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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Crazy Weather

Iris douglasiana in snow

We feel like we dodged a bullet this week when an Arctic Blast swept through the nursery.  Our temperature yesterday morning was a frightful 13 degrees F.  These are temperatures we occasionally reach in December and January but not late February when so many of our plants have begun their early Spring push.  We were particularly concerned about tender new growth, which can be damaged by freeze and prolonged cold.  When these hardy plants are grown in colder climates, they simply stay dormant longer.  But here in our USDA zone 8-ish climate, Spring comes early.
Cardiocrinum giganteum bulbs -
a few are getting an early season start

Today when we removed the thin, white row covers we use during extreme weather to cover the plants inside our unheated hoop houses, we were pleasantly surprised.  Not only did we see very little damage to foliage, but several plants had decided to put out flowers under what they must have considered the bright, white light of snow cover.  Go figure!
Pacific Coast Irises -
notice the snow outside

Iris chrysophylla flower bud

I had fretted over my iris collection.  Of course, the miniature bearded irises are extremely cold hardy and we have already seen yellow flowers on Iris suaveolens. This morning I could also see dark purple buds appearing on two of the Iris chamaeiris.  I am happy to report that the Pacific Coast Irises look good, too, and I was shocked to see a bright yellow flower bud on a wild collected Iris chrysophylla seedling.  In my “iris house” there is also a bright red flower bud at the base of Tulipa ‘Fusilier’.  We should have some fabulous irises and dwarf bulbs to share at our early Spring plant sales.
Tulipa praestans 'Fusilier' getting an early start

Spring flowering bulbs

 Another reason to be optimistic was found in our seed pots.  Many of you know that, unlike some nurseries, we grow many of our plants from seed.  This gives us the opportunity to offer more native and wild type plants as well as those that aren’t easily grown using the usual nursery propagation techniques.  A good example of this are the Himalayan Blue Poppies, plants that must be grown from seed.  Today we saw many tiny Meconopsis seedlings emerging in several seedpots.  Apparently, they liked the cold.  I’m glad someone did…
Meconopsis 'Lindholm' seedlings for 2012 season
We spend lots of time staring
at seed pots this time of year!


  1. I have to smile on you staring at seed pots during the winter...i do too...i have mugo seedlings in my window(under a plastic dome set up) in my eating area...i must check them several times a day....this is my first attempt at mugo seeds and so far so good...i love your newsletter

  2. I'm trying winter sown seeds in clear plastic containers outdoors. So far so good, I have several varieties of seedlings including Corydalis and Geranium. Glad to see you've weathered well over these past few frigid days.

  3. Growing from seed is one of our very favorite things to do. Most of the hardy perennial seeds we grow require cold stratification and the seed pots are put outside for several weeks. We move them to the sheltered location shown in the photo once they begin to emerge in order to protect the tiny seedlings. It is fun to hear that others enjoy growing from seed, too!

  4. I so love growing perennials from seed! And I've also got Meconopsis 'LIngholm' sprouting up....the best I've ever done with them! Starting them under growlights in the livingroom but on the bottom shelf where it's a bit cooler I guess is the place for them.

  5. There are lots of seed sources, including societies that focus on specific plant groups. For sheer number of species, you can't beat the North American Rock Garden Society. NARGS has a terrific seed exchange that includes both garden and wild collected seeds. They have a national website and local chapters. Recommended.