All true plants can be started from seed but the plants that are most often started from seeds are annuals.
Plants that are sown for the retail market from are ones that germinate and come into flower quickly. The longer a plant takes to mature the more expensive it is for the grower and ultimately the consumer. In a competitive market, time and space are very important.
Plants that take too long to germinate and grow are often started by a cutting which is a process that allows the plants to mature faster. Cuttings also insure the product is consistent.
Given the same environmental conditions the plants will all grow at the same rate, achieve the same height and flower at the same time. They also react to the same diseases, viruses and environmental stresses which means that in a bad year the garden suffers.
If time is not an issue, starting plants from seed allows gardeners to bring in new varieties and new genetics. It is also possible to start and grow plants that would not usually thrive in Central Alberta. It just depends on the DNA of the plant in question. In nature the fit survive.
Seeds have a built in protection system that keeps them dormant until conditions are perfect for them to germinate, grow and thrive. This becomes a problem if the conditions do not match those of the grower.
Many seeds from trees, shrubs and perennials will have to undergo a one or more process before they will germinate. For this reason, look for germinating instructions before purchasing seeds.
Expect to find the following germination suggestions depending on the variety of seed.
l Place the seeds in a moist sterilized soil and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 months before planting. Even then the seeds can take a few months to germinate.
l Rub the seed between coarse sandpaper.
l Soak the seed until it swells.
l Cover the seed bed with black plastic to insure that the seed does not receive any light.
l Place the seed on top of the soil in a bright area.
l Freeze the seed before planting.
Gardens North in Nova Scotia collects and sells seeds through out the world. They haven’t printed a catalogue for a number of years but they have a visitor friendly web site that contains all the information needed. Check this site often as it changes with seed availability. www.gardensnorth.com Note that some of the seed is cultivated while other seeds are collected in the wild.
Botanical gardens are often a great source of unique seeds. The Devonian Botanical Gardens just south of Edmonton is part of the University of Alberta. It sells seeds to its members and makes the remainder of the seeds available to the public.
At present time a membership costs $50 which includes 25 packages of seeds, unlimited entrance to the gardens, a quarterly magazine and a discount on classes.
Seed from here is collected by at the gardens or from members’ gardens. www.devonian.ualberta.ca When I browsed the seed catalogue I found that parts were not working and used the search seed portion by choosing the category and not giving a common or Latin name. Very few common names are included in the catalogue.
Most of the larger Canadian seed houses sell a number of perennial seeds as well as annuals.
Starting plants from seed can be very rewarding as it allows people to try new plants that are not always available at local garden centers.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or firstname.lastname@example.org