Friday, February 25, 2011

Snow in Winter

Another two centimeters of snow today arrived in the early morning. 

We have had snow and melts and snow again. This only means that spring is on its way.

This is reassuring to me as I wait impatiently for some green growth to show.

Even a slip, a hint, a tease would suffice right now. 

While I wait I read, write, knit, and warm my cold hands on my steamy cup of tea (Rooibos today).

But mostly I watch through the windows for birds, track the sun in the sky and watch the snow fall or melt on the grass.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Seed stash

 I've begun ruminating over what seeds to start for the spring. What should I start indoors? What will I finally seed outdoors this year? Do I still have those scarlet runner bean seeds I meant to grow last year? Upon realizing my stash was not in the coat closet as I believed,  I eventually found my stash in its plastic bag under the desk in the office. You can tell I am an obsessive plantaholic in this regard. 

Aha, seeds galore.

I am not one prone to boasting but I am sure that some of these seeds are true antiques. Take for instance the two packets of cleome, carefully picked from some beautiful plants in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario. I believe that was 1988.

And of course the packet of purple columbine has to be circa 1991. 

You may notice that some packets have been opened. I realize this devalues them but I actually wanted to plant them and have beautiful flowers at some time or another. I think I must have gone a little batty. 
I did steal some seeds from a neighborhood median street planting two years ago. I had been eying them for weeks waiting for the seeds to mature. They were some kind of heliopsis, about seven feet tall or more, with sunny yellow flowers. The right day came and I made my move. I could not resist, but my walking companion was somewhat taken aghast and kept looking over her shoulder until we turned off that street.

I am planting some veggies this year. I was neglectful last year and did not have a veggie garden, and rued my shortsightedness and lack of motivation all summer long. It was too easy. I planted seeds in rows, watered the bare earth for a week or two (there were times I felt ridiculous watering the bare earth - if someone asked what could I say?) and then presto veggies came up.
I don't know why it is not the same with flowers. Too hard? Maybe. There is all that scarification and stratification needed, especially if you are a native plant person like me. I'm lazier than that. 
I think I'll leave that mind searching question alone, since I'd rather concentrate on building my antique seed collection.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day

A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.
Ingrid Bergman

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The self drilling seeds of the filaree

Nature sure knows how to take care of itself.

I am familiar with the common stork's bill or heron's bill or filaree (Erodium spp.) and even killed one in my garden many years ago. They have pretty pink geranium- like flowers (yes they are related) with ferny green foliage.

But what makes them interesting is their seed dispersal mechanism.
The plant flings its seeds away and the seeds then bury themselves by drilling into the ground with the use of its long tail. So how does this work?

Filaree seeds with awn
 Scientists based at the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard University have discovered that the inbuilt spring stores energy as the seed head dries and can flick the seed as far as 0.5 m. The tail, or awn (a hair- or bristle-like appendage) drills into the soil by twisting and untwisting in response to changes in humidity. According to the research "when humidity is low the awn dries, curls and drills the seed into the soil. When the humidity rises the awn uncurls, but backward facing hairs on the awn force the seed to move in one direction so that it continues drilling into the ground even when it uncurls."

If you would like to see a video of the 'drilling' mechanism visit this website at ScienceNow.

The downside to this particular plant is that the filaree has been very successful as an exotic invader. It was introduced into North America in the 18 century and is now an aggressive weed in the south western states such as California in the USA. They are found mostly in desert and grassland areas. The filaree foliage creeps along the ground covering the bare patches of soil ultimately smothering any native grass seeds.

Dried flower, spiral tail on seeds.

Addendum February 11:  Grasses  are the main plant family that have awns attached to their seeds. I could not find any other ornamental plants with awns.  Awns can be quite troublesome for pet owners of cats and dogs as the awn will attach itself to the skin causing lesions. In the worst case awns can travel into the animals body. Sorry don't mean to scare the pet owners out there.