I just joined NARGS and am planning on being a donor to the seed exchange. I've emailed back and forth with Joyce, and don't want to bother her with even more questions, so am hoping to get an answer here.
We are supposed to send in enough of each taxa for at least 5 packs, but there are some seeds I'd like to send that I haven't collected a whole lot of, either because they're hard to collect or because I don't have enough of that plant to collect more, and I wonder if I have enough to send.
Is 50 geranium renardii seeds enough for 5 packs (10 each)? I certainly would be happy to receive 10 seeds of a geranium I wanted, but what is expected?
What about tricyrtis? I have a few with lots of pods, so will definitely have enough, but what about others that I won't have much of?
Is there a general rule, or does it vary by plant?
Any help is appreciated.
NARGS Seed Exchange - new donor question
I just joined NARGS and am planning on being a donor to the seed exchange. I've emailed back and forth with Joyce, and don't want to bother her with even more questions, so am hoping to get an answer here.
Well, the one guideline I know of is the rarer the plant, the more appreciated the effort to send even a few seeds. Personally, I don't want or need to receive a large quantity of any seed, and to me, getting 5 - 10 would be just fine. (Of course, if the seeds are like dust, even a small amount - say enough to be visible in one teensy corner of a seed envelope - would be more than 5 - 10... but I hope you know what I mean.)
Thanks, altagardener. That's what I would have thought, but have you received seed packs from Nargs that contained only 5 or 10 seeds?
Yes, especially with larger seeds. I've also sent only a few seeds (all I had, though) of certain things that I knew would be quite sought after. I can't say how this is seen by the ones who handle the seed exchange, never having been involved with that. If leftwood is around, perhaps he could provide more insight?
That's good to know. I've been sitting around wondering - do I have enough of this - will I collect enough of that....? Maybe I won't worry about it so much. I guess I was under the impression that they didn't want to have bother with small amounts of seed that will just create extra work for them. I do hope that Leftwood will appear with his input.
I agree with Alta. Having worked with both phases two(packaging seed) and three(filling orders), and I concur that anything is appreciated. In addition, if more than one donor sends seed of the same thing, they get mixed together and then divided up. Exceptions to this would be if there is a specific difference in the same species of seed, like if one was dwarf or a different color flower. Then they would be disseminated as separate choices.
Actually, sometimes you will receive large amounts of seed. It all depends. Packaging seed is really a very easy. While our Chapter was not the major Chapter designated for phase two, we volunteered to help since they thought they would need it. Some members picked up seed to divide and package at their leisure at their own home, but most of us did it as a group and gathered at a member's house for a fun potluck.
NARGS has the operation streamlined. They keep records of how many members ordered each seed each year. So for each seed choice, we are supplied the seed, and the target number of seed packets to make for each seed species/choice. And we attempt to make that many packets for said seed choice. The target number of labels are preprinted to put on the glassine envelopes. So you don't spend time stamping numbers or writing on each packet. Usually, the minimum number of seed per packet is five, but it can vary depending on the size of the seed or the rarity. Some popular seeds require a target number of 50 packets. Others just five. If there is lots of seed to divide up, then individual packets get more seed. I usually made packets of 8 to 20 or so seeds. Guidelines are given for all of this. Excess seed gets saved in case premade packets are exhausted and there are still orders pending. That way, more packets can be made to fill the orders.
There are a lot of advantages to accomplishing the task together as a group. There is the camaraderie, of course. But there are always questions that come up: is this really seed or just chaff? I have two packets of the same seed from two donors, but they don't look the same. Which is right? Etc., Etc. Usually, there will be someone who will know the answer.
Both phases (packaging and order filling) are really fun, especially as you learn more and more about alpine gardening in general. You'll recognize seed genera(singular: genus) or species as you come across them, and people's name you will recognize on the donor packets or seed orders, like mine, Lori's, Todd's and really big names like Panayoti's.
Our Chapter had a long hiatus from the last time we participated in the Seed Ex distribution, and I am really glad we had gotten back into it. Truly, they are experiences you will not want to miss!
Thanks so much for the info, Rick.
I can't call myself a rock gardener, but have a great appreciation for rock gardens, and for small plants, especially as my small city yard is at near capacity and my plant wants haven't subsided. I do hope that at least some of what I have to send will be considered desirable, whether or not they're actually considered rock garden plants.
I see there are some species lilies on past seed lists. Should I send my bulbils of l.lancifolium and Buggy's blood tiger, which looks like lancifolium, only more red?
I was delighted with the seeds that I obtained last winter from the NARGS seed exchange.
Most of them germinated for me,-- so even if there were only 5 seeds---there were more than enough seedlings.
My donation was mostly common varieties,but as my rock garden progresses, there will be more interesting
varieties to share. And more seeds.
Last year's seed list was certainly impressive. I only know a fraction of what's listed. It'll be a great indoor activity this fall and winter, researching these plants.
CL, please do tell your germination secrets. I imagine that most of the list will need cold stratification. Do you wintersow or start your flats in the refrigerator - or ?
Yes, I wintersowed most of the seeds.
I had fun, first of all going through the NARGS list to choose seeds to request.
And it was fun to research the ones which they sent.
I think they sent about 19 out of my 25 first choices.
It certainly got me to learn the Latin names for the seeds.
You know there is a forum over at NARGS----not as active as the DG but useful for learning
about Rock and Alpines.
For many years (20?) I only grew rock plants in troughs and not in the ground, but was still active in the local Chapter doings. Indeed, there is no requirement to grow these plants, just an interest...
I would not include bulbils with donated seed. They are more likely to carry pathogens of different sorts, compared to seeds. If customs discovered they were included in an order (very unlikely) across countries, they might destroy the whole lot. Lilium lancifolium is chock full of viruses (it's a very robust species) that would be best kept out of an unknowing gardener's hands. Blood Tiger is probably in the same boat. Lily seeds are virus free.
Though some make good rock garden plants, lilies are good examples of plants that might not be alpine or rock garden worthy, but are very welcome in the exchange.
Remember if you need a hard copy of the seed list, be sure to tell them so. (Instructions on the nargs site). But I have found the list published in excel format to be very advantageous, being able to cut and past, or add notes of my own right on the list.
Thanks for the info, CL. Although in general I seem to have better luck germinating the seeds I start indoors under lights, it sure is nice to have less to bother with and water over the winter. I'll definitely wintersow all that need stratification. And I'll check out the forum at NARGS.
Thanks, Rick. I won't send the bulbils. Joyce discouraged me from sending lilium seed (unless they're species, I think). I don't have any seed from my very few species lilies. It doesn't seem to have been a very good year for lily seed in my garden. Mostly only the trumpets seem to be making seed. Others have no pods or only miniature ones that don't have fully developed seed.
My main problem with rock garden plants is that most of them seem to want more sun than I have. My tiny "full sun" area gets 6-7 hours, and it's downhill from there, though I try to push it all the time. I do have a small area that I made with granite cobblestones to hold in the soil, maybe a foot deep, that sits on top of concrete. I tried growing dwarf bearded and IB iris in it, thinking that they're shallow-rooted, but it gets too wet in the winter for them, though it drains well. I wonder if it would be suitable for rock garden plants, as it gets a reasonable amount of sun. Or do most rock garden plants not like winter wet either?
Thanks for all your help!
One of the most reliable statements that one can make is that most alpines/rock garden plants do not like winter wet. Sorry.
Yup, they hate winter wet. Most alpines need excellent drainage, and in the winter if they are snow covered, and the ground is frozen, then there is no winter wet.
Regarding lilies, definitely don't send hybrids. This has been a terrible year for lily seed production for me too. It has been so wet from the end of June on. I received an inch of rain last night, and another 2-3 will be today and tonight. At least I don't live a hundred miles southwest: they have received 6 inches in the last 36 hours, and still coming...
I am sure you've noticed on the nargs seed ex listings, that nearly all entries are species (no hybrids). There are always a few, usually from rock garden stalwarts, who know what they are doing and thus know they would still be appropriate for the seed ex.
When you send seed, do you best to insure the right pollinations are taking place. If you have species lilies and hybrid lilies blooming at the same time, you will need to hand pollinate and protect the pod producing plants from pollination contamination from unwanted pollen. Depending on the parentage, hybrids could easily pollinate species (and vice versa) and true seed will not result. Often though, these contamination hurdles can be very large, and you don't have to worry. For instance, you won't have to worry about asiatic lilies contaminating martagons. I can answer any specific questions you have with lilies if you post them on the Lily forum. http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/f/lilies/all/
There are lots of shade perennials that are included in the rock garden genre, although they may or may not be alpine. These would include Jeffersonia, Primula, Thalictrum, Podophyllum, Epimedium, etc. There are a lot in the seed ex.
Your garden of a foot deep soil on top of concrete, is really a container. You should be able to grow bearded iris and alpines, but you need to replace the soil. You need an excellently draining medium, even more so than in an in-ground garden, because there is no continuous column of soil that will pull excess water down.
Saturate a flat laying sponge with water and then stand it on end. See how much excess water comes pouring out? Soil is like a sponge in this respect.
Regarding, iris, bearded hybrids I think would still do fine (but more sun = more flowers), although better luck would be with more shade tolerant ones, like Iris sibirica, cristata, tectorum, milesii, lacustris. Sometimes dwarf forms of Iris sibirica are offered.
Thanks, guys! Rick, what would you suggest I use for soil? I think that'll be a spring project.
I generally do well with siberian iris, and only have room for the smaller ones, and my iris cristata grow like crazy in my shady back yard. I have a grass-leaved iris that I adore when it blooms, but it blooms very little though it's in a fairly sunny place. (Can I do something to make it bloom more?) The closest thing I could find to it is iris graminea, but I'm not absolutely positive that's what it is. I did collect seeds, but only about 30-40. Could I send those as "probably iris graminea" - or do they only want 100% positively identified seeds? It's really lovely when it blooms. Unfortunately I didn't get around to taking a picture of it, as the blooms didn't last very long.
I probably actually do have a good number of "rock garden plants" in my shady back yard, though I'm still unsure of what's included. I do have several different epimediums, though haven't yet tried to collect seeds from them, and some are new this year so I haven't seen them bloom yet. I also have several different geraniums, and have collected seeds of a few of the larger ones with organza bags, but haven't been able to collect seeds of the ones with smaller flowers, or identify the seeds. I have an Orkney Cherry which is still blooming profusely and which some kind of small bee seems to love, and I keep bagging the heads after the flower dies, waiting for those seeds on the little curls that fling them into space, and I just can't find them. I also have a lot of different astilbes and heucheras, but can't figure out what of all that teeny stuff is seed and what isn't. And astrantias, aquilegias, ........ I could be a potential rock gardener without too many rocks.
I was curious about Geranium 'Orkney Cherry', and just looked it up. It's a hybrid (as described in the attached patent), which may explain your inability to find seeds. In other words, it may very well be sterile. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/PP18263.html
Thanks, Alta. I never considered that possibility.That would really be too bad, as it's become one of my favorite geraniums. I've never seen so many flowers for so long a period as it's been blooming, and both leaves and flowers are really lovely. It also seems very robust without being invasive, though I do wish it would send down more roots, rather than just creep along the surface, as I'd like to have some for other spots. I do need to learn a lot more about propagation.
Well I'm very glad to have that advantage, but I am sorry that I won't be able to pass it along to others.
For your "container" garden, if you are growing alpines or plants that are similar in their needs (bearded iris-yes, siberian or grass leafed iris-no), fertility is a concern, but only if it is too rich(!) Alpines like mineral soil with relatively little fertility. I use perhaps one-quarter soil or compost like component, and the rest various sizes of rock - sand, grit, stones, perlite.
About the identity of your grass leaved iris: if it is Iris graminea, the purple flowers are born down inside the foliage, not above the leaves as with most iris. The seed pods are quite unique among iris, as each has six strongly raised, longitudinal ribs, and the pods are quite short and stubby for an iris. You might just want to peruse some pics at the nargs wiki image gallery http://nargs.org/nargswiki/tiki-browse_gallery.php?galleryId=26
I would not send any seed of questionable identity. There are enough misidentified seed sent in as it is. The only exception would be if they were of choice parentage. I think Soldanella sp. would be a good example.
I divided a clump of a white form of Iris sibirica 'Nana' this summer. If you'd like one, send me a d-mail next spring in late April or May.
Thanks, you have answered one of my questions as to "soil" composition.
I had not thought of using "perlite" type materials.
Vermiculite and perlite are lighter and easier for me to handle.
Both vermiculite and perlite are rock. Vermiculite is mica, and Alta, what is perlite? They have been heated to the point of expansion. Perlite is far more durable, especially outside.
Perlite - and I had to look this up! - is volcanic glass that has been heated and hydrated to expand it. Both vermiculite and perlite have a tendency to "float" to the surface when the soil is disturbed, so you'd probably want a top coat of fine gravel, gyro rock, granite chippings, etc. on top of the soil mix.
The flowers of Iris graminea also have a noticeable sweet fragrance... hence "plum-scented iris", if that helps.
As luck would have it, I just finished putting down 1/4" "rice stone" in the non-garden part of my back yard (where grass wouldn't grow, only weeds, crabgrass, moss and bare spots), and I have several bucketfuls left that I can mix in or put below the soil for drainage. I'll get some sand and other stuff as well.
The possible iris graminea flowers were lower than the leaves, but I don't remember exactly what the pods looked like, just that they were different than siberian pods. I also didn't notice a scent. The only thing different than pictures I've seen is that the petals on mine seemed more veined and contrasted. I believe they were mostly white with dark purple veins. The inside part of the flower was the same color as the pictures I've seen - a plum-ish color. I'll definitely take photos next year, and maybe someone will identify them for sure.
Thanks for your offer of "Nana", Rick. I may have bought that one this summer. I'll have to check, but the name sounds familiar.
My Iris graminea are only faintly scented. I keep saying I have to find some new stock, but I never get around to it.
Rick, if you want to try these grass-leaved iris that I have, send me a dmail with your address and I'll send you some seeds. No scent guaranteed, but they have really pretty flowers.
Here's what I've gotten together for NARGS so far:
astrantia major (rose-tinted)
gentiana makinoi "Marsha"
geranium renardii (white w/ dk purple veins)
potentilla nepalensis (peachy-rose color)
platycodon grandiflorus (lavender-violet color)
tricyrtis latifolia, if enough
I'm hoping to add several other tricyrtis if the pods ripen in time (some only beginning to flower), and also possibly japanese anemone and aconitums if ready in time. Other possibilities: asclepias tuberosa, belamcanda chinesis, corydalis lutea, geum coccineum.
I found most of the above on prior years' lists. Do these all seem acceptable? (I don't want to send anything that might just get tossed).
I don't think they really toss anything unless it is invasive or on an obnoxious weed list. Still, thanks for being cognizant about their appropriateness. In my opinion, it's always better to have quality seed available, rather than a "zinnia hybrid," for example. They all seem fine, including your "late entries."
Corydalis seed is "supposed" to stay moist, but that doesn't necessarily mean none will germinate. I have gotten dry corydalis seed before, and although germination percentage wasn't that great, I got some and was very happy. In addition, as they say: seeds don't read books. All the literature said that Deinanthe cearulea seed must be kept moist from the time of seed dispersal. Well I discovered that isn't true from experience last year with my own seed. In fact I think every dried seed germinated. So I will be sending it in to the nargs seed ex this year as dry seed.
Thanks for the iris seed offer. I'll send you a d-mail.
Thanks for the info, Rick. As some of the corydalis seed hasn't yet been harvested, maybe I should try my hand at moist-packing? I think I remember reading to use damp vermiculite, but not sure if I can find it around here. I know that the big box stores only carry perlite, but I can call around. Is there a list of seeds that should be moist-packed somewhere? And how should moist-packed seeds be stored, to keep them from either rotting or germinating? And how long can they be stored for? I could collect hellebore seeds in the spring, but it's sure a long time between then and the winter seed exchange.
I don't know of any list of species needing moist storage, but most often, they are spring ephemeral plants.
My point, really, was that even though corydalis seems to want moist packing, send them anyway, dry. It's hard to explain how much moisture is in a moist packed package (barely moist). You being new to all this, I think have enough on your plate. Maybe if you order a moist packed seed packet (and you get it) you'll be able to see what is meant.
Besides, if you send in moist packed seed, you need to do each packet for distribution individually (like 5 to 20 packets for each type). It's way too much work and too much of a learning curve to expect the volunteer seed packagers to know and do. You just have to know.
As a rule, store moist packed seed at room temp. Cold or cool can induce germination in many of them. This might be a fun experiment for you and the corydalis seed. You will see how moist packed seed expands from its dry state or its state of collection (whatever moisture that may be). Another reason why not to jump into sending moist packed seed without knowing it all: some will germinate at room temperature too.
Last year I had planned to give Corydalis wilsonii seed I received dry a 2-3 week warm moist treatment before it went into cold moist stratification. Some seed germinated in that first warm treatment.
Right now I have seed of Haquetia epipactis in a tupperware container between moist sheets of paper towel that has been on the kitchen counter for months. One seed molded out of the fifty or so. Don't be concerned if there is mold on the towels. Just change the towel. I have 10 seeds of native wild Allium triccocum as well, between moist paper towels. I thought a couple might germinate, but it looks as if they all will all need a cold treatment as well.
If the seed rots, then there was something wrong with the seed - cracked shell or damaged in some way, empty seed case, insect damage/infestation, immature seed. This literally allows for pathogen infection. Too wet might also be a factor. A whole, undamaged, fully developed seed is quite indestructible for the most part.
I can still get vermiculite at real nurseries, but usually it is the fine stuff that one might use for seedlings. Probably okay for moist packing seed, but completely useless as a soil amendment or for hypertufa.
Regarding hellebores, see this the gardens north site for how Krystal does gemination:
Thanks for the info and the link to that fabulous website. I must have spent an hour or more there, reading about gibberillic acid, the sex life of ferns, etc., and of course I had to look over their seeds and keep myself from filling up a basket, though I'm likely to go back there. Are you familiar with the books on germination that were mentioned? Sounded pretty tempting. I wonder if NARGS sells them. I'll have to check tomorrow.
I doubt I'll be germinating hellebores, as mine germinate themselves, and I don't really have room for more.
Dr. Deno's books, which are a data base of his research on seed germination, are a useful tool for any gardener who starts plants from seeds. I hope that one day someone persuades him to put it on line.
The tomclothier site is on line.
One thing I found is that the data bases do not tell the age of the seeds which they germinated (or tried to germinate). I was taken a back when some of my results were different than the data base results.
At first, the thought entered my mind that maybe--- there were mistakes in the research. No! the explanation for differences is the differences in the age of the seeds. And perhaps the conditions in which the seeds were stored.
Gardens North is a good source of seeds, and Krystal always gives instructions as to the best germination procedures
for a particular seed. I have some of her clematis seeds on moist paper towels. The first have germinated (heracleifolia).
Last year I had clematis heracleifolia seeds and I wintersowed them with no warm start-----only one healthy plant from those. Next spring I will probably be taking clematis heraceifolia to the plant swaps! I have macropetala, alpina and viticella on moist towels also.
They are going in the 'frig after varying periods of "warm" starts.
Yes, I am familiar with the seed germination books mentioned on the Gardens North website, and have them. They are Dr. Norm Deno's publications of his seed germination studies, and should be considered required reading for those deeply interested in starting perennials from seed, IMO! Fascinating reading. Familiarity with these publications makes it difficult to stomach all the random and anecdotal nonsense that one reads elsewhere. Not to say that your results will be exactly the same with a species as his, given that there can be so many variables... but it is truly ground-breaking work.
Caroline, the Tom Clothier site claims to have "organized and published" Deno's data... I've always wondered if that was with Dr. Deno's permission... ?
Deno does report on seed age in his experiments, and on which species have enhanced germination after dry storage, etc..
I meant I had different results sometimes from the data bases. It means my seeds (which are usually commercially obtained and age unknown) were not necessarily the same age as the data base ones.
I don't think that Dr. Deno always knew the age either, because many times he used donated seeds.
I would hope that some organization such as NARGS or other public gardening organization would place his data base and research out in the public domain. It would be preferable to have several stand alone data bases so we could compare the results.
The two data bases do cover some similar seeds. But then they do cover some different groups of seeds.
My Deno books are packed away,but seems to me he had a chapter on cacti and the Clothier one has a chapter on pentstemons etc.
Thanks. You've talked me into Dr. Deno's books, at least the first one for now. I've been using Tom Clothier's site a lot, but there are gaps, and, of course there's conflicting info all over the place.
I agree, the Deno books do leave all the other data bases in the dust. Still, that doesn't mean the others are useless, of course. Even with Deno, I have experienced results contrary to his at times. I have all three books, but also downloaded Tom Clothier's Deno data base, did some tweaking, and keep an undated version with my results and those of others whom I trust added. It just gets longer and longer each year...
Dr. Deno passed away several(?) years ago. I was kicking myself 'cause I only had his first book, but later decided to see if I could still get the two supplements. I sent a letter with some extra $$$ over the books' prices for the inconvenience, to the address on the Clothier site. I receive the books with the extra money returned. He is self published. NARGS doesn't have it.
Thanks, Rick. I'm really sorry to hear that Dr. Deno's gone. I sent him a check today for the 1st book, but I guess it'll likely be returned. (Sent you the iris seeds too).
Thanks, perenniallyme. I'll wait a week before I send the verbascum, in case you find something else.
Maybe if you don't get the actual book you can contact Tom Clothier and tell him, so he can remove Deno's address from his web site and replace it with the DOA downloads. That's a really great thing that someone(s) did. I am going to write up an info article to go in our NARGS Chapter newsletter about same.
OK. Thanks, Rick. If I don't get the book, I'll get in touch with gardensnorth, too, to change their info. I'll try to get to putting the link on DG seed forum threads too.