February 17, 2007

Seeds then and now- a nostalgic moment

How things change over time given intellect, passions and curiosity. There once was a time, perhaps when I was in grade school, that I spent hours upon hours perusing the seed catalogs of the 1960's and 1970's, circling items that I could never afford, like green and blue amaryllis from Parks catalog, or Lapegeria from the Thompson and Morgan catalog, or even dreaming of perhaps growing a white marigold and winning the annual white-marigold contest, in the Burpee catalog. Secretly, and maybe because it was the middle of winter, and we we're buried under feet of deep snow, I wanted to own a strawberry pyramid, ripe with 'Bushels of red, juicy strawberry's', or grow cabage walking sticks and gourds with penguins painted on them. Even the language spoke of its time.... Names like Illini extra-sweet, and Parks Whopper, Love in a Puff, and Salidisy (Salid-Easy -Thompson & Morgans early version of todays trendy mesclun), all bring back nostagic thoughts. I guess I was hopeless, since most kid of the day, went to sleep dreaming of Carl Yazstremsky and the Boston Red Sox, I went to sleep dreaming of giant state fair zinnias and 5 in 1 apple trees.

Today, things are much different. SImple annuals rarely excite, although, last year, as I posted, I became re-inspired wioth lesser known annuals due to the discovery of Wayne Winterowds book on Annuals (search on Amazon). I do still grow many, especially english sweet peas, scabbiosa, and yes, Zinnias for cutting, but when it comes to seeds and sowing,maturity leads one to alpines, bulbs and woodl;and plants, the seed which are annually available from the many seed exchanges when one is a member of the major alpine societies. You see, one of the greatest benifits of being a member of plant societies that are specialized, like the Androsace Society, or the Fritillaria Society, is that one gets to buy seeds annually, often seeds that are available knowhere else in the world, since the seeds are collected by Society members from expeditions to China and elsewhere. Often, seeds arrive with such details, as the elevation and the specific valley in Nepal where they we're collected. Just the sort of thing that excites crazy plant folk like us. Snow White marigolds don;t have a chance against a pot of sprouting Meconopsis!

Most of these seeds are ordered in December, and arrive in late January. Planting for many, is dictated by the type of seed, and the requirements needed, but most seem to require planting, and then a cold period for some weeks, before being brought back into the greenhouse for germination. Others, require a much more complex treatment, and some even require a few years before germination. I won;t go into the messy and complicated details, or, let's say Lillium canadense, which requires a complex system of indoors 3 weeks, outside, 16 weeks, a bulblet form underground, inside it comes again, then outside, and then, blooming 6 years later. Same goes for Trillium, Paris, etc. Yes, I have sown all of these, and all have specific requirements, but since this is a short blog, I jsut must say that this month keeps me busy with Primula species, Arisaema species, and Erythronium, all are three species that I am focusing on this year, although, there are many others which I am growing, these are the ones, especially Arisaema, where I am simply trying to grow as many species as I can. My New Years resolution has me focusing on onyl a few species, as last years directed me towards Narcissus, this year Arisaema, Erythronium, Trillium are topping the list, so far!

Seeds ready for cold treatment outside.

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