July 29, 2012

Serious about seed saving? Then time to geek out.


A RARE WILD GLADIOLUS SPECIES SUCH AS THIS G. ROBERTSONIAE, IS JUST ONE OF THE TREASURES ONE WILL FIND WHEN EXPLORING ON-LINE SEED SOURCES WHICH PROVIDE WILD-COLLECTED SEED GATHERED BY PLANT EXPLORERS, COLLECTORS AND ENTHUSIASTS. Photo from Penrock Seeds & Plants

IMAGES LIKE THIS ONE, FROM THE PENROCK SEEDS WEBSITE, DEMONSTRATE HOW MANY OF THESE SEED SOURCES PROVIDE MUCH MORE THAN JUST SEED. THIS COLONY OF GLADIOLUS ROBERTSONIAE WITH TRUCKERS AND A WORN OUT TIRE, CAPTURES NOT ONLY A BOTANICAL RARITY, IT BECOMES EDITORIAL IN NATURE. Photos from Penrock Seeds



I've been neglecting the expert gardener for a while, so as summer moves forward, a little post about seed saving, seed collecting and some of the best sources for rare wild-collected seed (be forewarned  - this is not a post about collecting seed from your own plants - I am focusing on wild collected seed by knowledgeable botanists and plant collectors) - these seeds are like rare zoo animals, and must be purchased and grown by people who are willing to take the extra steps). I'm not that worried about the masses sweeping in and trying to buy all of the crocus seed, but just in case, I felt the need to warn the newb's. For the rest of you pro's - go at it, these are some incredible sources, and some are even new to me. If you are new to gardening, still download, register or order these catalogs - it's the best, if not only way to learn about new plants, and who doesn't want to learn something new?

Mid summer is the time to order  the wild collected seeds of South African bulbs, Southern Hemisphere alpines, and seed of ephemerals from eastern Europe, Asia and elsewhere. Plant enthusiasts generally know all of these sources, but it's always good to remind some, just in case people are too caught up in garden chores to remember that this is the time to order seeds for winter germination in greenhouses, or bulbs that are winter blooming.

First on my list, is a new source for me. If you love hellebores, but find them either too costly, or, just boring because they are all hybrids, try growing some from seed. There are tricks to know, if you want success in growing hellebore plants from seed, but the most essential fact is that seeds must be sown fresh - and there are only a few sources who can bother to offer freshly collected seed from wild plants, or even from garden plants. The same goes for ephemerals. Corydalis, woodland anemones and other wild woodland plants. It's a recent discovery which few botanists share with others, the fact that seeds from many of the rarest ephemerals (such as those from Trillium), can be picked when the pods are still green, rather than when ripe and red. Many of these seeds, if allowed to mature, are not easy to germinate, and many can require years to stratify since chemical germination inhibitors form once the seed capsule fully ripens, but if gathered in late summer before they ripen, and sown immediately, germination can be within the same season, or within a year.

 There are few botanists today collecting seed in the wild, so I was thrilled to discover the catalog of Evolution Plants, owned and operated by Tom Mitchell. I suggest downloading the pdf in low res., since it looked perfectly fine on my mac, and was not too small. This catalog reads like a digital book, and I suggest that everyone interested in plants read it. There are more articles about his collecting and collections than there are about the specific plants, which makes it a refreshing plant magazine for the serious plant enthusiast. believe me, there are only very few of those left. I downloaded it to my iPad to read while traveling next week.


THE SEED OFFERINGS FROM EVOLUTION PLANTS, CREATED BY BOTANIST TOM MITCHELL READ MORE LIKE A NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, THAN A SEED CATALOG.



The pages I saw on Evolution Plants today focused on hellebore species and galanthus ( snowdrop) species ( both are his specialty).  Many of the pages in this catalog show the more traditional collection number of the species, but Mitchell adds much more - photos of the plants in the wild, as well as maps showing the collection sites. Factor in the well-written paragraphs of copy elaborating on the story behind each collection, and one can quickly see why the catalog becomes more like a magazine or plant society journal than merely a catalog. I imagine this is what Dan Hinkley would have created if Heronswood Nursery was still under his wing.  It's such a smart use of new technology. Digital publishing, digital photography and self-publishing. In the end, it's really all about content, and with content like this, imagine what would be lost if he only sent out a seed list in MicrosoftWord?

THE SEED SELECTION IS EQUALLY AS IMPRESSIVE



If you have a place where you can grow winter-growing bulbs ( a cold greenhouse, an alpine house or a glassed in conservatory in the north) then don't forget to order seeds now from Silverhill Seeds in Cape Town, South Africa. Be sure to select where in the world you are accessing their site from ( UK, AFRICA or REST OF WORLD) and then enjoy checking out all that they carry. I have been ordering seed from Silverhill for ten years, and can attest to the viability, selection and quality of the seeds which they carry. Their list is not limited to bulbs, so be sure to check out their annuals for next spring. Some if not most of these are found no where else on earth.

A RARE SOUTH AFRICAN BULB, CYRTANTHUS TUCKII, AVAILABLBE FROM THE PENROCK SEEDS SITE

For some of these sites, if you are new to collecting plants, you may need to keep Google open on a separate window - even I do that, for many sites like Silverhill do not offer photos of the plants, only the latin names. Hey - it's the only way you will learn! Be sure to maximize sites like Pinterest, to save your fav pics, and to create your wish lists. Otherwise, if you are like me, you will not remember.

Interested in more South African plants? Then a great source is Penrock Seeds, also from South Africa. Tragically, the proprietor of Penrock - Charles Craib passed away in March, but Leigh Nieuwouldt, partner in the business, entire that business will continue to continue, for now. So I think, order soon just in case things change. This is one of the finest sources for truly rare, wild collected seed from species like Albuca, Lachenalia, Massonia and of course, Pelargonium ( geranium species). If you are a serious collector, you already know - I am only posting this because there must be some people out there ( like me ten years ago) who are just starting to try more challenging plants, as they grow ( with plants). ahem.

I encourage every who may be interested in learning more, to view the newsletters ( online) from Penrock. The photos here are from them ( all taken by Charles Craib), which shows what a loss we have in the plant world. Micro climates and species-rich areas such as the Amazon basin and the veldt of South Africa hold some of the most diverse species-rich ecosystems on our planet, yet these countries are experiencing global warming, and risk from industrial expansion and over-population. Natural resources are limited, and sadly, a rare gladiolus may be the cost for more oil, or diamonds.

If you are passionate about alpine plants, don't forget to get saxifraga seed from Alpigena Nursery located in the Netherlands. Don't forget, they also have rare primula, androsace and gentiana.




Here in the US, we must not forget Alan Bradshaw's Alplains Nursery - the choice for select, wild collected seed from the mountains of the south and western parts of North America. Alplain has been and remains the number one source for the rarest of alpines from seed. So if you are looking for Viola douglasi, Rare Erythronium (dog's tooth violets)  like E. multiscapoideum, Allium species from North America and certainly, Penstemon's from the south west, Alplains in the place.

From Canada, comes Gardens North - Seeds of the World. I have yet to order from here, but friends assure me that this is a great source for some native North American species, ephemerals in particular. When I last checked, their catalog was not posted on-line, but I would just bookmark the site and check back often.

For the super-alpha serious, there is Mojmir Pavelka, from the Czech Republic. Again, check back frequently for a price list once seeds are available, generally in the late fall or winter, for spring sowing. Pavelka is a noted alpinist and carries a wide selection of Asian and European alpines found no where else. ( Botanic Gardens order from him, if that tells you anything).

Also from the Czech Republic, the site of noted alpine collector Vladislav Piatek, where one can get rare seeds of interesting alpines, wild collected seeds of Rhododendrons and other high-elevation plants collected during his expeditions.




John Lonsdale ( a good friends and noted grower of fine rare bulbs and alpines here in the US in Pennsylvania) does offer seed of from his personal collections ( he also has incredibly rare cyclamen bulbs for sale right now while they are dormant, so be sure to check that out too, but more on bulbs in another post). John grows only the finest plants, and if you have not been to his site, it's the best place to learn about everything from bulb families to step-by-step directions on how to grow many plants. His photos are well done, and organized by plant Family, which may make navigation more challenging for the novice, it's a joy for the experiences. Sites like John Lonsdale's make the internet invaluable. John is one of the most experienced and knowlegable plantspeople in the world.

Another source for fresh Cyclamen seed ( rare species forms) is the Dutch site Green Ice Nursery. I have not ordered from them yet, but if anyone else has, please let me know.




2 comments :

  1. Anonymous12:30 AM

    You might also be interested in the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants in Los Angeles. They have a wide range of wild collected California native plants, from annuals to trees.

    ReplyDelete

  2. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is great blog.
    An excellent read. I’ll certainly be back.
    Heirloom seeds

    ReplyDelete

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