Horridculture – Neglected Seedling

They are so cute when they are young.

This was not planned very well. Actually, it was not planned at all. While sorting through the seed for a vegetable garden, I found a can of seed for winter squash that was a few years old. They might be close to five years old. I really do not remember. I did not expect them to be viable, but did not want to discard them without at least trying to test them for viability.

Rather than just put them in damp rag for a few days, I plugged a few seed into a spider plant on a windowsill, and forgot about them. I really did not expect to see them again. When the first one emerged, I though it was a weed, so plucked it out. When I realized what it was, and that it came out intact, I felt badly for it, and like the original seed, could not discard it.

I do not remember why, but at the time, I did not want to go out to can it in a real pot. Nor did I want to plug it into the garden while I was still getting other seed situated. I therefore planted into an empty eggshell from those drying for coffee. I scraped a bit of medium from a potted bromeliad. It was happy on the windowsill for maybe a few weeks.

The other seed germinated too, but were more carefully removed and plugged into the garden. Since the seed was still viable, I sowed more around the junipers outside. Somehow, in the process, I neglected to put the little seedling in the eggshell out into the garden with them. It has not been happy in here, so has not grown much at all.

Now that the winter squash are already growing well outside, and the summer squash are already producing, this unfortunate seedling still needs to go out to join them.

If I were to grow seedlings inside again, I would do so in some of the cell packs that we recycle from work. They are more efficient, less wobbly, and they do not look so ridiculous.

Now it wants out!

Seed Of Doubt Gains Popularity

Seed for vegetable gardening is scarce.

Many of us who are still sowing spring seed know the doubt. Seed for warm season vegetables and bedding plants is presently scarce. Consequently, we doubt that all the varieties that we want are still available. Many unusual varieties that we purchase by mail order or online are sold out. Some more popular and reliably obtainable varieties in supermarket seed racks are going fast too.

Home gardening is very suddenly more popular than it had been for a very long time. Those who can not work at their respective professions have much more time to work in their gardens. Many want to grow a bit more produce at home, in order to shop amongst others in supermarkets less frequently. Many who have never enjoyed gardening before are now taking a serious interest in it.

This adds a few more complications to planning the garden. Choices really are limited. Some of us must be satisfied with what we get. Instead of trying new and unusual varieties, we might need to try old and common varieties. It might be a new and unusual experience, and an interesting way to learn why they have been so popular for so long. This applies to young plants as well as seed.

Although more varieties are available online and by mail order, it is now more important to purchase them early. Delivery is not as prompt as it was prior to this increase in popularity of gardening. Seed providers are overwhelmed by the demand. Since it is already late in the season, it is probably too late to order seed that start in spring. It is not too early to start procuring seed for autumn.

It is also a good time to share surplus with friends and neighbors who may be experiencing the same scarcity of seed and seedlings. Although it is too late to wait for delayed delivery of seed that gets sown in spring, it is not too late to sow some types if they are already available. If left outside to avoid personal interaction with recipients, seed might need protection from rodents and birds.

Anyone who is experienced with gardening knows that it involves challenges. This is certainly a new one.


Lunaria annua is known more for coin shaped seed pods than bloom.

Money plant, Lunaria annua, which some may know as ‘honesty’, is honestly not a wildflower here. It is neither native nor naturalized. Yet, it seems to grow wild on roadsides, in drainage ditches, and around the perimeters of some of the landscapes. It certainly produces enough seed to naturalize. It just would not have done so in this climate without a bit of intervention.

Many years ago, someone who maintained the landscapes here started sowing seed for money plant. I do not know if he was the first to sow the seed, or if he collected it from plants that someone else grew. He collected seed annually to disperse randomly by simply tossing it out wherever he though it might happily grow into more money plant.

Since money plant wants a bit more water than it gets from annual rainfall here, it was happiest where it is most often seen now, in roadside drainage ditches and on the perimeters of irrigated landscapes. It somehow competes effectively with other seemingly more aggressive vegetation. In the more favorable situations, it self sows, but can not perpetuate indefinitely.

The horticulturist who dispersed the seed for so many years retired a few years ago. Consequently, there has been a bit less money plant annually since then. It certainly tries to naturalize, but was rather scarce last year.

We could not allow it to go extinct just yet. We collected some of the seed from the plants that bloomed last year. I dispersed a few where I thought they would be happy without being obtrusive in the landscapes. I gave most of the seed to a neighbor who happens to enjoy tossing random seed into random (but hopefully suitable) spots where wildflowers would be nice.

It is such a delightful tradition that is worth continuing.


Oldies but not likely goodies.

31,800 years or so ago, busy arctic squirrels of northeastern Siberia stored more campion seed than they could consume. Of a store of more than 600,000 such seed, which were found deep below permafrost, three immature seed contained viable embryos. These three embryos were extracted and grown into plants that bloomed and produced new seed as they would have 31,800 years ago.

A 2,000 year old date palm seed, which was found in the palace of Herod the Great on Masada in Israel, is the oldest known intact and mature seed to germinate. It was approximately 29,800 years younger than the miraculously viable embryos of the Siberian squirrel stashed campion seed, but is ridiculously older than the oldest of the old seed in my partly neglected collection. There is hope.

Some of the seed that I saved is not dated because, at the time, I figured that they would be sown during the following season. A few of those that are dated are embarrassingly from five years ago. I know that canna seed lasts much longer than that. So do seed of some of the most aggressively invasive exotic species, such as broom and Acacia dealbata. Vegetable seed are not so fortunate.

However, I cannot discard them without giving them a chance. If they do not germinate on schedule, replacements will be sown immediately.

The two cans of seed to the left in the picture above are for two unknown varieties of pumpkin, and might have been three years old last autumn. Butternut squash seed to the upper middle is about the same age. Hyacinth bean seed to the lower middle is perhaps a year older. Blue dawn flower seed to the upper right is at least five year old. Parsley seed to the lower right was packed for 2015.

Expiration Date

All those palm seed . . . and saguaro cactus.

This is worse than the various seed that I happen to collect at work. It is worse than the seed of various species that I brought back from Oklahoma. These are seed that I purchased online and then misplaced . . . for a few years . . . or actually several years. Some were already old at the time, so are about a decade old now. There are leftovers from seed that were sown in 2010.

There was not much expense involved. Back then, they were even less expensive than they would be now. Those that I got a significant volume of were purchased mainly because they were so inexpensive. I figured I could find homes for the surplus that grew from them later. Most of the seed were purchased from eBay. Some were randomly collected for free from my job sites.

With few exceptions, these seed are not remarkably rare. Some are common within the regions from which they were obtained. Some are in small batches of only a few, while there are more than a hundred or a few hundred of others. There are seed for several palms, many yuccas, all but one of the North American firs, and all of the North American spruces. Not all are pictured.

Some seed are in significant quantity. That is more than 300 Yucca aloifolia, and 500 balsam fir.

Neither the expense nor the scarcity of these misplaced seed is a problem. What bothers me is that after so much effort to acquire them, and after so many others put the effort into sending them to me, and after the parent plants put their effort into producing all these seed, they were wasted. As I mentioned about the palm seed yesterday, few are likely viable after a decade.

Nonetheless, all will be sown. Even if none germinate, it will be more tolerable than discarding them without trying.

These actually look as good as fresh. I will find out.


Scrub Palm

104 seeds for the price of 10!

Of all the strange seed I brought back from Oklahoma, none were from the scrub palm, Sabal minor, that is endemic to McCurtain County in the very southeaster corner of Oklahoma. I did not get to that region.

Sabal minor is nothing special to those who are acquainted with it. However, a variety that was selected from those in McCurtain County, which is known simply as Sabal minor ‘McCurtain’, is becoming increasingly popular in climates where winter weather is too cold for other palms. It is sufficiently resilient to frost to survive in New England and Canada.

I just wanted it because it is from Oklahoma.

Since I did not collect any wild seed, I had considered purchasing a seedling of the ‘McCurtain’ variety online. It would have been rather expensive for a single seedling. I was pleased to find seed of the same variety that were significantly less expensive for several seed. I know they grow slowly, but I am in no hurry. I gain bragging rights as soon as the seed germinate.

Unexpectedly, I was even more pleased to find seed on eBay that were collected from trees that were collected from the wild in McCurtain County, but were not of the ‘McCurtain’ variety! I know that seems trivial, and maybe even less desirable to those who want a garden variety, but for me, such seed are more closely related to those I would have collected if I had been there.

For $6.00, I expected delivery of a packet of ten seed of Sabal minor from McCurtain County. I could not pass on a deal like that. Instead, I got the 104 seed in the picture above! That is ten times what I was expecting. They will grow into more scrub palms than my garden can accommodate. RAD!

Six on Saturday: Sow The Seed Of Doubt


There is serious doubt about the practicality of collecting seed that there is no use for. We have no time to sow any of it properly. Some gets tossed unceremoniously where it would be nice if just a bit of it grows and blooms next year. Such folly is better than the guilt of simply discarding all that seed, even if we get more of something we do not want.

1. Echinacea purpurea – coneflower – Deadheading left me with all these dead heads of seed. I have no use for all this seed; but a neighbor is happy to scatter it where some might grow.P91228-1

2. Lychnis coronaria – campion – This is all the seed I got, in a small pill can. Most was left in the landscapes to disperse where already established. This bit of seed goes to new territory.P91228-2

3. Lunaria annua – honesty – This is just one of several hard hat fulls. Seed already sifted down, leaving empty frass on top. I lack an article to link to, so linked to someone else’s article.P91228-3

4. Aesculus californica – California buckeye – This is what is starting to grow from four big seeds that I could not bear to discard earlier. Now there will be four baby trees without a plan.P91228-4

5. Pelargonium X hortorum – zonal geranium – Not all of this folly is from seed. Scrap from pruning geraniums got processed into more cuttings than we will plug. These are the last few.P91228-5

6. Rhus lanceolata? – prairie sumac? – There is even more folly in canning feral seedlings of this unidentified sumac. It is about as sensible as canning the four sweetgum to the upper right.P91228-6

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:


The Bad Seed Redemption

P91103The seed is not really bad. At least I do not think that it is. It is merely misunderstood. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it is simply unidentified. I really do not know what it is. I do not say that very often, especially about seed that I bother to collect to sow elsewhere. I believe that it is of American bellflower, Campanula americana. If not, it is very closely related.

It appeared in part of one of the landscapes at work. Because it looked like some sort of campanula, we left it to see what it would do. It got quite tall, but never started to look like something we did not want to take a chance on. We were rewarded for taking the risk when it bloomed with these elegant spikes of small sky blue flowers. That was a little more than a year or so ago.

No one bothered to deadhead it immediately after bloom. It was only a few plants on the back edge of rather relaxed landscape, so was easy to ignore. By the time the dried floral stalks were noticed and removed, the seed had already been tossed. Consequently, there were many more of them through this last season, both in the same area, and in adjacent parts of the landscape.

In fact, there were too many to ignore when their floral spikes had finished blooming. I deadheaded them myself so that I could collect the dried floral carcasses in a small bucket. Some seed had already been tossed for next year. Nonetheless, there is enough dust-like seed in the bottom of the bucket to share with other landscapes. I intend to sow it just prior to winter storms.

So, this unidentified seed should be an asset to the landscapes.

Horridculture – Soaking Seeds

P91030Hooey! It’s a bunch of hooey! Sweet pea seed that gets sown this time of year for next spring does NOT need to be soaked before sowing. In fact, unless there is some strange species of plant that has become that dependent on human intervention, NO seed need to be soaked prior to sowing. Not only is the technique completely unnecessary, but it is completely unnatural as well.

Think of it. In the wild, plants grow, bloom and produce seed. This seed does what it can to disperse and get into or onto the soil to germinate and grow into new plants to repeat the process. Some seed appeal to squirrels for burial. Some prefer to be partly digested by animals who eat their tasty fruit. Heck, some are reluctant to germinate until heated by a cleansing forest fire.

Plants employ quite a range of techniques to disperse their seed and promote germination. As strange as some of these techniques seem to us, they are all justified. They all exploit processes of the respective ecosystems they naturally inhabit. For example, seed that crave heat know that the fire that provides such heat also incinerates competing plants, leaving them vacant soil.

Regardless, there are NO plants that produce seed with an expectation that anyone will collect and soak them. Dry seed that need to rehydrate can and actually prefer to collect the moisture they need from the moist soil in which they grow. If the soil is too dry for them to rehydrate, they do not waste effort trying. They merely assume that they should wait for rainier weather.

Furthermore, seed that are needlessly soaked prior to sowing must be sown shortly after rehydrating. Unlike dry seed, rehydrated seed can not be returned to their original packet and stored for later.

Six on Saturday: More Outages


Electricity is expected to be turned off again tomorrow. The weather is predicted to be too warm, windy and arid (with minimal humidity) to leave it on. Otherwise, sparks from electrical cables out in forested areas could potentially start catastrophic fires. Although unlikely, it is more likely during such weather.

Hopefully, fires will not be started by candles, oil lamps, barbecues, or any of what will compensate for the lack of electricity. One of the worst fires in history here was incidentally started by sparks from a generator.

Trees are regularly and efficiently pruned for clearance from electrical cables. That does not fix everything though. Utility cables can spark even without trees blowing into them. Many trees in many areas are much higher than the utility cables, so can drop limbs onto them.

1. These are the regions of Northern California where electricity will be turned off.


2. This is a close up of our region, between San Jose and Santa Cruz. At the moment, I am near the first ‘t’ in Scott’s Valley.


3. I am not as concerned about the garden in this weather as I am about this freezer without electricity. I would not use a freezer, but this one if for Felton League. I would not normally freeze bread either, but there happened to be space at the time, and it was better than discarding it.P91026++

4. Although this thermometer supposedly got to a hundred today after I got this picture, it was really not much more than ninety degrees. This thermometer is just in a hot spot. According to the weather forecast, it should be only in the mid seventies tomorrow. Obviously, the predicted fire risk is determined by a combination of heat, humidity and wind.P91026+++

5. There was a bit of horticulture to mention too. These are seeds of naked lady amaryllis. They certainly are weird, like mutant salmon eggs, or pink pomegranate seeds. They are supposed to be sown while still pink and fleshy like this, rather than dried. It just seems wrong.P91026++++

6. There were a few amaryllis bulbs in a group that made these unusually big seed capsules. I should have put something else in the picture to show scale. The largest is about as big as a ping pong ball. I suspect that they are the same as the others, but I will sow them separately anyway. Although unlikely, neighborhood crinum could have gotten in the mix.P91026+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate: