Sowing seed in situ + spring bulbs

Mark McDonough
Thu, 01 May 2008 18:45:25 PDT
Hello all,

Today I was home on this glorious spring day, waiting for a service repairman.  It gave an opportunity to look at the garden and take notes and photos.  

One technique that I've become quite convinced about is sowing certain types of seed in situ.  Since my daily commute to and from work is 3 hours, I have very little time during the week to water or coddle seedlings, and I fail miserably with seed sown in small pots, particularly true of bulbs.  So, a few years back I started sowing seed outside, directly in the garden beds I intend for the plants to be grown in, and can report great success.

Two years ago, receiving a wonderful assortment of fresh Trillium seed, I carefully sowed the seed under a large specimen of Magnolia 'Forrest Pink' (Magnolias are good trees to grow under, as they are tap-rooted, and promote an understory of vegetation).  The area is mulched with pine bark, I scratch the seed into the mulch, label the area with 3-4 labels indicating the "patch" where a particular variety is sown, then forget about them.  It's been two years, perhaps Trilliums germinate in epigeal fashion the first year, but this spring hundreds upon hundreds of seedlings have appeared. Here's a view of Trillium decipiens with a dozen or so seedlings:…

For some Trillium, I've been scratching in the seed for the past several years, and now have dozens upon dozens of seedlings of such species as T. nivale, lancifolium, rugelii, catesbaei, recurvatum, several forms of decumbens, stamineum, decumbens.  Newcomer seedlings include Trillium discolor (several clones), flexipes, maculatum, underwoodii, and a few others.

Similar to sowing seed, is getting tiny rice grains of Fritillaria, then needing to be patient and wait 4-5 years till they bloom.  About 5 years ago I had bought 10 bulblets or rice grains of Fritillaria pudica from Jane McGary's fine annual list of bulb offerings (our illustrious NARGS bulletin editor and bulb aficianado), for a mere $1.00.  There were about 20 actual bulb "grains", which I planted, all of which sprout reliably each year, and last year 3 plants bloomed, 5 plants bloomed this year.  A delightful little western American frit with bright yellow flowers.  Attractive to lily beetle, I hand pick these beasties from various frits.…

Spring flowering bulbs were excellent this year.  Concentrating on some of the midseason ones, here are some photos taken today or recently, and some commentary.

Juno iris have been fabulous, easy to grow in raised sand beds.  The number of flowers they put forth is remarkable, such fun "corn plants" that require little or no attention.
About 6-7 Juno iris varieties blooming today, 05-01-2008.…

The very floriferous Iris vicaria

Iris x 'Warlsind' has very fragrant flowers, and is a slower grower than the other species.

Two Muscari are showing well today, the yellow sweetly scented M. macrocarpum, and the old favorite M. 'Valerie Finnis' with light azure blue flowers.……

Done blooming last week, is one of the many Gagea species, a genus of small, mostly yellow-flowered bulbs, closely allied to Tulipa.  Here is a flowering plant of Gagea fibrosa, obtained from Jane McGary's fine specialty bulb list.  An overlooked genus, cute little plants a few inches tall.

Hard to tell from this close-up shot, but Tulipa bifloriformis is a very small species, slender and maybe 5-6" tall, with charming creamy white flowers, a yellow center, and brown anthers.  It seems more permanent than some of the other Tulipa species.…

Here are two similar views of an Arisaema that came to me as A. triphyllum x sikokianum.  I do not think A. sikokianum is involved in this putative hybrid, surely it is close to A. amurense, possibly a hybrid with the American A. triphyllum and the asian A. amurense.……

A Corydalis I started from seed several years back has finally flowered, namely Corydalis nobilis:…

More to be posted, it's getting late:

Regards from Massachusetts,

Mark McDonough
northwestern Massachusetts, near the New Hampshire border
USDA Zone 5

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