Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Erm ... actually I think it IS Rocket Science !

That overused phrase "It's not Rocket Science" won't be used in THIS post today ... because it seriously IS Rocket Science. I swear I need a Degree, not in Horticulture, but in Nuclear Physics to follow the complex instructions for the seeds I have to plant.

Partner Allan (AKA The Exotic Gardener), features occasionally in my blog, usually it is his hands holding the hammer or wielding the axe in my photos, but he is a keen gardener too. He loves the sub tropical plants, the exotic, the unusual - the difficult to grow. Hence the name... no other reason ! To complicate matters further, he doesn't really do seeds or propagation of any kind, whereas it is my best bit of gardening. So, if he needs some seeds germinating, I am his go-to gardener !

Last week he blithely went through the specialist seed catalogue, ticking whatever took his fancy, egged on by me and my overworked propagator. Well, the order arrived a couple of days ago, and yesterday I took the packets out to the greenhouse to start sowing the seed. Then read the planting instructions, and came straight back inside! Every plant had it's own detailed sowing instructions, which is where the Degree in Nuclear Physics aka 'Rocket Science' would have come in handy !

I could have guessed I suppose, but Agaves don't just like seed compost, oh no, it has to be well drained and gritty ! And they don't like to go UNDER the compost like other self-respecting seeds, but prefer to lie on the top, because they need light to germinate. That was ok, I could meet the needs of those contrary boys.

Then it got even more difficult ...

Allium Christophii won't deign to germinate in the greenhouse, or the propagator, or the kitchen windowsill, but have to go in the FRIDGE for a month, then they need a long session in the propagator.

You would think the easy going, old banana would be accommodating, and just need a bit of warmth, but no ... different varieties have very different needs.

For 'high humidity' the best I can do is to put the pot in a sealed plastic bag in the propagator in the conservatory, which is light. I won't hold my breath ! 

Musa Accuminata is going to be the trickiest varmint of all. It will be like having a newborn baby again, I fear, judging from the amount of care and attention I will need to lavish on it, 24/7.

I thought 'jack in the Pulpit' was a wildflower and, as such, would be easy to germinate, but turns out that is not the case...

Now MY plants are not usually so demanding, and seeds like the Ricinus Communis (above) spring like Triffids from the soil, and continue to grow at a prodigious rate.

This year, for the first time, I am growing Ammi Majus ( Queen of Africa) , which are a bit like tall Gypsophila, and are relatives of 'Queen Anne's Laceflower'. They must take the prize for being the fastest seeds EVER to germinate - record time of 2 days. Now that is what I call an easy plant ! Watch and learn you Musas !

If I am successful with even a small percentage of the Exotic seeds I will be very proud as they are the most exacting ones I have ever tried , and I have sown shedloads of seeds over the last 35 years !

The catalogue we used is in no way responsible for the shock I feel ! Everything is coded for level of difficulty, so I could have chosen more wisely if I just wanted an easy life !

If I ever get to the stage of handing over the results of these sowings to the Exotic Gardener, then he will be forever in my debt ! And I will milk it ...


  1. Good luck with your seeds! I'm afraid I would have a 100% failure rate! I have heard of one seed, from Africa I believe, that had to be burned lightly before sowing! Obviously, it was in an area that naturally had a lot of wildfires. I can't remember the name of it, but thought I would throw that out there so you can feel a bit happier that you didn't buy those!

  2. Hi HolleyGarden. Can't believe that one wasn't in my collection of impossible seeds ! I am not holding my breath for any of them !

  3. I recognise those seed packets. I have allium christophii in my fridge as well. Saying that I have lots of other alliums sown which I sowed back in January and left outside and they are sprouting!! I also had to sand my peony seeds this weekend! I think it makes it very interesting.

    Many of us naively presume that if you have a greenhouse you can grow anything from seed but some plants dont like it too hot and wont germinate. I find Plant World's website very useful for seed sowing information

  4. We will have to compare notes on the Allium Christophii !! They are such lovely plants, it will all be worth it ! Love the idea of sanding peony seeds ! Quite a few seeds have that thick Testa which needs to be weakened either through sanding or soaking etc. I have always soaked my sweet pea seeds but Monty Don said on GW that he never does. I tried just planting them with no prior treatment and I think my germination rate was as good. Interesting!


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