Plant of the year 2014

I know people have been on the edge of their seats waiting for this post, so to end the secrecy, stop the speculation, and quell the rumors I’m finally pulling back the curtain and reveling this year’s number one plant.  Bearing the title of “Plant of the year” is not an accolade to be taken lightly, and although last year’s winner promptly died after receiving this distinction (from overwatering, a common curse for too fast and furious a rise in fame), I’m hoping the 2014 champion carries the torch a little longer.  Without further ado, the co-winners for 2014 are my little lotus seedlings from way back in April.

4/27 Lotus seeds sprouting

4/27 Like some creepy alien stretching after being awoken from inside its space pod, the seed sends out a green shoot.

The seeds were one of those random things hastily tacked onto a HPS seed exchange order.  “I can pick as many as twenty packets” is dangerous in December, and while the snow was flying, the irresistible tagline of “Flower color is a surprise! Worshipped by people around the world, the sacred lotus is a true showstopper” overcomes all lack of experience and lack of suitable growing conditions.

Three large marble sized seeds came, sat around, and on 4/15 were planted unceremonially onto some sand at the bottom of an empty margarine tub.    Before going in, the seeds were scarified by rubbing against a file just enough to break through the dark outer coating.  Two inches of water on top and then under the lights and onto the heat mat they went.

“Grower must have patience” was the other thing I glossed over on the listing, and although this is usually code for guaranteed failure, things moved fast this time, and in just over a week the seed shell split and a little green arm started to reach out of the pod.  The margarine tub was already too small, so sprouting seeds were potted up into regular potting soil, covered with grit (to keep everything from floating away) and their new and improved water bucket went back under the grow light.

5/1Lotus seeds potted up

5/1 Thirty days after seeds were sown the Lotus seedlings already needed more room and deeper water.

I’m still surprised anything sprouted in the first place, let alone grew.  Lotus seed can sit for a loooooong time without doing a thing.  According to Wikipedia, they are the third oldest viable seed ever found, with seed recovered from a dry lakebed in China sprouting after 1,300 years of dormancy.  I’m glad I didn’t have to wait that long.  They sprouted fast and then grew fast.  A leaf came first, which for a water plant makes sense since who needs roots to search out water when you’re surrounded by it?  The stem looked ready to reach up through a couple of feet of water to reach a surface, but in my little bucket it was forced to twist and kink as it adapted to the cramped quarters.

5/23 first leaves on lotus seedlings

5/23 Four weeks after sowing, the bucket went outside onto the cold driveway.  The first leaf was quickly followed by a second and now the seeds were also sending out roots and a small rhizome began creeping out of the seed shell.

Once things outside heated up, the lotus (along with algae) really took off.  In just a week leaves expanded, new shoots came up and the plants really seemed excited to have some actual sunlight.

6/4 young lotus seedlings

6/4 The lotus seedlings are soaking up the warmth and sun.

As the seedlings kept growing, my lack of even the smallest water garden was starting to become apparent.  No matter and no worries, there’s a sizeable pot ghetto that forms on the driveway each spring, and what’s one more plant in need of a home?

6/25 Lotus growing in a bucket

6/25 Three weeks later and we reach a milestone with the first two aerial leaves. All lotus leaves shed water, and even the least plant-interested child loves playing with drops on the green pads.

Just recently I finally did my little lotus proud by plugging up an unused planter and moving them on up to a bigger apartment on the east side.  They had been sulking for most of July since I think they used up the nutrients in their little starter pots, but after visiting four stores I finally found the plant tabs I wanted and in they went.  Growth is back on track!

8/12 Lotus in a container

8/12 The little guys in a tub on the “patio”.  They don’t look much bigger here, but their former home was about half the size of the nearby blue planter.

So my lotus plants are now officially the plant of the year, and although the pressures of marketing, plant appearances and market demand which come with this distinction could be overwhelming, I think my seedlings can handle it.  I just hope they can handle winter when it comes….. we’ll see.

Hope you’re enjoying your own plant of the year, and special thanks to Aquascapes Unlimited, a Pennsylvania aquatic plant nursery and consulting firm (who have a great website with an exceptional aquatic plant database), for donating seeds last winter to the Mid Atlantic HPS seed exchange and through them to me!

Thankful for Seeds

Being the non-cooking type has its advantages on a day like Thanksgiving.  Other family members were busy baking and broiling but I was settled down at the kitchen table going through my seed donations for the HPS (mid Atlantic) seed exchange.  It’s my first time ever contributing to this type of seed exchange and the sharing part is great, but better yet is the fact that as a donor I get to add a few extra packets on to this year’s wish list!seed saving

I’m sinking deeper and deeper into seed addiction.  Catalogs are nice enough, but for some of the really special things seed exchanges are a great deal, and around here the HPS exchange is a great place to start for hundreds of annuals, perennials, bulbs, shrubs and even trees.  An annual membership is $25 and includes meetings and events, but since I live further away I really joined for the seeds.  When the exchange opens in January members can choose 25 packets for something like $15 and it’s kind of like Christmas after Christmas.  Not to rub it in but I’ll be choosing 35 this year with my donor status….. hopefully what I sent in passes muster and isn’t laughed at!

There are several other great seed exchanges.  I’m doing the North American Rock Garden Society’s exchange (as a non-donor) and the basics are the same.  Small fee=many cool seeds.  The NARGS exchange also does a bonus round where you can pick through the leftovers after the first flush of orders are filled and although many selections may be scarce it’s an even better deal.  Just last week I unearthed my haul from last year. NARGS surplus seed All kinds of goodies were re-discovered just in time for fall planting, I think it was something like 20 packets for $7 and I picked out 40.  Who can’t use a few more lily seedlings coming along or a couple packets of winter aconite seed?  NARGS keeps previous lists online, so if you’re curious to see if it’s something you might be interested in, click here.

There are plenty of other places to feed a seed addiction.  Most plant societies run their own exchanges, and in the trenches there are other plant crazy gardeners willing to put in the time, resources, and tedious labor required for collecting and preparing seeds.  Amy has a blog over at Primrose Hill Woodlanders  and is the magic behind the Primrose Society’s annual seed exchange, and if you’ve never checked out Nan Ondra’s blog Hayefield, you really should.  Nan just wrapped up her big seed giveaway, and all told packed and sent out around 1,000 packets of over 100 unique and hard to find varieties to her loyal blog readers.  Just thinking about keeping track of who wants what and all the collecting and cleaning makes my head spin, so I’m happy enough to send my dozen seed varieties in as bulk donations and wait for the list to come out!

Have a great weekend…. and before I go, if you haven’t been tempted by seeds you may be tempted by late season bulb clearances.  Brent and Becky are having their traditional after Thanksgiving clearance sale.  50% off all remaining stock!  My fingers are crossed for a warm spell so I can still plant them in the garden and not pot them all up 🙂