ags logo
A Midland Alpine Gardener's Diary
Back to List of Entries for A Midland Alpine Gardener's Diary

Go to bottom

A Midland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 08 June 2009 by Diane Clement

Midland Diary No 13 - Mainly Seedy Matters

I apologise for the gap since writing my last diary entry, my excuses being catching up at home after a run of eleven consecutive Saturdays spent at shows and a spell of bad health.

Catch up on Seed Germination

Since January this year, I have sown over 200 pots of seed.  As often is the case, I sowed seed from a wide variety of sources -  society exchanges, some wild collected, some garden collected, and some from my own plants.  For the last few years, I have had a particular interest in cyclamen and arisaema seed and I sow seeds from societies specialist to those genera.  In recent years, I have increased the number of seed I sow from monocot plants, and these are mainly obtained from specialist collectors.

So, what germination patterns have there been this year, and what has differed from the norm?

Firstly, I'll report on the reliable germination pattern which is not weather dependent.  I've been growing cyclamen from seed for several years and the patterns tend to be fairly reliable.  The majority of Cyclamen seed sown as per the Reading Method mentioned in Diary Entry no 2 will germinate easily in warm conditions.  Cc hederifolium, africanum, cyprium, graecum and persicum will all come up reliably in around four weeks, followed usually by Cc coum, pseudibericum, cilicium and intaminatum.  Sometimes the repandum group (including balearicum and creticum) take a bit longer.  C purpurascens is the most difficult.   Clearly it needs quite different conditions for germination and it can take over a year and sometimes doesn't come up at all which is a shame as it is one of my favourite species.  When they have germinated they will stay indoors on a north facing windowsill until the beginning of March when they will go outside.

The pictures show some interesting leaf forms of C hederifolium

Some unusual seed mainly from Yunnan

Lots of seed was sown in January in these little thumb pots and you will see signs of germination in these three at the front.  

Some unusual seed mainly from Yunnan

Over the past months, I took pictures of the progress of some of these seedlings. The dates are the time from germination.  Pricking out is a little overdue in some of these pots.


Silene davidii at 2 weeks, at 3 weeks and at 8 weeks

Solmslaubachii zhongdianensis at 2 weeks, at 3 weeks and at 8 weeks

Phyllophytum complanatum at 1 week and at 7 weeks

Unusual Paeonia germination

Most of the genus Paeonia are hypogeal germinators, that means that the roots develop first in the autumn, and the first leaf to appear in the following spring is not a cotyledon, but a true leaf.   Paeonia tenuifolia is one of the exceptions as it is an epigeal germinator, which means that  the first thing to appear are the cotyledons, followed by the true leaves.  This process happens in the few weeks after sowing.  The plant here is emerging with the seed case still attached to the cotyledon, and the leaf following.  The last picture shows the same species, this was sown and germinated last year, emerging this year with more leaves.

Unusual Paeonia germination

Pricking out lewisias

These are seedlings which germinated last year of Lewisia rediviva and Lewisia rediviva minor - these plants have now been growing on for a year and I thought it was time to prick them out into their own pots.  I did this when they were in full growth which on reflection may not have been a good idea, but time will tell

Pricking out lewisias

Lewisias potted on



Conventional wisdom often advises us that some alpine plants can take several years to germinate and therefore not to throw out seed pots until at least three years have passed.  The problem is that for those of us who sow a lot of pots, this can take up a lot of space as the older pots build up.  Although I have often found seeds germinate after a year or so, I have never been too sure if much does come up after the second or third year, so I often do throw away some old ones to make more space. 

This year I was pleased that I didn’t throw away some very old seed as several old pots of colchicums and iris germinated this spring.   Colchicum lingulatum germinated after four years, and Iris vicaria after three

Colchicum lingulatum


Iris vicaria

I think this suggests that these particular species do need the extended period of cold weather, which we had this winter but have not had for several years. Although we have had old nights with colder temperatures in previous years, this year the temperature stayed below zero during the day and night for several days, a pattern not experienced for a few years. I have previously germinated juno iris by putting them in the fridge and then in the warm, so this seems to confirm this germination pattern and perhaps this is a more reliable method in Britain than having to wait for nature to oblige with the appropriate weather pattern.

A quick look round the garden

Just a few nice things from the garden at the moment

Corydalis 'Craigton Blue' a hybrid between Corydalis elata and Corydalis flexuosa bred by Ian Young of Aberdeen

A quick look round the garden

 Two forms of Roscoea cautleyoides, the second with narrow lower petals

And growing in the tufa, Dianthus 'La Bourboule'

And in the greenhouse

Arisaema nepenthoides

Arisaema engleri

And the current star of the show

Cypripedium kentukiense

Please contribute your thoughts and ideas on this Diary entry in the Discussion forum here:



Go to top
Back to List of Entries for A Midland Alpine Gardener's Diary