Faith in a Seed! Many of Powell Gardens' flowers arrive as tiny seeds. In fact, this tiny petunia seed has been "peletized" (coated to make it larger and workable). The actual petunia seed is almost like dust.
The tiny peletized seeds arrive in small vials, usually in quantities of 1,000.
Jennifer Comer, Senior Gardener - Grower, shows off this handy contraption called an E-Z seeder. It's a pan-like tray with a grid of tiny holes in it that correspond with the cells in our seed growing trays. The tiny seeds are placed in this pan-like tray and the vacuum turned on! The seed are sucked into the grid of holes that correspond with their seed tray. The vacuum is not turned off until you flip this upside down over the appropriate seed tray, then the suction is released and the seeds fall into their new home to germinate. Can you imagine placing a tiny seed by hand in each tiny cell?
Each seed tray (288 plug tray depicted) is labeled with the name of the plant, the week it is to be planted (Wk(week) 4: January 21-25), the number of days it will need to be a "finished" blooming plant (75-78 days), L= the seed needs light to germinate (don't put soil over the seed!), 6-10d= 6-10 days to germinate; sale means it is grown for our Spring Plant Sale, Extra means it will be available for gardeners to plant, and Friends means it will be available as a free plant for new and renewed Friends of Powell Gardens memberships. Horticulturist-Grower Donna Covell figures this all out!
Here is what seed sown on Week 1 (Dec. 31-Jan 4) looks like. These tiny dusty millers do not yet have their characteristic silvery look.
Jennifer Comer inspects trays of seedlings in the greenhouse. It takes our entire greenhouse team of Horticulturist Donna Covell, Jennifer and gardeners Penny Hudson and Eric Perette to make sure these are watered properly and to keep any pests or diseases at bay.
The next step from the seed tray may be these six packs called "six-o-sixes" because there are six six-packs in a tray. Here, newly transplanted calendulas will grow to blooming size. Once in bloom or "finished" they will be planted outdoors. Calendulas are very hardy and will be planted outside in the later part of March. Many people buy bedding plants in six packs but we put more than one plant in each cell for a fuller display.
These ornamental cabbages and kales are already moved up to 6-inch pots so they will be spectacularly showy plants when they are planted outdoors for you to see in late March.
Stay tuned to see continued progress of our flowers in our greenhouses. Remember all the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today!
All photos were taken by Alan Branhagen on January 22, 2008, in the Powell Gardens greenhouses.