It never ceases to thrill me; the snow begins to retreat from the seeded containers and there they are, the first seedlings of 2012! The first to appear are the species from the driest habitats, particularly the shrub-steppe: balsamroot, silky lupine, several species of buckwheats, big sagebrush. These drought-adapted species may only have their cotyledons showing and no true leaves yet they canhave roots several inches long and growing fast. Where they come from this late winter and spring moisture doesn’t last long so they’d best get a jump on it. With their quickly growing roots it can be difficult to transplant seedlings of these species without kinking the tap root and creating a stunted (or dead) seedling. For this reason we prefer to direct sow into long tubes (10 cu. in. or 4 cu. in.) species like arrowleaf balsamroot, silky lupine, bitterbrush and many penstemons. For most other species we sow all or part of the seeds into flats, from which we will prick out the seedlings and transplant into larger containers. For a few species (Garry oak and bitter cherry, primarily) we’ll put the seeds in the refrigerator for several months in moist media, and then transplant the germinating seeds, or “emergents”, into containers. There are many and varied approaches to getting these sometimes uncooperative native plant seeds to germinate where and when we want!
“…I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)