Saturday, May 30, 2009

spring gardening

This blog started as a gardening diary, so now, in late spring, it returns briefly to its, uh... roots.

Things I learned as a spring gardener this year:

1. Seeds stored in October 2006 will germinate. Big time. I collected them from hybrid petunias (Petunia x hybrida), zinnias, french marigolds (Tagetes patula), china asters (Callistephus chinensis) and a lot of other stuff. Without much hope (and, foolishly, without a germination trial using a sample in damp tissue paper) I sowed THICKLY over a soil-less growing medium in an old strawberry box. The tagetes came up pretty decently. The petunias germinated scandalously, and in 10 days the makeshift seed flat looked like it was harboring CRESS.

The seeds, incidentally, were stored in an unheated garage, in an airtight can, in separate envelopes labelled with variety and date, and with two little packets of silica gel from a shoebox. I don't know where to get silica gel in Denmark, so I just use these little packets that manufacturers drop into shoe boxes (leather and synthetic) to keep moisture at bay.

Seedlings collected from white petunias with a sprawling growth habit.

2. When a packet modestly refers to 70% germination, it means, like, 200% germination under optimum conditions. At least that's what happened with my Hammenhoeg dwarf-dahlia mix. Now I Live With Dahlias, the way other people Live With ADHD.

(Note: 200% germination is not hyperbole. Most seedpacks will have 50% to 200% more the number of seeds than it says on the fine print, as most gardeners prefer to direct-sow, leading to much loss of seed to drought or birds.)

Dahlia seedlings -- more came up eventually.

3. Used disposable coffee cups make an excellent substitute for two or three inch seedlings pots. The canteen at the Danish language school where I go three times a week serves coffee in wonderfully flexible plastic cups. They contain about 350 ml and this is the perfect volume for a three-week seedling. I ask my classmates for them at the end of each coffee session. Sometimes I fish them out of the recycle bin and rinse them out in the lavatories.

4. Yes, you CAN raise snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus), petunias (Petunia x hybrida), dahlias and larkspur (Consolida sp. and Delphinium sp.) from seed.

5. It's better to buy one pot in a color you like of easily-rooting plants like verbena and impatiens. Take two inch cuttings and root them. For verbena, in sand or compost. I'm still not sure whether rooting in compost or water is better for impatiens.

6. My impatiens, by the way, have NEVER rooted from leaf nodes. The roots, whether in water or in soil, appear to come from various unpredictable points in the stem. This contrary to advice you read from more experienced gardeners, posted on the web. I wonder why. Can anyone comment on this?

7. A small packet of pallid Viola cornuta seeds I collected in November 2006 has, apparently, remained viable. After a three week wait, I see one seedling, and two more appear about to sprout.

8. Copenhagen is in Zone 7B! That is to say, we don't ski from one farmhouse to the next six months a year, and polar bears don't walk the streets. Right now, in fact, all over Denmark, the clothes are coming off piece by piece, though a friend tells me nude beaches are OUT -- holdovers from the 60s or something like that.


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