Thursday, 2 June 2016

making new plants

There is some progress to report with the attempt to grow Clivia from seed.  The seeds in the heated propagator, which were sown in multi-purpose compost, and the ones in the airing cupboard which were in vermiculite both germinated.  A single fat root is the first thing to appear, then rather unexpectedly the leaf emerges not from inside the large seed but from the top of the root. Those that had begun to develop in the airing cupboard were pure white, whereas the ones grown in the light were green with a reddish tinge.  Green is obviously better though the others will presumably green up once exposed to the light, and if you had a heated propagator I'd be inclined to favour that over the airing cupboard method.  Apart from avoiding the problem of lack of light, I didn't always remember I had seeds in the airing cupboard, hence they were left to grow fungus white in the dark, and watering was slightly erratic.  The others were checked every time I inspected the propagating cases in the greenhouse.  But if an airing cupboard is all you've got it certainly works.

Development of the first leaves is proceeding at a glacial pace.  I was slightly disheartened to notice a very small Clivia seedling in a friend's loo, with a 2012 label stuck in the pot.  If mine only make a couple of leaves no more than four inches long in four years then they might just about reach flowering size in time for my funeral.  But her plant was quite a long way from the window, and I don't know if she's ever fed it.

She had a purple and brown tall bearded iris all along one border, very graceful in habit, which I coveted enormously, so made admiring noises amounting to a brick sized hint.  It turned out that she had found it years ago in Sussex.  Riding along on her bicycle she saw a heap of discarded rhizomes in a ditch and rescued some.  Seeing how generously it had spread through her border I could understand how some spare roots might have ended up in a ditch.  I don't know if it would be too forward to take a plastic bag and a small fork with me the next time I'm visiting and ask if I can dig up the piece she said growing out into the lawn in the way of the mower.  It was so good I really did want a bit very badly.  She didn't know its name, given how she came by it, but said she had never seen it since in any garden centre and I could believe her.  It is quite possibly an old form, and probably worth running past an expert in old garden varieties of iris.

My attempt to raise an apricot coloured form of Primula florindae ended in failure for the second year running.  Last year I got good germination but over watered the seed pot in a spell of warm weather, perhaps remembering how the mature plant will grow in water, and the seedlings rotted. This time I got them to the stage of very small plants, but after I pricked them out individually into divided seed trays they all turned brown, withered and died over a period of two or three days.  I'm stumped by that.  Should I have found somewhere cooler to put the seed trays?  Do the young plants resent root disturbance and do I need to sow tiny pinches of seed into modules to avoid pricking out later?

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