How to prop­a­gate trees and shrubs from seeds

Amateur Gardening - - Contents - Edna Welthorpe, Stock­ton-on-Tees

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.

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