter. My little ‘garage garden’ is no doubt awakening:

All early flowering Arisaema species are swelling:

Arisaema sazensoo

Arisaema sazensoo

And outside, the first snowdrop shyly showed up on the rockery’s sunny face:

The first Snowdrop

The first Snowdrop

Forgive me if I seem too excited about these little signs of spring – it has been a long and hard winter for us, from any angle we may look at it. It may not look like Spring right now but no doubt we reached somehow the point of no return.