God bless the patient seed growers like Jackie

By 
Erin Schanen

All hail the seed growers.

I’m talking about those people who can’t stand to see a seed go to waste. The ones who squirrel away seeds in the kitchen rather than send them to the compost or dissect an exotic seed head to find what lies within.    

That will never be me.

I’m not even all that good about saving seeds from plants I love in the garden, so I can’t imagine growing something from seed strictly out of a sense of duty.

What’s even more impressive than just sowing these random seeds that come into our lives is the fortitude of the gardeners who grow these throwaway seeds into beloved plants. I’m thinking of the gardener who has doted over a lemon tree started from a grocery store lemon years ago or made multiple moves with an avocado tree that might touch the ceiling but stands almost no chance of ever producing an avocado here in Wisconsin.

Last week I came across an example of extreme seed sowing. I shared a photo of several amaryllis bulbs planted in pots and a gardener named Jackie noted that she had taken to saving seeds from amaryllis she had cross pollinated.

She expected to find about 10 seeds in each pod, but instead she found between 50 and 75 in each seedhead.

“They all germinated, and of course I needed to see them all in bloom,” she wrote.

And the biggest problem is that Jackie told me it takes about seven years for an amaryllis grown from seed to bloom. So Jackie had to tend those amaryllis, which filled up windowsills all over her house, year after year.

And then they bloomed, and she was able to see her very own plant breeding come to life. Some looked very much like one of the parents, others were clearly a combination of the two and still others looked different enough that had she not made the cross herself, Jackie may have guessed at parentage.

If I had nursed amaryllis seedlings of my own breeding that long I wouldn’t have cared if they ended up with one poorly formed flower that pointed straight down; I would have declared myself a great amaryllis breeder.

Fortunately, those of us without the patience or windowsill space for such an undertaking can take the easy way out. Amaryllis, like all bulbs, have the remarkable quality of having everything they need in one tidy package. I like to pot them up in pretty pots, sometimes in groups of two or three, and disguise the soil with moss, mini pinecones, acorns or even foraged fungi and then let them do their thing. Light, warmth and slightly moist soil is all they need to produce giant flower stalks that brighten a winter day.

Still, the optimism of gardeners like Jackie or the person who planted an avocado pit in 1990 and dutifully waters an unproductive tree to this day is inspiring. To have the devil-may-care attitude and stick a random seed in a pot of soil thinking, “Let’s see what happens,” is a level of trust in plants we can all aspire to.

And when my amaryllis are finished blooming, I’ll go looking for seeds. Maybe I can send them to Jackie.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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