Passionate About Plants - Amazing Seeds+
Paul gives us some useful advice on growing from seeds
Mid March and at last we have the first warm days since winter started, the birds have started to sing and we hope that spring is just around the corner. The long winter will probably give us a short but spectacular spring, before all too quickly the summer will arrive.
Here on the Nursery we are filled with excitement joy and anticipation as we inspect each morning the countless number of seed trays we have over wintered waiting for what I always think is the miraculous emergence of life as the seedlings push through the compost.
Last autumn we were entrusted with some seeds collected by an enthusiastic plant collector on a guided tour of several botanic gardens in Belgium. In many cases there were only a small number of the precious seeds, if we were lucky a botanical name if not a brief description of the plant. Using our skill and knowledge we were able to name the genus and occasionally the species. So as the seeds emerge and their seedling leaves (cotyledons) unfold the excitement grows. Was our guess correct? We will have to wait until the first set of true leaves appear so that we can confirm or re guess the name of our seedlings.
Some seeds take two years of dormancy before they appear in our seed trays and so it is that this year we are overjoyed at the emergence of Viburnum betulifolium. This plant is a large erect shrub with white flowers in June and July but is really grown for its autumn display. It is a magnificent sight in autumn when the long swaying branches are heavy with innumerable bunches of redcurrant-like fruits which persist into the winter. Unfortunately they are not too freely born on young plants, so it is wise to get plants from a good fruiting form. I was given the seed from the head gardener at Sandringham who has several good fruiting bushes in the gardens there. I was not allowed to collect the seed from the bushes as it was close to Christmas and the Royals were in residence. However I was given permission to collect the box of seeds from the estate office after passing through security. The seed has proved to be very viable so we are getting a good stand.
Another plant we have had to wait two years for is Davidia involucrata (the pocket handkerchief tree) the seed was collected from a tree in Essex and the large nuts duly sown, we had no real guarantee that there were any viable seed. We were pleased to notice thick fleshy roots coming through the bottom of the seed tray, so we are eagerly awaiting their emergence.
Some of the seed we collected were stratified by placing in moist sand in a container and placed in the fridge for a chilling period (e.g. magnolias and cotoneasters) however I am not so sure it would have been necessary this winter!
Just like many gardeners we still have many seeds to sow this spring as we quite often split large batches of seed into two lots. By sowing two batches, one in the autumn and one in the spring we give ourselves "two bites at the cherry". The seeds from faster growing plants are often better sown in the spring particularly if they are a little tender when young.
I personally find the germination and emergence of seeds I have collected and sown renews my hope and motivates me into action for the new growing season. Over the fifty years of growing plants I still get excited by Mother Nature's ability, in many cases to produce trees from very small seeds.
Quaymount Gardening Services.
We offer a planting and general gardening service, and will also tidy up your garden after the winter. Please phone for a quote.