Suspicious seeds!

donn_(7b-8a)December 29, 2006

I've been spending an inordinate amount of time going through my seed collection, and organizing it. I even shipped off a pound of seeds each to two people who provide free packets of seeds to winter sowing newbies.

So I found this packet I got in a trade, marked "Pennisetum a" and looked them over closely before hulling them. The hulls and carriers were decidedly yellow-tan in color, unlike any P.a. seeds I've collected from my plants. There wasn't a hint of any other color in them, and the seeds inside were substantially smaller than those I've collected, but plump and fully formed.

I'm suspicious, and will see if I can get them to germinate next spring, grow them out and see what I get. I'm thinking they may be one of the less popular Pennisetums, like caudatum.

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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

I don't know Donn .... I think you've been spending wayyyy too much time with your seeds! :o)
It WILL be interesting to see if your observations pan out ~ be sure to let us know what your seed grows up to be ...

How many different grasses ARE you planning to grow from seed this year??

    Bookmark   January 10, 2007 at 10:17PM
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Well, let's see. I have seeds for these:


Andropogin gerardii - Big Bluestem
Achnatherum calamagrostis - Silver Spike Grass
Cortaderia selloana 'Rosea' - Pink Pampas Grass
Eragrostis elliotii - Blue Love Grass
Juncus patens 'Carmen's Gray' - Blue Rush
Melinus nerviglumis 'Savannah' - Ruby Grass (A)
Schizachyrium scoparium - Little Bluestem
Sporobolus wrightii - Big Sacaton

More of:

Carex comans 'Bronze Form' - New Zealand Hair Sedge
Carex grayii - Gray's Sedge
Carex muskingumensis - Palm Sedge
Carex unknown - From volunteers
Cortaderia selloana - White Pampas Grass
Deschampsia caespitosa - Tufted Hairgrass
Festuca glauca - Blue Fescue
Festuca gigantea - Giant Fescue
Hystrix patula - Bottlebrush Grass
Lagurus ovatus - Bunny Tails (A)
Luzula nivea - Snowy Woodrush
Miscanthus sinensis 'Central Park' - Eulalia Grass
Pennisetum "a" - Unknown Fountain Grass
Pennisetum alopecuroides - Fountain Grass
Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty' - Ornamental Millet (A)
Pennisetum orientale (?) - Oriental Fountain Grass
Setaria faberi - Giant Foxtail (A)
Tridens flavus - Purpletop

These are under consideration...if I place Jellito order:

Acorus calamus - Sweet Flag (not a grass, but)
Carex albula 'Frosted Curls'[Amazon Mist] - Frosty Curls Sedge
Carex buchananii 'Red Rooster' - Leather Leaf Sedge
Carex flacca - Blue Sedge
Carex flava - Yellow Sedge
Carex macrocephala - Largehead Sedge
Carex pendula - Drooping Sedge
Carex secta - Pukio
Carex sylvatica - Forest Sedge
Carex testacea - Orange Sedge
Carex trifida - Muttonbird Sedge
Chionochloa flavicans - Snow Tussock Grass
Chionochloa rubra ssp. cuprea - Red Tussock Grass
Festuca punctoria - Hedgehog Fescue
Festuca scoparia (gautieri) 'Hobbit' - Bearskin Fescue
Festuca valesiaca 'Glaucantha' - Volga Fescue
Panicum clandestinum - Deer Tongue
Pennisetum orientale 'Tall Tails' - Oriental Fountain Grass
Pennisetum vilosum - Fountain Grass "White Ladies"
Uncinia rubra 'Firedance' - Red Hook Sedge

A big difference this year will be single seed sowing. I'll grow a couple of clumps of each variety, but the majority will be lone seeds. I want to see if I can isolate sports and variants, especially with seed I've collected from my own plants.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2007 at 7:37AM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

Sounds like an interesting list.
Not so sure about Panicum clandestinum ... in the books it just looks too much like a weed.
However, I would love to see a picture of your Eragrostis elliotii - Blue Love Grass when it grows up.

Re sowing: you might consider sticking to your regular clump sowing method for the germination period & then when the plants are big enough you can pull them apart and grow them on individually. They won't suffer if you split them up before their roots get too big. I only suggest this as a space saving idea - grasses don't always give the highest rate of germination (as you must well know) so you might have a lot of empty spaces .....

You must have quite a lot of space to plant all these seedling out?? Quite often differences between individual plants doesn't show up until the 2nd or 3rd year .....

If you find some really good individuals, then what??

    Bookmark   January 11, 2007 at 8:23AM
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I'm going to experiment with a few different germination methods.

1. 2-3 seeds in small cells, 1.5-1.75" square. I can put 49-64 of these cells in a 1 square foot flat. It'll be easy to transplant multiple germinations from these, and it'll decrease the number of no-show cells.

2. Several seeds, spaced out ~1" apart in larger cells.

3. Germination inside, in paper towels, followed by transplanting to individual cells.

Not all the seedlings will be planted in the ground. I'm building a nursery cage which will be on my boardwalk. It will have shelves for flats of small plants, and will be covered with poultry wire all year, and heavy plastic sheet in winter. I don't have a lot of ground space. The total lot size is 2/5 of an acre.

"If you find some really good individuals, then what??"

Good question. Grow them out and divide them to see if they're stable plants. After that, who knows?

    Bookmark   January 11, 2007 at 9:08AM
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Donn, I'd appreciate a little hand-holding with sowing ornamental grasses. I didn't succeed with germinating Carex flagellifera by winter sowing several years ago and am trying it again this year. I'm also going to sow Pennisetum alopecuroides and Pennisetum orientale.

Even though all three grasses are perennial for me, I believe they're considered warm season grasses. Didn't you say that you've had better success sowing warm season grasses closer to the last frost date?

Thanks for your kind help~

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 8:33PM
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Dirty...that's right. The grasses, for the most part, don't need cold moist stratification in order to germinate. Warm season grasses germinate at warmer soil temperatures than cool season grasses, so if you WS them, they sit there in the moist conditions too long, and rot before they can sprout.

I've had up to 10 times better germination from warm season grasses by sowing them late in winter, or even during spring and summer. Sow them on the surface, or just lightly covered, and set the containers in the sun, and they sprout quickly.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 6:11AM
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