Sowing seeds indoors. Bringing new plants into life!

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Acer seed wing.

One of my favourite horticultural tasks during the winter months is sowing seeds giving a helping hand in bringing new plants into life!

Seeds come packaged by nature with their own food supply in the form of endosperm so the first thing to remember is that the compost mix needs to be low nutrient. A good universal seed germinating mix could consist of 50 % coir & 50% perlite or vermiculite to maintain an open structure & to increase water holding capacity in the compost. You could also add in some composted bark for extra structure.

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Overfill your seed tray or container & then tamp down. Next soak your seed tray full of compost in water. Label with the date & plant being sown – in this case Acer tree seeds.

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Sow your seeds thinly to ensure even distribution in your container & then cover with a layer of vermiculite to stop a thin crust forming on the compost surface & to protect them from moving around during subsequent watering.
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Cover the entire pot with a polythene bag to increase humidity & prevent them from drying out & place them on a propagator bench for bottom heat. Some seeds germinate in about 10 days whilst others make take 3 months or even longer!

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Seed Cleaning.

The task – to extract seeds from their protective capsules so that they can be stored in a fridge slowing down their respiration rate & thus prolong viability for sowing in the New Year. The experience of doing this simple task required mindful patience that revealed a profoundly remarkable sense of how sophisticated seeds truly are. Seemingly specks of dust are cosmic ‘micro chips’ ‘powerhouses’ of growth technology encased in sophisticated capsules that man can only try to imitate.

Reminding me of William Shakespeare’s quote –

In Nature’s infinite book of secrecy, a little I can read.

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Seeds from the Zingiberaceae family.
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Aeschynanthus seeds from the Gesneriaceae family.

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Lycopodiaceae spores on a leaf from the Club Moss family.

 

First Frost & clearing back Herbaceous perennials.

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 A frosted Walled garden.
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Crystallized Verbena bonariensis
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Frosty Penstemon ‘Burgundy’
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Flower head structure of  Agapanthus inapertus subsp. pendulus‘Graskop’ accentuated by frost.
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Herbaceous border with Crocosmia × crocosmiiflora ‘Carmin Brillant’ in the foreground.
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Gorgeous frosted foliage of Euryops pectinatus.
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Frosted flower heads of Fuchsia ‘Lady Boothby’

Herbaceous Perennials are not demanding plants, but trimming them after flowering finishes in late autumn/early winter helps improve their appearance and flowering. However, some stems can be left over winter to provide homes & food for wildlife, & then trimmed back in spring.

Propagation part 2: Potting up Penstemon ‘Alice Hindley’ rooted cuttings!

You may recall approx 4 weeks ago I gathered cuttings from half hardy plants. They have successfully rooted so now is the time to pot them up.

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Lovely healthy rooted cuttings.
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The potting mix is 2-part John Innes No.1 & 1-part multi purpose compost.
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Healthy rooted cutting ready to pot up.img_0663
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Pinch out the top part of the plant to halt flower growth for now. Pinching out at this stage will also encourage bushy plant growth.

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Baby penstemon plant with newly formed roots potted up.

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Protecting Tender plants over winter.

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Echeveria peacockii is a non-hardy succulent so is brought in under glass for the winter to protect it from potential frost but mostly from heavy rain in Scotland to stop the plant rotting.
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Lifted from display beds & packed in closely into fishing containers to be stored in the glasshouse.
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Ensete ventricosum‘Maurelii’ dug up from display bed.
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Tucked in for winter in its own raised bed placed in a poly tunnel.

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Gorgeous lush green & red hued foliage.

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Aeonium arboreum ‘Atropurpureum’ & other Aeoniums dug up & brought into the glasshouses for protection over winter.

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Aeonium arborium.

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Aeonium sunburst.
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Preparing Butia capitata for encasing.
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Butia capitata encased protected for winter against rain & frost.

 

Collecting seeds from Polylepis australis – the ‘filo pastry’ tree.

IMG_0619.JPGIt never ceases to amaze me just how smart plants truly are. I marvel at their complexity, their feats of engineering & effortless artistry. Much can be learnt from these noble ancient lifeforms. The above, seemingly simple seed holds such complexity & potentiality for life is staggering.

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Seeds that could germinate & grow each into 3-4 metre Polylepis australis trees.
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Strangely enough, Polylepis australis is a relative of Alchemilla mollis.
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Extraordinary ‘filo’ pastry bark that actually helps the Polylepis australis distorted tree survive harsh winters across the Andes mountains of South America from Ecuador to Argentina.

 

Propagation part 1: Taking Semi-ripe Plant Cuttings.

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Osteospermum ‘Pink Whirls’

I find this one of the most satisfying horticultural tasks & a great way to increase plant stock.

Step 1. Select the right type of plant for semi-ripe cuttings.Its pleasantly surprising just how many plants can be propagated at this time of year by selecting semi-ripe cuttings. Healthy, vigorous side shoots without flowering buds from this years growth are best. The same method applies whether its a half hardy perennial  (e.g. argyranthemum, osteospermum, pelargonium or fuchsia) or semi-tender or root hardy shrubs.

Step 2. Heel cuttings where the cutting is pulled away with a piece of  stem from the stock plant have the added advantage of giving the cutting a kick start to root faster.

IMG_0519.JPGStep 3. The cuttings are vulnerable so need to be kept moist in a bag & put into growing media as soon as possible! Using a sharp clean cuttings knife, make clean cuts clearing away any foliage approx 2cm from the rooting tip this will help prevent the cutting from rotting.

img_0509Step 4. Dip the prepared cuttings into rooting hormone to further prevent the cuttings from rotting.

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img_0508Step 5. Mark out a row in your growing media. Here at Logan Botanic Garden a peat & perlite growing media mix is used for all cuttings in a heated bench to 21 centigrade in a glasshouse. With a pencil thickness dibber mark out holes along your row & gently place a cutting into each hole & firm in as you go along to ensure the cutting is upright.

img_0512img_0516IMG_0520.JPGIMG_0524.JPGStep 6. Label, date & water cuttings. Then cover the entire heated bench with a plastic sheet to increase the right growing conditions of hot,humid & wet.

IMG_0526.JPGStep 7. Check every other day for four weeks watering as required, removing any debris, diseased or damaged cuttings as you go along.