What's germinating this week.

Lee Poulsen wpoulsen@pacbell.net
Wed, 28 Dec 2011 23:22:50 PST
With all the talk of Deno's research as well as the use of gibberellic acid in getting seeds to germinate, I have to report that the method Diana of Telos Rare Bulbs uses to germinate seeds from the two American hemisphere mediterranean regions (Chile and California) has produced amazing results for me this autumn. In the past, I've always just sown seeds from both of these locations directly in 10-cm pots in the autumn and other than watering them, I would just leave them outside to experience the fluctuating autumn temperatures and sporadic rainfall that occurs here in southern California naturally (since this is a mediterranean region in the Western Hemisphere). I always get decent germination for most species, but some species have never germinated for me. I would always attribute it to their being from regions more poleward than where I live, and therefore more chilly, or from regions at much higher altitudes than my location, or even from regions more desert-y than my location.

Regardless, in her blog, Diana mentioned that for seeds from California or Chile, she puts them in slightly moist vermiculite in sealed baggies in the autumn and then places them all in a refrigerator. She then checks all the bags on a regular basis for germination, and as they germinate, she takes them out of the fridge and plants them in her regular seedling mix.

For me the process is still underway, so I don't know the final result, but so far, the results have been overwhelming to me, both in the species that have finally germinated for me, as well as in the numbers of seeds that germinate. I've finally gotten Rhodophiala rhodolirion, both pink and white versions to germinate, and they germinated almost as quickly as the low elevation species did--about 2 weeks in the fridge. Also, the Calochortus seeds from the first round that came from the BX have germinated (I believe some of them were the old seeds from Nhu that Michael Mace referred to). And then to my most pleasant surprise, several species of Chilean seeds that I got in May of 2010 and was unable to sow that autumn due to excessive business travel, have all germinated including seeds that I didn't think would be viable that long.
It's a little more trouble to plant germinated seeds, but well worth the increased germination rate. (Another example is Tropaeolum azureum: I've always gotten maybe 1 or 2, never more than 3, seeds out of every 10 that I've planted to germinate in the past. This time, 8 or 9 out of 10 seeds germinated and I was completely unprepared for that. I purchased more of this to try this year since I was unable to plant the seeds I bought a year and a half ago. But the old seeds germinated in almost the same numbers, so now I have two full pots of this growing!)

I think I'm sold on this method now.
--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena, California, USA - USDA Zone 10a
Latitude 34°N, Altitude 1150 ft/350 m

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