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More Gardening Weird Science: Saving and growing your own

A very very long time ago, when Aunt Toby was Little Toby (and my mom used to use me as an example in her college parenting classes), our family had a dentist friend who was an absolutely amazing gardener. Not with veggies, mind you – his entire garden was devoted to his work with roses and when he retired and moved to sunnier and warmer climes, he went around offering rose bushes to his friends before he sold the house. My parents were the lucky recipients of four rugosa roses which grew to amazing Rapunzel heights on the south side of their house, in a mixture of cement, clay, and goodness only knows what (My Mama was NOT a good gardener; any plant sunk into a hole in her garden was on its own). What would have happened to those roses if they’d been given the least encouragement with real soil or some compost is truly frightening to contemplate (can we all say “Little Shop of Horrors”? Knew you could).

But I digress. One day, this gentleman, who had heard of my interest in growing things (i.e., “She grubs around in the dirt; we can’t do a thing with her”), brought me some funny papery-looking black things which he explained were seeds produced from one of his amaryllis bulbs when a bunch of them had bloomed at the same time. He’d done a little bit of romancing the amaryllis (stamen to pistol) and one of the plants had formed a seed pod, matured seed and he had seed to share. No one had any idea what would happen, but I stuck them in a box of potting soil, kept them moist and covered and voila! Little amaryllis plants, which I gave away.

There is nothing to say that as far as flowering plants in your garden, that you can’t do the same. Perhaps you will come up with something new and interesting. Seedsman the world over (Thompson and Morgan being the most famous for this) encourage home gardening scientists to hybridize plants to see if they can come up with something new or different (Burpee has been looking for a white marigold for years using this method). Some of the easiest (in that the bees and other insects do most of your work for you; all you have to do is take notice of the seed pods and save them once they’ve dried out) to use this method with are plants such as day lillies, irises, and hostas. Of course, if you want to do things a bit more scientifically and in a more controlled way, you can select the two lillies, or two irises, or two hostas (you want to match plant type) that you want to marry, use the pollen from one on the pistol of the other and close off with a small paper bag so that wandering insects don’t introduce pollen you don’t want. Once they have created seed pods that mature and dry, you can remove the seeds and store them in a cool dry place or do what I did below.

Last summer, while wandering around the garden, I noticed all the maturing seed pods on my day lilies and gathered up the shiny black seeds. I literally just jabbed them into holes into a plastic box that I had some potting soil in, made them moist and covered them up and forgot about them in a shady corner of the greenhouse. When it got cold and I had to bring plants into the house from the greenhouse, nothing was going on, but I brought the box inside and left it on a table near a sunny window in the living room. And now we had little plants. Isn’t that exciting. There is nothing like seeing a seed come up. Pretty soon, I’m going to plant each plant into a pot of its own and this spring, I’ll put them out in the garden and we’ll see what we get. Nothing more exciting than that.

For more about hybridizing day lilies, go here
For more about hybridizing hostas, go here
For more about hybridizing irisgo here

(scientist graphic courtesy of dzingeek)

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  1. Josh says:

    It is encouraging to see a little green during the cold winter months, isn’t it?! Good luck with your daylily babies. And thank you for linking to my hosta hybridizing guide 🙂

  2. Victor says:

    That is really cool that this type of DIY experimenting is actually encouraged, I would have thought that seed companies would discourage this sort of experimentation, although that could just be my bias against monsanto coming out 😉

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