Growing plants from seed can be fun but also frustrating. The fun part is when you have a tiny handful of specks and they turn into 63 plants–it’s botanical magic. The frustrating part is when you have a small collection from half way around the world and they just dissolve into a gooey mess, with not even a hint of a cotyledon. I’ve experienced both while trying to germinate my seeds from New Zealand. I was really disappointed with the seeds that I purchased at a local nursery. I got a wide selection and only the hibiscus and Kaka beak germinated. The seeds were either too old or the instructions incorrect on the seed packets. Some of them, like the flax for instance, said to roll in a moist paper towel and place in the fridge for 4-6 weeks. I did this with the flax that I had collected myself and with the packaged seeds, but only the ones I collected began to germinate. The hibiscus germinated readily and has been growing really well, but I’m not impressed with the plant. It’s kind of weedy and rangy looking and the flowers, while attractive, only last for one day.
Some of the seeds were easy to collect. It was winter and many plants had persistent seed pods. The flax for instance had spikes topped with a capsule of many slippery little black seeds. There was hillsides of flax in New Zealand and each capsule had many seeds. Some plants required a bit more creativity to gather the seeds. The agave had some beautiful seeds pods, but they were high above my head, still clinging to the 10 foot tall flower stalk. Luckily I found one that had fallen to the ground. The banksia seed pod was alien to me, I had never seen anything like it in our part of the world and I felt like I had to have one. That required climbing through a hole in the fence at the botanical garden and hunting around the hillside for a fallen pod. The unknown seed pod labeled Olivella I spied in a gift shop. It was so striking
I offered to trade an Olivella biplicata shell for it, and the clerk agreed. It’s always handy having something interesting in your bag in case you need to trade.
The Phormium seeds, after rolling in a wet paper towel and in the fridge for one month have been slowly growing. They seem delicate, I probably need to give them some liquid fertilizer. The agave plants are the champs. I had almost 100% germination. They pushed up through the soil with lots of muscle (fiber?) and I have over 60 of them growing now. Growing the plants on is the next challenge. Dealing with pests (thrips) disease (powdery mildew) and fertilizer (don’t forget!). I hope to get a few of them to produce more seed so I can try again.