What do you think of my seed database idea?

christinmk z5b eastern WASeptember 19, 2011

Hey all! I have come over here a couple times to ask questions and many times to lurk or look up info. You guys seem like one of the friendliest and most open-minded groups on the forums, so I thought I would post my idea here and see what everyone thinks. I figured you guys would be nice and let me down easy if you thought it was stupid, LOL!!

Earlier this year, during winter sowing time, I came up with the idea of creating some sort of collection of information on what plant cultivars (of all kinds, perennials, annuals, shrubs, etc) come true from saved seed. There doesn't seem to be much information online about this, not compiled into one convenient place at least. It takes a lot of searching to come up with any sort of answer, if at all.

Now I do try and go into all seed starting (especially from saved seed) with my hopes not up too high about it coming true and looking like or even similar to the parent cultivar. Usually I try and just have fun experimenting. Oftentimes I don't even mind if they are a bit different looking. But occasionally I would REALLY like to know if something will come true from seed, particularly if it is something that gets huge or will take a number of years to bloom from seed. In those cases it would be simpler for me to buy a nursery plant instead of taking the time raise it from seed and seeing what it turns out like. That is when I started a table on my Word Doc on plant cultivars I know (from my own experience) come true from saved seed. Then I started wondering if this might be of interest to anyone else and even if others would want to contribute and help expand this list. Knowing how many of you have started plants from seed (and for much longer than I have!) I'm sure it would be pretty incredible and so useful!

But what do you guys think? Good idea or not so much (go ahead and be honest, lol!) Would anybody be interested in seeing and perhaps adding to my list? If so I can polish it up and post it soon. If not I totally understand ;-)

Thanks much!


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bakemom_gw(z6 Central Ohio)

I would say go for it! The worst thing that would happen is that YOU would learn a lot.

I'm pretty loosey goosey on the coming true issue, so that doesn't interest ME. I think you would find me on the extreme end of easy come, easy go. I seem to like just about everything.

BUT, I know there are a lot of folks here who would probably love to see what you come up with.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 9:53AM
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I have two primary sources for seed information: Hazzard's Greenhouse and Swallowtail Garden Seeds. My rule of thumb is, if they don't sell the seeds, chances are good the plants don't/won't come true from seed. They're good barometers for seeds that are sterile for the same reason. For whatever reason, I get happy when plants produce seeds but have to be realistic that many of the seeds are sterile. My neighbor has a gorgeous stokesia that blooms late every year and is covered with literally dozens of bluish-purple flowers well into October. I harvested the abundant seeds back around Christmas when they were so ripe, they poured out of the dead flowers into my hand. I WS those seeds two years in a row and got zero germination while my other stokesias sprouted, grew & bloomed.

I guess I'm thinking a seed database would be helpful for some; I'm not really sure how many folks would use it rather than posting a question on the forum.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 11:40AM
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littleonefb(zone 5, MA)

IF it is something that you want to spend your time doing, then I say go for it and enjoy compiling the information.

There are some things, though, that will throw some monkey wrenches into your info.

Open pollinated seeds, which are what all of us are growing in our gardens always run the risk of not coming true to seed. they can cross pollinate with other plants in the same variety in your gardens, neighbors and who knows whom from wherever your friendly pollinators travel from.

The fact that the plants may or may not come true to seed, doesn't always mean that the new blooms will not be something that you may or may not want to bloom.
Many times, the new bloom that is not the same as the parent plant may or is an improvement in some people's opinions to the original plant.

Like gardenweed said, "it may be helpful to some, I'm not really sure how many folks would use it rather than posting a question on the forum".

The real issue is whether you want to spend the time researching and putting a data base together like this, whether it will serve a purpose for yourself. If in the process of putting this data base together, it's of any interest to others on the forum is secondary. Do for yourself first and decide from there.

Personally, if it where available and I had a specific question about a specific plant, I would probably use it.
If it wasn't available, I would ask on the forum and/or just sow the seeds and see what happens.

On the other hand, if I found out that the seeds don't come true to the parent plant, the odds are I would sow the seeds anyways and see what I got.

Good luck with your decision.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 12:57PM
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sharoncl(z5 WI)

I like the idea! It would have saved me a ton of money my first few years when I went crazy buying seeds (like all of the different columbine seeds available from Thompson and Morgan... I bought 3 or 4 packs of seeds in different forms and colors and they all came out purple with the clematis type flower. I figured they'd come true from a commercial source, but I guess not?)

Now that my gardens are getting older, I sometimes want a specific size or shape or color for a certain spot. It would save a lot of time if I knew I had to buy a plant that fits that description.

I will admit though, like some of the others mentioned, that many of my favorite plants resulted from open-pollinated seeds that look different from what I thought I wanted!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 5:45PM
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plays_in_dirt_dirt(Z7A VA bordering NC state line)

I think it's a great idea and encourage you to forge ahead. I'd love to know the results and hope you will post. I teach a seed saving class and this would be a good list to include, with your permission.

Barbara in Virginia

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 6:55PM
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I would urge you to do it. I am sure I would use it since I'm a compulsive seed-saver and I hate to share those that I'm not sure will be true to their parentage. At least if I have some kind of guide, I can warn recipients that they might get a surprise.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 11:51PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I think its a great idea. As our world becomes more computer-centric, its good to expand our use of this amazing tool to benefit everyone. This would fill a niche that hasn't been filled yet.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 5:59AM
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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

I think, like bakemom said, you could learn a lot. But Like Fran said, there will be lots of monkey wrenches, too.

From the start I'd eliminate most information from the professionals. They do things, and can do things, that home gardeners can't or don't do. They grow vast isolated fields or greenhouses of the same plant and keep them isolated to prevent cross pollination. Or they hand pollinate two specific plants to produce a hybrid whose seeds might do anything from produce exact duplicates (unlikely) to produce no seeds at all, or anything in between.

On the other hand, home gardeners know what happens in their yards, what results they see. e.g. My rud hirtas change because I grow different ones, and so do my neighbors, so they're always getting new chromosomes introduced to the gene poll. But I can depend on this I know: Zinnia elegans don't come true. I grow them and so does the rest of Cincinnati and generations of zin elegans change. But narrow leaf zinnias, profusion zinnias, never change from generation to generation. After growing all colors for years, I can still feel confident that seed from profusion apricot zins will always produce profusion apricot zins.

See what I mean? I'd stick to data from home gardeners.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 8:22AM
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Chances are the results you obtain from your garden would pertain only to your garden, though it WOULD be nice to know if a particular cultivar, when not grown with any other related cultivars, varieties or species, would come reliably true from seed.
If you decide to go on with your project, I'd love to be kept updated on your progress.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 11:37AM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

Thanks for the input everyone.

Oh good! I will go ahead and post then! A question though...how do you get a table (on a Word Doc) to post??? I previewed part of my copy/pasted table and it did not come out at all. Anyone know how to do it?

Before the list I included a page of explanations and guidelines/directions on how the list works and what format to use when adding another item to it, etc. I might have gone a little overboard on that part (hey! It was a long spring and I couldn't get outside, lol!). If anyone has any suggestions on how to make it better, what should be added, edited out, or amended I would love to hear. I appreciate any and all feedback. ;-)

-Karen, didn't even really cross my mind about having information from the professionals, just home gardeners. I've also specified that no commercial seed should be listed for that reason. I agree with you that knowing your garden is important and being able to perhaps see that something might not have truly dehybridized but only cross-bred with another plant. I included a space in the list for people to make such a note if needed.

-Sharon, that is too bad your columbine turned out to all be the same. And especially since you bought them from a good commercial source!? Aquilegia are known to be little "hussies" since they cross-breed readily in the garden. I actually even made a note of that fact on my list just as a forewarning.

-Barbara, absolutely!! I'm glad you think it will be useful enough to be able to use in your class. Hope you and everyone else will be able to add to it as well!

-Barbe, I feel the same. I always try and make a note on my exchange page when I doubt or am not sure something will 'come true' from the saved seed.

-P.S. I'm still unsure about how to go on with the list. How would everyone add to it? Should it be something like the 'Zone Wars' thread where there is a person with the master list that adds to it as people post their information? Any other ideas about how to go about doing it are welcome. I would be fine with updating the list with everyone's findings periodically. I might end up being busy with something this winter, so if there are any volunteers that would be willing to help keep a the master list updated if I couldn't that would be wonderful.

Once I figure out how to post the list I will do it right here on this thread. Then we can iron out any kinks and such before posting it on its own.

Thanks SO MUCH for the encouragement and feedback guys! ;-)

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 1:48PM
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Merilia(8 PNW)

I would love to see something like the following in a table:

Does the seed grow true for you? (y/n)
Do you or your neighbors grow other cultivars in this genus? (y/n)

I feel like we could get a lot of information from people's experiences this way. Maybe we could set up a spreadsheet on google docs with columns and let people fill it out with the information they know from their own gardens?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 6:39PM
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river_crossroads z8b Central Louisiana


You can set up a free google account and post your Word document as a google doc. Just like the Zone Wars Excel spreadsheet that we did last spring. That way you can change your Word doc as much as like and you post a link in gw.

Actually the link can stay the same, you simply make changes to your Word document which will be stored online at google. Storage is free up to 1 GB which might be plenty but if you create it online it looks like it is free up to 10 GB (huge).

It can be very long and each cell can have multiple lines but you could design it so the width fits on 1 screen. I will be delighted to help you. Just e-mail me and I can walk you through it. Best, River

Sample, here is a link that might be helpful: Zone Wars Spreadsheet

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:17PM
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Sounds like good fun! Make sure you take picture! I'm sure you're going to get some interesting flowers.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:26PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

--River, THANK YOU!! That would be fantastic. I have never done the Google Doc before and would love to hear how to go about doing it. Will contact you in a day or two!

-Merilia, thanks for the info too. I wonder though if it wouldn't be better to have only a couple of people run the master list instead of letting it be public?? Would making it open to all mean that someone could get in and intentionally mess it up? The format I used for my list is very similar to what you suggested. ;-)

My list has four categories, Plant Name, Trueness, # Person Confirmation, and Explanation.

What do you guys think about having a person confirmation category? I added it so that a person could see if many people have had the same experience with growing a particular plant from seed. If a number of people have had the same experience then a person could feel even more confident that their seed will come true. That is what I thought anyhow.

The Explanation part is for commenting on almost anything- what a plant looks like if it is only similar to the parent cultivar, what it looks like if it does not come true or dehybridizes, if there was a chance your plant cross-bred with something else and so on.

The Plant Name category includes Genus/Species/Cultivar and also if the plant is known by another name. Like Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstonne' (aka 'Summer Sun').

Then the 'Trueness' category is for marking if you found the plant came true or not. I've actually made several several alternative choices besides just âÂÂtrueâ and âÂÂnot trueâÂÂ. Let me know if you think any are not needed (the True/Not True one maybe??) or redundant:

True= seed raised plants are or look exactly the same as parent cultivar
True/Similar= seed raised plants that come true to parent cultivar with only a few slightly different in appearance
Similar= all seed raised plants are similar looking to the parent cultivar, but not the same
Not True= seed raised plant does not look like parent cultivar at all/reverts to something else
True/Not True= indicates that only one in a number of seeds will come true to parent cultivar or that one attribute of the plant comes true but not another (for instance, flowers are the same but the compact trait of that cultivar does not)
Sterile= plants do not produce seed

If there is anything else that should be included in the categories or if there is something that doesn't quite make sense please let me know and I will go ahead and amend it.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 10:02PM
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Merilia(8 PNW)

As for your categories, I would probably reduce that to just True, Similar and Not True. I think it's a given that some number of seeds in the similar/not true categories will in fact look like the parent plants due to pure chance.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 1:52AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I'm not a computer wizard, but I know my students at MSU who are working on group projects can set up some sort of online group that they all get "invited" to, and then they are all able to make contributions and edit the documents individually. I don't know if that would be feasible with such a potentially large group, but it might take some of the work out of your hands.


    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 6:25AM
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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

I'd keep access to the document to yourself and just a few helpers. Otherwise, even well-intentioned computer idiots, like me, will screw it up.


    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 6:53AM
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