Looking at the calendar I realised I was running late, very late in fact. I should have sown some of my seeds months ago. Before anybody rushes to comment on this I should explain these are the kind of seeds that need a prolonged cold spell to break their dormancy. Described by some as Vernalisation.
We use Vernal a lot in the gardening world, most people know about the Vernal Equinox which we traditionally use as a marker for the first day of spring (in case you were wondering it’s March 20th this year). Vernal comes from the latin word vernis, meaning spring, so why use vernal to describe pre-chilling seed? The action itself is to trick said seed into thinking its gone thorough a winter and it is the raising of the temperature after this chill time that does the trick of making the seed think it’s now spring.
Personally I prefer a different word to describe the act of subjecting seeds to temperature change, Stratification* (not to be confused with Scarification* which is something else entirely). I think it better describes the two and sometimes three stage temperature change required to trick these little packets of potential into germinating.
However at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you call it. Seeds don’t give two hoots what name you give this process, some just need to chill for a bit before they sprout. With this in mind I’ve sown*** my seeds and as this has been and seems set to continue to be an exceptionally mild winter they’re now chillin’ in the fridge.
*Stratification of seeds is the process of pretreating seeds to simulate natural winter conditions that a seed must endure before germination.
**Scarification of seeds is the process of breaking down the seed coat to encourage germination.
*** To stratify or vernalise seed they need to be cold and damp as well. You can use damp compost, vermiculite, paper towels etc. I’ve chosen to sow into damp compost in containers as it reduces faff time later.
Cold and dry conditions are perfect for storing lots of seed tho.
For Several years now I’ve been promising myself a trip to Ashwood Nurseries and for the last three failing to accomplish this mission. However yesterday I felt the need for a serious horticultural jolly. Yes indeed, it is possible to be serious and jolly at the same time.
So armed with my list, credit card and Mother (I’d also been promising to take her to Ashwood for several years) I set off. The sky was blue and the sun shone, which given recent precipitations was in itself no less miraculous than the trip itself. We prepared for all eventualities waterproofs and brollies were packed, however when we arrived the sun still shone and the sky was still blue so we duly left them in the back of the car.
Ashwood nurseries, for those that don’t know, offer tours of their production areas twice a year. You get to look at (but not touch) their stock plants and have a good gawp at their plants in production. The reason for the not touching, as our tour guide explained to us, was to stop accidental pollination occurring. It’s here that the Ashwood magic occurs with cross after cross hopefully resulting in stunning new strains. As he was telling us this I watched a bee fly in through the open vent and get busy amongst the blooms*, I may have smiled.
The range of Hellebores is stunning and the pictures below hardly do justice to the hundreds of colours and forms in this one glasshouse alone.
The second part of the tour takes in a smaller, yet perfectly formed glasshouse, where there’s a fine display of Cyclamen and other winter flowering bulbs and shrubs offering up a good selection for fragrance and winter interest.
Now it was here, dear reader, that things started to change. The Light levels dropped and a rather loud, yet distant rumble could be heard. At first I put the noise down to the vents being hurriedly closed around and about, but as we made our way to the Sales Area it became apparent, as lightening flashed across the sky, the rumble was most definitely thunder.
Comments about the sky being black over Wolverhampton and wondering if Bill’s mother had taken her washing in were made as our guide fought valiantly to continue with his nursery narrative. Given the ferocity of the storm it was a battle he was never going win, with his words inaudible over the hammering of rain on the pollytunnel, it was like being trapped in a kettle drum during a never ending paradiddle.
Now if it hadn’t been for this well timed hailstorm (surely a clever marketing ploy) I would have only purchased those items on my list….
…which was namely a white hellebore and Helleborus foetidus ‘Wester Flisk’. However being trapped here for a prolonged period meant that by the time we got back to the car I seemed to have acquired a few more assorted Hellebores and the odd cyclamen or three.
*they put the following disclaimer on their seeds “We do our utmost to keep our hybrids pure however, due to the natural intervention of insects, colours and forms cannot be guaranteed”