Rare and Unusual

brandon7 TN_zone(7)December 24, 2012

What are some of the rare and/or unusual ornamentals (I'm especially thinking perennials, vines, shrubs, or trees) you are winter sowing (and are at least reasonably easy to germinate the same year they are sown)? I'm trying to think of some new ideas for this year.

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terrene(5b MA)

Well I just got some tree and shrub seeds from the Arnold Arboretum. I am really excited but a little intimidated by the idea of trying to get these to grow. Some of them such as the Styrax japonicus require 2 years to germinate.

So far I've sown -

Franklinia alatahama, aka Franklin tree, named after Benjamin Franklin. Possibly the rarest tree in North America and extinct in the wild. Reputed to be difficult to establish.
Wisteria frutescens - Kentucky Wisteria
Hamamelis virginiana - Autumn witch hazel
Rhododendron calendulaceum - Flame azalea
Heptacodium miconoides - seven star tree? Name is something like that - People have posted pics of this small tree covered with Monarch butterflies when it's blooming

Also plan to sow the Magnolia seeds I posted on the Tree forum and others.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 9:05PM
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I don't know if its rare but I traded for some Hesperaloe parviflora (Red Yucca) very excited about this shrub.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2012 at 7:52PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Franklinia alatamaha - I hear from good authority that it won't do well here (my part of the country) due partially to a cotton-related pathogen (I think it's Phymatotrichopsis omnivora). You may be able to grow it though, since it seems to do well at Arnold.

Wisteria frutescens - Don't give up on it too soon. I hear seed-grown ones can take quite a few years to bloom.

Heptacodium miconioides - Seven-Son Flower Tree - one of these days, I'm definitely gonna get one. I've seen some beautiful larger specimens at various arboretums/gardens, and it's a good conversation piece.

Hesperaloe parviflora - Hmmm, I bet that one would do good here. Really pretty plant, in bloom.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2012 at 10:37PM
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river_crossroads z8b Central Louisiana

birdhouse gourd (lagenaria)
hoping our gardening group can sell gourd birdhouses at our fall plant sale, have commercial seeds but have never grown, supposed to be an enormous vine if anyone needs a vine for shade or privacy, I am to sow Feb 1 in z8

OT spring sowing, this needs warm weather but I see that you are warm z7, Brandon:

torenia (wishbone flower)
blooms in a lot of shade, wants a little sun in my hot climate and lots of moist cool shade, could grow in the shade of your trees near the downspout of a rain gutter or near a sprinkler system, reportedly good shade plant for butterflies and hummingbirds, I have known this to self-seed in my climate but have never grown from seed

Catalogue picture of burgundy colored torenia seeds I have bought

Growing gourds

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 9:44AM
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terrene(5b MA)

River, you will have to post pictures if you get some good gourds!

Brandon, I am having a hard time finding info on propgating Franklinia alatamaha from seed. Some sources say "don't let the seeds dry out", others say it work better to sow later in winter. I was given a round pod, cracked open 1/2, and there was 15 seeds in 1/2 the pod. So, to cover my bases I sowed 15 now, and will sow another 15 later in the winter. But will the seeds will perish if they dry out?? Who knows! Maybe the pod is not even viable.

That's too bad you can't grow Franklinia in TN - I've read it won't grow in Georgia where it was discovered either, maybe because of that cotton pathogen.

And the wisteria - well the pod was not properly dried and those were already sprouting! They had swelled and had a little root coming out, so I sowed all those, and put that container in the garage, where it will remain at refrigerator temp for the winter, but won't freeze. So those little sprouts don't get killed??

And then the Styrax japonicus has such a hard seed coat and supposedly requires 2 years to germinate. Several years back I sowed Chionanthus virginicus from seed, similar type of seed, left the container out for 2 years, no sprouts. So no luck with cold-warm-cold strat yet!

I have no idea how well this is gonna work! But I do love to experiment.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 11:53AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Terrene, you're right about the sparsity of information online about germinating franklinia seeds. If your seeds are fresh, planting right away is definitely preferable. However, if they are dried out, they'll need to be stratified before planting (or winter sown, which does the stratification more naturally). If you're not sure whether they are less than fresh, one method that might give you some idea is to do a float test on the seed. If they sink immediately, I'd say they are less likely to require stratification. If they don't sink within a very short time (maybe a minute), I'd guess stratification (or winter sowing) would be necessary. I see no benefit of just holding the seeds until later in the season. Even if you don't want to plant them now, they'd be better off if you'd at least put them in stratification. Of course, since this is the Winter Sowing Forum, the "elephant in the room" is that winter sowing would probably be the most reliable method.

Below, I will link an article that gives quite a bit of info about franklinia stratification and germination. Go down to page 16 (original page 535).

Here is a link that might be useful: See page 16 (535)

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 10:44PM
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Re Franklinia: If you have fresh seeds, getting them to germinate doesn't appear to be a problem. (50% germination.) However, getting the seedlings to survive when placed in the ground has been the problem here. Good drainage is a must!

I used a kitty litter container (larger than a milk jug) to grow my last batch. I chose this container because I was able to leave the seedlings in there for two seasons. They thrived all summer; great autumn color when I peeked at them in Oct. This next year we will either pot up or put outside. Survival rate after this is about 30%.

I don't check this forum often any more but give much credit to starting my old age hobby of winter sowing five years ago. What fun! And a wonderful way to get some of those rare plants, too.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 10:16AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hey Brandon and Ncrescue, thank you for that additional info on Franklinia, very helpful. I am going to try the sink or swim test on the seeds too.

Nobody seems to know whether long-term storage of the seed is possible however I am going to try and save a few seeds for next year.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 5:03PM
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