Sunday, November 26, 2006

Old and ancient seeds.

Not much energy today. Looking around on the internet, found some articles about old seeds - such as,

The Judean Date Palm, sprouted from 2,000 year old seeds found at Herod's palace in Israel. The seeds must have been 'stored' at about the time of the trees' extinction, since they are said to have been extinct since about the year 1 CE. Since palms are either male or female, and only one seed sprouted, this once extinct variety might remain extinct (or might it hybridize with existing varieties to form a new variety, both ancient and new?). Apparently palms are usually not difficult to grow from seeds, although these ancient seeds required special methods and plant hormones to revive. I've been sticking date seeds in plants around the house. I don't know what I will do with them if they grow, since this is hardly the ideal climate.

The famous ancient Lotus seeds, Nelumbo nucifera, preserved in dried pond mud, about 1,228 years old (article here ). These apparently were cultivated in ancient times. The seeds were found near Xipaozi village, northeastern China. The dried pond mud helped preserve them, but also caused some genetic damage due to residual gamma radiation in the mud. However, the oldest viable lotus seeds, as verified by carbon dating, were "only" about 466 years old. Other lotus seeds, thought to be 2,000 years old, were germinated in the 1950's and are the parents for the Ohga lotus, still grown in Japan's Chiba Prefecture today.

An Argentinian canna, which was preserved due to its use in a toy. The seeds were somehow inserted into a green walnut, and the walnut hull grew around the canna seed, resulting in an impervious container. The purpose was to use as a rattle. This seed was about 530 years old (from about the year 1420).

Various South African seeds (legumes and Protea) were found in a Dutch merchant Jan Teerlink diaries from 1803, which had been stored in the British museum, and recently a few were germinated.

Botany professor Dr. William James Beal buried a number of seed varieties in jars, in 1879, in an experiment to see how long they would survive. A few Verbascum seeds made it 120 years, stored in moist, well aerated sand in East Lansing, Michigan. Presumable Dr. Beal is buried somewhere as well, but I doubt that he would germinate now.

Apparently, the ability of seeds to survive extended periods of time depends on a combination of traits of the plant, the ability to grow a hard shell (or, in the case of the canna, a hard shell and then be encased in a harder shell), storage conditions, especially dry, and the skills of the person trying to germinate them.

Of course, there are the ordinary garden vegetables. Tomato seeds can last 5-10 years. Onions, only 1 year.

(The photo above is from an antique postcard, found on webshots - they did not have photos of the Judean Palm, 2,000 years ago). Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 20, 2006

6 Months Back: Spring had Sprung.

One of the reasons to blog (or, pre-internet, keep a garden log) is to find perspective. Now the world is starting to look grey, leaves have fallen, perrenials are blackened and sad.

Exactly six months ago,l May 2006. Rhododendrons were blooming. Lush irises were filled with candy fragrance.

It helps keep me going to know that in the buds, and inside the rhozomes and bulbs, and under the ground, these plants are preparing themselves for another colorful Spring.

That's why I posted them now. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Chilly rainy Sunday.

The rest of the collected leaves were added to thinning mulch around blueberries and a few other areas. If I had time, I would collect & chop more and spread them on the vegetable bed, but the key problem is at the start of this sentence.

The Shlumbergera (must be a Thanksgiving cactus since it's blooming now) provided some cheer.

Tomorrow I'll take the day off from the bike commute. It will geve me a chance to stock the fridge with the week's lunches, and stock my desk with some clean clothes. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 18, 2006

More therapy. The last tomatoes. Crazy leaf guy (me). Last ginkgo leaf.

That crazy leaf guy (me). While walking Charlie & Baigo, I passed a lady packaging up her leaves. I asked if I could have them. Here they are. I spent a couple of hours spreading them on the driveway, running over them with the lawn mower, then spreading the chopped leaves on the borders. The mower works better than the chipper shredder, but either way it's hard work.

A few tomatoes still ripening in the window. Ning made a stir fry using green tomatoes. Good.

One final leaf on the ginkgo tree. Ning doesnt know it yet but I collected a quart container full of ginkgo fruits (from a tree in an East Mill Plain park) to clean for seeds. I dont know if I'll plant them or eat them.

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I would take a long soak in the tub except for one small problem....

About 1/2 of the wall is down to studs. The floor layers are all off except the last layer of particle board.

Most of the framing is gone from the dividing wall. Once the remaining drywall is off, and the particle board is off the floor, I can start framing. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 17, 2006

"my other car is a bike" bumper sticker

from this site. Posted by Picasa

Overwintering geraniums & cuttings. More cacti. Anigozanthos.

The geraniums in the garage look rather sad. Of course, dormancy isn't supposed to be pretty. Here's a topic for discussion: should I call them pelargoniums, like the 'real' gardeners do, or geraniums, like everyone else? For that matter, is the plural pelargonia / gerania?

The epiphyllum is back inside, just in time. It's in the same spot as last year.

Also visible, the Anigozanthos flavidus (Kangaroo paw hybrid). I did some web research on culture for these plants. Apparently not very well known in this climate, especially overwintering.

For future reference:
-Googling on images, this plant is apparently an A. flavidus hybrid. It might be "Bush Gold" although I generally avoid most things named 'Bush'. Here's another description of Bush Gold.
-They prefer bright light.
-They need excellent drainage.
-They dont like excess phosphorus.
-It seems that they can be overwintered indoors.
-They store water in their rhizomes, so can go without water for extended periods.

So, I'll try to resist watering it unless it's very dry, and if it survives Winter, I'll try to keep it in bright light, use a well drained potting soil when it comes time to repot, and resist using any high-phosphate plant foods (although growing organically, most supplements that I use don't have excess phosphate).

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The geranium cuttings have rooted now. They have roots coming out of the holes in the containers. The non-scented varieties are doing better than the scented-leaf ones (in the garage and the window sill) but all they need to do is survive, for a head start next year.

Biked 3 days this week. New bumper sticker states "My other car is a bike".

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cactus therapy.

Some green therapy here. Each year I seem to find something different to over-do. One year it was roses, then tomatoes, then peppers, then figs. The roses are mostly still there, but out of favor due to high maintenance (except a few). I can only grow so many tomatoes or figs, and I think i have them more-or-less figured out for this area. The peppers are not so rewarding although I'll keep trying a few.

Without intending to, it looks like this time it's cacti. Looking around the yard and in the windows, there are quite a few. These are not well identified, but I'm thinking (left to right) Echinopsis sp, Gymnocalycium sp., and Selenocereus sp. These identifications may change if they have identifiable blossoms. Based on web photos, Gymnocalycium flowers are amazingly colorful.

I've been growing this cactus through about 4 'cutting generations' over a period of 15 years. It sits neglected in the yard in the summer, and occasionally I start a new pad. I've given away some of the larger plants due to moving, and one was killed in a frost. Now I want to try again. based on photos in a book and on the web, this is Opuntia neoargentina but could also go by Brasioliopuntia braziliensis and multiple other names. It has a yellow flower. It can grow as a tree on a thick trunk, and tiers of branches with pads that fall off when dry. The original was a gift from a friend in Lafayette indiana; his cactus was over 6 feet tall when I first saw it. Googling on this species, it appears to be threatened in its original habitat in much of its habitat, much of which has been destroyed in Brazil, but it also grows widely in some tropical areas.

Today 2 more were added from Lowes. The result of an overly stressful week (if only I drank, I wouldnt have to keep adding vegetation around the house!). Given the winter season, a colorful Schlumbergera hybrid (labeled as Zygocactus) and a small Parodia (labeled as Notocactus herteri). The Notocactus comes in many colorful varieties.

Outside are 2 Opuntias that have survived two winters so far. Neither has blooded.

It's amazing to look at the photos of cactus flowers and read about their climates, and the history of their horticulture. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Some wise words for me to take to heart.

Sometimes you do your best and someone will punish you for it. Sometimes you have to let go. This bumpersticker at this site. Posted by Picasa

Schlumbergera cactus

It was out on the deck for the summer. Brought in inside in October. Very low maintenance. Grown from cuttings last year, just stuck them into the soil & it took off. With some plants, you just cant lose. (although with these pajamas, the photo isnt exactly ready for HGTV) Posted by Picasa