One of the things I love about hosting – really, participating in – the Gestalt Gardener program is how timely everything is. This week as I wander around the neighborhood with my old brown dog Rusty, I’ve been picking up a few seeds to either plant now or share next spring.
Some, like the cosmos, zinnias, and celosia from a neighbor’s front garden, will be saved in envelopes, labeled to remind me what they are and when I harvested them (am I the only one who has forgotten to plant seeds, only to find the packets in a box years later?).
The huge seeds of our native red buckeye (to the left of the photo) will be planted in pots this weekend and will sprout immediately, with new seedlings getting six or more inches tall before winter. They will be ready-to-plant give-away trees by Arbor Day in February.
Another favorite tree to share is our native Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), both our state tree and state flower. It grows quite well on its own, but sowing seeds at home can be a bit tricky. The seeds have a “double dormancy” trigger, meaning they won’t sprout without special pre-treatment.
What happens in nature is birds and other wildlife eat the bright berry-like fruits, which cleans the seeds completely before they are deposited back on the ground where they will be exposed to wet, chilly weather for months. Technically these are called “scarification” and “stratification.”
You can fake both these yourself by rubbing the seeds out of the fruits (love that peculiar smell!) and running them under water for a few minutes; you can see three magnolia seeds taken from the fruit in the bottom center of the photo. Then either planting the seeds in pots and leaving them outside in a protected place to get exposed to natural temperatures, or putting them in plastic bag with some barely moist paper towel and put it in the ‘fridge for about three months.
This works well on dogwoods as well as magnolias. And oak acorns, too, which don’t have to be cleaned, just exposed to the cool temps.
Sounds a bit horticultural, but it’s one of those Autumnal things we do to keep our fingers dirty while thinking ahead about sharing our neighborhood bounty with others…