It’s time for an update on the seeds that I’m attempting this spring. I have a few repeats from previous years, and several new seeds. As a matter of fact, I need to get some of the new arrivals germinating! I received a packet of a few Cassia alata (Yellow Candlebush) seeds a few days ago. It used to be named Senna alata, but some supposed plant experts were picky about nomenclature and had to rename it. The common over-the-counter laxative Senokot is derived from this plant. I’m a big fan of this plant for the giant, pinnate leaves it has. Each leaf can be several feet long, and individual leaflets have exceeded 6 inches in my garden. The only facet of this plant that I don’t find to be incredibly positive is the fact that it has what are called ‘extrafloral nectaries’ at the base of each leaf. Basically, it leaks sap from a pore under each leaf stem. It leaks sap because it lives in a symbiotic relationship with ants (that are attracted by the sweet and sugary sap) who protect the impressive leaves from hungry catepillars. It’s all quite interesting, but at the same time a bit annoying when you realize that the ants that protect the Candlebush from catepillars are the same ants that bring aphids to your adjacent plants that don’t naturally provide free sap for them.
Speaking of adjacent plants, the first new seed for 2015 I’ll introduce is Tweedia caerulea, or Southern Star. Some people even call it Blue Milkweed. Having spent a significant amount of my childhood in Idaho on a farm, I tend to not use the m-word. I was given these seeds by a friend, and didn’t know much about them before a few weeks ago. The seeds were a year old, and I figured germination would be poor. I was wrong. I’m looking forward to a few vines covered in blue this summer.
My Canna musifolia (Banana Canna) flowered for the first time last summer. I managed to collect a few seeds from it, and planted them in a seed tray. They all germinated, but none of them have the telltale burgundy red coloration that true banana cannas have. My canna ‘Champion’ bloomed at the same time as the BC, and was just a few feet away. I’m guessing I have hybrid seed… what do I call it, Champnana?
I went crazy and started quite a few echiums this year. I have 6 E wildpretii and 7 E candicans. Add that to 7 more that are already in the ground outside, and I have quite a feast for the bees! I’ve noticed that the candicans grows quite a bit faster than the wildpretii does.
Palm seeds are not a new thing for me, but I have a new variety this year. Washingtonia robusta, the Mexican Fan Palm. Nearly as cold hardy as the tried and true Chinese Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) and a whole lot faster. I figure they’ll be fine in pots for at least 5 years, and by then I can decide whether I want to keep them. I got these seeds for next to nothing, so I’m already in the black with 4 of them.
If I went crazy with echiums this year, I went insane with cannas this year. I have close to 50 Canna indica that I started from seed. I didn’t think my indica from last year would survive the winter, so I wanted to have plenty this year. So far every single canna from last year is still fine, even the supposedly borderline C indica. Looks like I’ll have plenty to go around.
Last but not least is Caesalpinia pulcherrima, or Pride Of Barbados. I’ve been trying to germinate these seeds for months, with nothing to show for it. Nearly everything I’ve read online has said not to scarify the seeds. Maybe I was looking in the wrong places, but I finally decided that I couldn’t have any worse of a germination rate and sanded down a corner of a couple seeds. Bingo! I had roots less than a week later. I start most of my hard coated seeds in either water or a wet coffee filter. Putting them on top of a fluorescent light fixture seems to speed things up too.