Sunday, 8 February 2015

Cold sowing time.

If you haven't already done so now is the time to get on with making cold sowings of hardy perennials, biennials, trees and shrubs. Last year I said never again, where can I put them all? and almost true to my word only raised a few plants from home collected seed. This year I have again surrendered to the pleasures and frustrations that can be had from raising plants from seed so have raided the society seed lists. The feeling of satisfaction one gets when you see seedlings emerging from seed which may have been sown three years before is indescribable, the whole process acts as a drug, you build up a backlog of "work in progress" over the years so there is always something new popping up whether it be current or from several years earlier.

All are sown in a screened general purpose compost with some added peat and vermiculite which I happened to have around, and then either watered into or covered with grit. The pots have not been sterilised but wiped out with an old rag before filling, I can't see the point of taking any special precautions unless you are in an environment such as a heated sterilised glasshouse. I do have a propagator but do not use it for these types of plant preferring to let nature to take its course.

Much has been said about society seed and I have had some disappointments over the years, not particularly with germination but with the seed not being as described on the tin, I know many people put in a great deal of effort to mange the seed-lists for which I am eternally grateful but results do vary. If you are interested in the types of plants I grow then I recommend the Scottish Rock Garden Club list for quality and accuracy, if you are going to a seed merchant try Plant World Seeds.  

There are four trays shown or 60 separate sowings and this isn't all! These are left on the bench of a cold poly-tunnel.They are in trays temporarily to stop inquisitive squirrels from knocking them off the staging.

The first sowings went in on January 1st. and the weather so far has been perfect with prolonged freezing temperatures which definitely help with the germination of many species, I have found that a mild winter can cause some to misfire and not germinate for a further twelve months. The key is of course fresh seed, no good buying seed of difficult to germinate genera from your local garden center as this will normally lead to disappointment.

I always have a bit of a "lucky dip" selection but notice this year's are predominantly bulb or corm seeds so these will be going under the bench along with any others that haven't germinated in early summer. 
Here is a selection of the seeds that have gone in this year:

Meconopsis(s) wallichii, staintonii, punicea, grandis, quintuplinervia.
Anemonopsis machrophylla.
Primula(s) stenodonta, miyabeana, forestii, daonensis, gemmifera zambalensis, tschuktschorum.
Aquilegia(s) bertolonii, fragrans.
Succisella inflexa Frosted Pearls.
Hylomecon japonica.
Phytolacca japonica.
Ammi majus.
Asarum caudatum.
Cryptotaenia japonica var. atropurpurea.
Geum montanum.
Jeffersonia dubia.
Lachenalia pustulata.
Lilium(s) davidii, oxypetalum insigne, pyrenaicum.
Cyclamen graecum × hederifolium.
Crocus speciosus.
Paeonia obovata alba.
With the cost of heating any form of outside protection having rocketed in recent years, it's not so much the actual germination but the growing on, cold sowing using society seed is an enjoyable and inexpensive way of either increasing your plant stock or just getting a few specimens of something which is not readily available and remember in some cases you are never quite sure what you are going to get, anything may emerge, which adds to the fun!


  1. When I see posts like this Rick, I yearn for a greenhouse. You've a wide selection of some lovely plants there and as you say, not knowing quite what you are getting only adds to the fun.
    Wishing you a successful germination rate :)

    1. I couldn't agree with you more Angie that raising from seed is fun but at the end of the day with cold sowing you don't need a glass house, a quiet corner of the garden, a small cold-frame or a mini-house are all suitable. The main reason for having some kind of protection is to keep the wild life away, the more frozen the seed is the better.

  2. It is a kind of addiction isn't it? I have been starting seeds from two rock garden societies for years now. My germination rate is not great but I treat most of them the same way rather than follow specific instructions (such as "3 months at 4 degrees followed by 3 months at 20" etc.). However, over the years I got some very nice plants.I don't mind if a good percentage do not produce much. If every now and then I can get a few new plants I would not be able to find otherwise I am happy.
    I have not started to plant yet. I am in the process of writing out labels just now. Good luck with all your seeding.

    1. A man after my own heart Alain, if the plant will grow naturally with you the sowing instructions are meaningless. To get even one difficult to obtain plant from seed is a bonus, after all, we are not looking to produce hundreds of plants from a packet of seeds.

  3. Impressive set up in your greenhouse Rick. I guess I have put my seed growing days behind me, never mind, still enjoying the garden.

  4. Thanks Alistair, I get the greatest satisfaction from raising plants even though I sometimes struggle to find room! I could never create a wonderful garden like yours which each year must make you very proud.

  5. Great to have found you Rick. Your garden looks and sounds so similar to mine. It was much neglected when we moved in and still is, especially the woodland. I haven't had much time for seed sowing but it's something I really want to do in the future. As you say, completely addictive, especially when seeds have taken years to germinate. I've dabbled a bit, trilliums this year as it's the woodlanders that interest me primarily too. And being in a wood... I also have squirrels :(

    1. Welcome rusty duck, the fact I am surrounded by trees very much governs the way I garden, but I have never really been one for pristine beds and neatly clipped lawns so the garden suits me as it is and also allows me to grow some interesting plants. You certainly went in at the deep end with Trilliums some of which seed around naturally but are not particularly easy from seed, I hope you have great success.

  6. "Where can I put them all?"
    I say the same! Your seed list is very impressive, I will be sowing a few thingssoon but still don’t know where to put the pots…

  7. Yes Helene, it's a constant battle, always moving things around...........decisions, decisions :)