This young New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus) shrub, which I started from seed last spring, is blooming prettily beside our patio. Small shrubs are not that common in our native flora so I would like to be able to offer New Jersey Tea in the nursery. Alas, none of the young New Jersey Teas that I lined out in the vegetable garden last fall survived the winter. I need to find better techniques to get this shrub though winter. The seed for the individual in the picture came from Lambton Prairie near High Park in Toronto and while it survived the winter just fine, I had planted it by midsummer. I now have some seeds started which came from Knox Landing – just down the road, along the shore of Ottawa River – and they may prove to be hardier.
Other Ceanothus species are those stunning blue-flowered things from California and they are not hardy at all.
I am trying to make up for the weeks I posted nothing by posting two Plants of the Week in one week. What with getting the place ready for our Open Garden Day and then dashing off to Toronto for my cousin Julia’s wedding, I got behind on blog writing.
I had a fine time at Seedy Saturday, Ottawa, this past Saturday, talking native plant talk to many interested people and selling lots of seed packets.
Big sellers were fruiting shrubs, which I didn’t expect, and both species of milkweed that I offered — butterfly milkweed and swamp milkweed — which I did expect, given the amount of publicity monarch conservation has received this year. I never expect shrub and tree seeds to be big sellers. It just seems more likely that urban and suburban gardeners want only one or two individuals of these and they would prefer them already several years old. However, last year, someone was delighted to find hackberry tree seeds and bought all I had. This year, showy mountain ash and black chokeberry sold out before 11 am. Note to self: don’t underestimate gardeners’ desire to provide for birds.
Foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) and great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) were also popular, partly, I’d guess, because I talked them up as easy and showy for gardens.
I received several complements on the new seed cards with colour photos.
Next year, I will aim to bring the native plants seeds to some other Seedy Saturdays in the region. There are Seedy Saturdays in Kingston, Cornwall, Perth and Pembroke to investigate.
My seeds of showy mountain ash (Sorbus decora), cold stratifying in the fridge, showed signs of germinating so I planted the little sproutlings in potting soil and put them in the coldest window, to delay their growth enough to allow the calendar to catch up to them. They are reaching for light a bit, but they are very cute.
Seeds of plants which grow in cool conditions may start to germinate in the fridge. Especially when I haven’t grown the species before, I may estimate that they need a much longer cold-moist stratification period than they do. It is useful to check on stratifying seeds — about once a month should do in the winter, more frequently as the season progresses.
I collected the showy mountain ash seeds in Nova Scotia this past September. I have very fond memories of this lovely shrub/small tree from a visit, some years ago, to Newfoundland in early October. Bright orange clusters of mountain ash fruit were everywhere, the most colourful thing in the landscape.