How to propagate trees and shrubs from seeds
QHaving been successful with AG’s free seeds, propagation is proving addictive and I’d now like to try germinating seeds of trees and shrubs. How do I go about collecting or obtaining seed and sowing?
AWhile the seeds of most annuals and biennials will germinate soon after sowing, trees and shrubs can take their time. I’ve sown seeds of Japanese maple and tree peony in autumn to have some germinate within a month, more the following spring and still more the spring after. Tree peonies were still emerging four years after they were sown, so patience is well rewarded.
The seeds of hardy plants usually enter dormancy to prevent them from germinating during harsh conditions. Many develop hard seed coats that won’t allow water to enter until time, fungi and bacteria have worn them down, and some need to experience a period of cold to trigger germination.
Knowing this, gardeners have developed techniques to help speed the process. Scarification is the nicking or abrading of hard seed coats to let moisture in and start the germination process. Stratification consists of chilling seed to mimic a cold winter. The seed is placed in a poly bag of moist compost (usually a mix of sieved leaf mould, composted bark and grit).
After a couple of days in warmth, this is stowed in the fridge for two months before sowing. I prefer to let nature take its course and sow into a pot or pan in autumn as soon as the seed is ripe, let it feel the natural cold of winter, and wait.
Young trees of elm, Christmas tree, tree peony and rowan are just a few raised from seed in our unheated greenhouse.