Early December Flowers and Birds

This time of year most of the color and excitement in the garden comes from bird watching.   Here’s one of my favorites, the spotted towhee. I took this picture from the kitchen window.

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The only flowers blooming here now are inside. I’m into pelargoniums these days, and got a bunch of new ones from Mike Kintgen back in September. Most of the cuttings are rooted and a few are even starting to bloom.

'Phyllis'

‘Phyllis’

'Black Boar'

‘Black Boar’

Pelargonium reniforme has deep purple flowers and scalloped leaves that look like a sea shell.

Pelargonium reniforme has deep purple flowers and scalloped leaves that look like a sea shell.

Cyclamen have been a favorite for a few years now. They’re easy to grow if you have a cool house. They don’t like heat and will quickly go dormant if you keep your home much above 70.  They like this old drafty house. Some of them are over three years old, and huge. This plant blooms about eleven months out of the year, but it’s best blooms are in winter.

026It’s blooms so much it drops seeds that sprout beneath the leaves.

See the little leaves at the bottom of the plant? Those are cyclamen seedlings.

See the little leaves at the bottom of the plant? Those are cyclamen seedlings.

Another view of the seedlings as I separate them from the parent plant.

Another view of the seedlings as I separate them from the parent plant.

Seedling looking forlorn, waiting to be transplanted.

Seedling looking forlorn, waiting to be transplanted.

Here are the seedlings after transplanting. They look all gangly and silly now, because they were growing underneath the big leaves of the original plant.

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These are seedlings from a year ago. They are getting ready to bloom.

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Starting Castilleja seeds

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Greenhorn Mountain November 16, 2014

After this snowy, cold week, it’s nice to think about starting seeds for next spring! This is the time of year we begin to sow seeds, especially seeds like Indian paintbrush that need a cold treatment. Catilleja chromosa, angustifolia, and scabrida are three species of Indian paintbrush that germinate best with four to six weeks of cold stratification.

In nature they would spend the winter outside, germinating when temperatures and moisture are right in the spring. Here in the nursery we like to speed that process along. The easiest way to do that is put the seeds in a ziplock bag, moisten them, and place them in the refrigerator.

Castilleja, Gilia, and Penstemon seeds.

Castilleja, Gilia, and Penstemon seeds.

Seeds in the ziplock bags with name and date.

Seeds in the ziplock bags with name and date.

Seeds after a few drops of water added.

Seeds after a few drops of water added.

Many people, or most people, or maybe even all people but me, add vermiculite or peat moss to the seed in the baggie. My method, without anything except seed and a minuscule amount of water, works for me.

Many of our native seeds benefit from cold stratification, including penstemons and columbine. If you try this yourself, don’t forget to add the moisture. Without moisture the seed will stay dormant in that cold environment almost indefinitely. Don’t overdo it, you don’t want the seeds floating in a puddle of water, that could cause them to rot. I add water to the seeds a few drops at a time. If I get too much in the baggie, I carefully strain it off.

As the weeks go by I check the seed to make sure it is still moist and to look for the first sign of germination. When the first root pokes out of the seed, it’s time to transfer the entire group to a flat of potting soil and put them where they can get light. We use our little solar greenhouse for most of the seed starting. In January it starts getting crowded in there!

 

 

 

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