It all begins with the seeds. Almost all of the close to 140 species I sell are grown from seed. A very few are only grown from cuttings, either because seeds are hard to come by (e.g. Paxistima myrsinites, mountain boxwood), slow or difficult to germinate (Lonicera ciliosa, orange honeysuckle, and Fragaria vesca, woodland strawberry), or I don’t have a wild source of seeds (Penstemon barrettiae, Barrett’s penstemon).
With a number of other species we do both seeds and cuttings, including most willows and kinnikinnick. In most cases, I prefer seeds because the root systems of the seedings tend to be more balanced and denser than the same species from cuttings. In addition, a crop of native plants grown from seed will contain greater genetic diversity than one from cuttings. As most of what I grow is used in wildland and restoration plantings this diversity allows them to better adapt to the varied conditions they will be exposed to in coming years.
Each May I inventory my seed stash in the freezer and make plans for collecting based on anticipated plant needs, the amount of seed I have in storage and how viable I thin the seed is. Usually the first species we collect each year is arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsmorhiza sagitata). I not only grow plants but also sell the seed of this wildflower and try to get at least five pounds of new seed each spring.
Balsamroot seed heads and seeds
I do most of the collecting myself and like to do as much as I can either on our own property (lots of balsamroot there!) or nearby in the forest (yes, the collecting permit from the US Forest Service is stashed in my pack!) I’ve tried using child labor (but my son was hit hard with hay fever)
Son Beni (age 12)
and migrant labor (German exchange student Caro likewise), but now enjoy doing most all of it myself.
Caro collects balsamroot
However, if you are in the Wenatchee area and want to join in the fun, I have an exciting opportunity for you! As part of an extensive habitat restoration effort on the Horse Lake Reserve above Wenatchee, I’m working with the Chelan Douglas Land Trust to collect seed of a number of key wildflower species in the next 4 weeks. If interested, contact me or Hanne Beener at the CDLT office (509-667-9708).
Hosre Lake Reserve, looking east to the Columbia River and Badger Mountain