Monday, June 30, 2014

Collecting Hosta Seeds: The Experiment

I have several hostas in my little garden. I love them. This one is 'June'.

Endless divisions have made my garden fuller and other folks happy. Yet, I have never attempted to germinate them from seed. Knowing their seed won't be like the parent plant, I still aim to try the attempt. I realize this may be a waste of time, yet - I'm itching to see if it works out. My garden is small enough to contain about 6 various hostas that flower at the same time. I want to see if cross-pollination has been successful. Late last summer, I witnessed wasps and bees go from one flower to another. Now let's see if I can grow some from seed.

Throughout September and October, I began to harvest the seed.

I waited to collect, until the seeds had matured on the stem.

This Hosta plantagenia has rather long seed pods, full of seeds.

Be sure to harvest the seed when the pods are beginning to dry out and turn like straw - just before the pods begin to spring open. Lay them out on a piece of paper for a few days to completely dry. Then mark an envelope for each variety.

Several pods have duds - these pale white seeds that have no embroinic component. Discard. Like maple keys, they have a winged portion and a seed tucked in the tip.
They look sort of like tadpoles. The trick to germination, is stratification when it comes to hostas. I learned this the hard way. My first attempt had zero results. The second attempt after stratifying the seeds, worked. This means, they must be cooled in storage before sowing. I left them in their little envelopes, in a sealed dry container in my little potting shed - outside all winter. The stratification initiates the seed to germinate. The potting shed gets freezing temps which help the seed to become ready for germination. The key is to keep them dry. I just placed them in paper envelopes and in a tin box.
In May, I gathered some toilet loo-rolls for this:
Cutting toilet rolls in half, I filled them with potting mix. Compacting the soil tightly in the rolls. Once the rolls are watered they can swell and fall apart, so I use string to keep them grouped. Here I just used stuff around the house. I only had enough viable seeds to fill 16 half rolls. This old baking tray will do the trick.

I examined each seed. Making sure they had a wing and a solid seed side. Taking the seed I placed them on the surface of the potting mix.
I put about 3 seeds per roll.
With the blunt end of a skewer, I tucked them in just beneath the soil's surface.
I marked each roll with a dot, differentiating between the varieties of hosta seeds I collected.
I tied them together, so they don't collapse as easily.
To add greater humidity, I made a tiny greenhouse tent. Sticking skewers into the rolls, I have made posts for the cover.

Until germination, I just want to hold in moisture and humidity. You can buy seeding trays with domes for this purpose, I just decided to use household items for the job.

I placed it in a warm window sill, in late May until the threat of frost was over.  Bringing it outside to help the process.

Within 4 weeks, this is the result:
Small little hostas emerged.

I thinned out the germinated plants, leaving the stronger, healthier baby hostas - 1 per each roll.
Within 4 weeks, they are now starting to look like mini hostas. Once they begin to show a second or third leaf, I lightly fertilized them with a 7-7-7 water soluble. No streaking or colouring, yet. Plain green as I suspected. Who knows...it may still happen.
Once they fill out these rolls, I will transplant into larger pots and see what nature reveals. Will update later in the summer. It certainly is a fun process. But if you want to guarantee true cultivar characteristics, then divide from the parent plant you like.



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dividing Juncus effusus - Soft Rush for Ponds

This winter had heavy casualties in many gardens. However, we thought this Juncus effusus was going to kick the can. Thankfully, it shows signs of vigor and in fact signs of necessary division.

Taken out of the marginal section of the pond, you can see it has clearly grown right out of the liner pot.
Not to worry, with sharp tools and some elbow grease, it can be divided and replanted.

First, cut the excess root mass that grows through the tiny holes in the pond pot. A tight toothed saw blade worked. Cut off any side shoots and if you can keep those with roots, they can become new plants for another pot.
Once free from the plastic pot, this is the tricky part. Either use the sharp saw and begin slicing the plant in half by cutting the root mass or, take two garden forks. Stab both forks in the middle of the root mass and pull apart; as shown above. It really helps to have two people doing this.
They generally come free with a little force.

If you want more, keep dividing. Remove any browned blades and any baby shoots that have little root mass left.
You must use a pond pot, or a pot with perforated holes dotted throughout for drainage and moisture to get in. Line with landscape fabric or pond fabric. Cut the liner to about 3 inches more than the pot and cut away any excess.
Add grit to the base and clay if you have access. This weighs down the pot and also allows for drainage.

Add a good layer of bagged pond potting compound. It's quite heavy and all the organic matter has nearly broken down. So as to not cloud the pond when submerging.
Place your divisions, giving ample room for further growth. Cutting back the blades will  prevent energy loss because of the root thinning that took place when dividing. Fill in the empty gaps with pond soil. Some pond books recommend inserting fertilizer tablets to help the plants grow. This plant fairs well with the above and as the original plant can attest, it grew out of its pot rather quickly. I really don't want to have to do this again...any time soon! ;)

Add more grit as a topping - preferably different grades. Larger stones are welcome, as they camouflage the pot when it's covered with water, plus the added weight is welcome. If you have fish in your pond, they love sucking up the tiny stones and spitting them out of the pot. Larger ones deter the fish from doing that.

Lay on top a good inch or so of grit. Tamp down. If you are buying grit in a bag, wash before using. This prevents the pond from clouding - especially if you have several pots to submerge.
Soak the pots before submerging. This also loosens any soil that would instead float to the surface. It prevents bubbling and helps to weigh down the pot, so they sink faster.
So, from one pot, 3 were created. They are submerged about 6 inches down. Perfect little edge for birds to hop along and find shelter when getting a drink.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Photo(s) of the Month - June 2014

Although Lily of the Valley have finished blooming earlier this month, I love how the flowers nestle into their leaves.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Curly-Q Fasciation On Continus coggygria

Pruning out the dead wood this week, I noticed this peculiar stem.


Here, this smokebush (Cotinus coggygria) had one curly branch. Removed it to take a photo.

Fasciation has made tissue grow faster on one side, and then the other side (inner tissue) at a normal rate. This caused the curling effect. Cool.  Have a look at a previous post that explains, Fasciation.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Update - Overseeding Turf with White Clover

Ok, it's now just over 3 weeks since we over-seeded the lawn with clover. (Here is that post.)  I am quite pleased. The clover germinated in 6 days - given the adequate rains and cooler temps. Happy with the quality of the seed germinating.
This was 7 days after sowing. Not yet showing their true leaves, the amount of germination coverage was ample.

Of course, fresh, soft garden soil is a direct attraction to squirrels. So be forewarned. They were digging away and making divots in the freshly seeded areas.

Not to worry, clover will spread rapidly, once established.

This is 14 days after seeding. The typical 3 lobed leaves (4, if I'm lucky :) are starting to emerge.

Sure, there are a few patchy areas left, but as these little guys mature, the plant will thicken and become dense. Yay!

Just 3 weeks later, the lawn is green and thicker. The topdressing of soil helped thicken the grass too.
Not bad, eh?
I will do a comparison of heat tolerance during the drought laden, hot summer...stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Plant Profile: Stolwijk Alpina Blue Clematis

There are disadvantages to having a shaded garden. Yet, this new cultivar of clematis has given a dark corner some real delight. Even without the flower, the contrasting yellow foliage is welcome in my garden.

Clematis alpina "Stolwijk" - Photo taken in early May. An early flowering clematis, with blue nodding blooms.

They hold this shape for about 2 weeks.

Then, when conditions are favourable - each bloom unfurls fully to reveal more beauty.


As the flowers age, the centre swells and reveals a lovely tuft of feathery seed heads. The outer blue petals will fall off and the seed head remains, adding textural interest until the autumn.
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