PBS BX - experience

totototo@telus.net totototo@telus.net
Wed, 25 Apr 2007 11:32:29 PDT
On 25 Apr 07, at 7:06, Mary Sue Ittner wrote:

> Over the years I have donated many seeds and bulbs to the BX. It takes
> a lot of time to clean and sort and means that my house is not as tidy
> as I'd like with little cups of drying uncleaned seed everywhere.

"A lot of time to clean" -- wow, did Mary Sue hit the nail on the 
head with that phrase. To those of you who haven't tried it, cleaning 
a few seeds may sound like duck soup, but to do it *well* takes time 
and demands you pay close attention.

Many, many years ago, the NW of the then-ARGS held the Western Winter 
Study Weekend at Fort Worden (Port Townsend, Washington). One of the 
speakers was Faith Mackaness, a well-known advocate of perennial 
borders and a perennial donor of seeds to many exchanges.

At breakfast one morning I found myself sitting across from Vera Peck 
who at that time was masterminding the seed exchange of the Alpine 
Garden Club of BC. (Vera died last year, btw.) We got to talking 
about Faith Mackaness, and Vera uttered a line that I have never 
forgotten about the Mackaness seed donations: "You should see them; 
each seed looks like it has been hand-polished."

I figured that if Faith Mackaness could do that, so could I and ever 
thereafter, as long as I was an active seed donor, I strived to reach 
that high standard.

What I discovered was interesting: while donors to exchanges have 
special privileges, some donors are more privileged than others. What 
makes the difference is the donation itself: choice of plants, 
quantity of seed, quality of seed.

So even if pride in one's work isn't sufficient inspiration, 
greediness may be. The better your donation, the greater the 
likelihood of getting your first choices. (Dell Scherk may deny this, 
but you can't fool me!)

To quote an old platitude, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well.

And my point is....?

It's that it takes time and attention to prepare good donations. A 
few dirty, chaffy seed capsules thrown willy-nilly into a leaky 
envelope just doesn't qualify.

One final point: if your supply of rarity X is limited, it may be 
better to send it all to one exchange, rather than divvying it up 
among several. During Vera's tenure in Vancouver, I once hand-
pollinated Iris winogradowii and got about a hundred good seeds. I 
sent fifty to Vancouver and fifty to the Scottish Rock Garden Club.

Vera replied with thanks, but explained that their policy was to not 
list seed that they didn't have enough of to satisfy the anticipated 
demand, so my I.w. seeds had been packaged and included as a freebie 
sent out to  known iris fanciers.

Not all exchanges run that way, but it's a point worth keeping in 

As John Lonsdale says, 

> I prefer not to send lots of smaller packets to too many exchanges.
> I always like to get plenty of seeds in a packet, it greatly
> increases chances of success and variability in the seedlings. 
> I've pretty much stopped asking for seed from places, except
> Gothenburg BG, that include less than 5 seeds in a packet.

Same point from the other side of the coin.

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Maritime Zone 8, a cool Mediterranean climate

on beautiful Vancouver Island

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