Saturday, February 13, 2010

Matthiola incana 'Vintage White' seeds: a promise of a fragrant summer!

[Photo: Matthiola incana Vintage White seeds with a toonie for scale.]I've grown Matthiola incana (stocks, giroflée) in the past from bedding plants (here's a pretty picture of 'Midget Lavender' from 2007), but this is my first time growing these tender biennials (treated as annuals in Toronto) from seed.

Stocks are not native to North America, and I don't know if they have much wildlife value apart from being a larval host for the cabbage butterfly (Pieris rapae, petit blanc du chou, also not native). But I am a sucker for fragrance, and this flower smells heavenly.

I was pleased to find that the seeds are easy to handle, about the same size and a similar colour to fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum, fenugrec), so much so that I thought they must be closely related (they aren't).

I've picked up a window box cheap at Value Village and I'm planning to fill it up with home-grown sweetly scented stocks outside my bedroom window (along with some Nemophilia menziesii 'Penny Black' (baby black eyes, némophile) for contrast).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Probably not Zizia aurea seedlings

[Photo: supposed to be Zizia aurea seedlings, but more likely some kind of Oxalis.]After putting my stratified native seeds under the grow lights, I was thrilled to see a lush crop of seedings of Zizia aurea (golden Alexanders, zizia d'oré) springing up in only a couple of days. Now that they are getting true leaves, however, they look suspiciously to me like Oxalis (wood sorrel, oxalide). I discovered a nifty resource, Central Region Seedling ID Guide for Native Prairie Plants (PDF), published by USDA, which seems to confirm that these are not Zizia aurea.

I'm going to keep them around a bit longer; maybe they'll look different with age, or maybe more seedlings will come up later? I'm not expecting much though. What a disappointment.

Tradescantia ohiensis seedling!

[Photo: Tradescantia ohiensis seedling.]It's only one seedling, but that's one more Tradescantia seedling than I got last year, when I managed to screw up most of my native plant seeds by putting them in peat pellets outside (which were impossible to keep from drying out).

My son Nicky doesn't usually appreciate native plants, but I piqued his interest in this one by telling him one of its common names in English is "snotweed", because the flowers disintegrate into slimy goo. He was also impressed by the gorgeous photos at Missouri Plants—scroll down for an amazing close-up of the stamens.

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