Archive for ‘Seeds’

March 13, 2017

Trees from seed 

by Ciaran Burke

In the autumn we had down seeds of a number of tree species.

Now at in the beginning of March, we are starting to see the first signs of growth. One of the first species to appear was Sorbus magalocarpa. we were delighted and excited to see a small seed leaves year from the soil.

And as soon as the first true leaves had grown print out the seedlings into small pots. Now they are growing on in the tunnel. Since then a number of other three species have started to germinate.

It is an exciting time of year when the garden is full of potential and the gardeners full of expectation. As we watch more ceilings appear every week The joy of seeing you seedlings in their small leaves and shoots above the compost surface never diminishes.

November 20, 2016

Sow seeds for great trees in future

by Ciaran Burke

Autumn is a great time of year for collecting seed, and sowing it. Many tree and shrub species can be sown in autumn, in fact they need a winter chilling before they can feminists in Spring. This requirement for cold exposure is called cold stratification.

Leave trays of sown seeds in a sheltered spot outdoors over the winter.

Watch out for signs of germination in Spring and then bring them into the green house.

A covering of horticultural grit will help to reduce the growth of miss in the surface of the compost.

June 22, 2015

Two little big surprises from seed

by Ciaran Burke

Alnus fruticosa – dwarf seedling


Betula albosinensis – 9 year old in centre at back of deck


Buds of dwarf alder


Bark of dwarf Betula albosinensis


dwarf Betula albosinensis in spring

We made a list of all the plants that we are currently growing in our container garden. Some of the plants we brought with us from our old garden. Included in these are a number of plants that we raised from seed. When growing plants from seed, each one is genetically distinct from the others. Although the majority will usually look quite similar when growing trees such as birch or alder, occasionally one can be pleasantly surprised. In 2006 we sowed seed of Betula albosinensis and an unusual alder, Alnus fruticosa. We potted up the germinated seeds and after a few years some plants were planted in the garden. From each of the two species, we got one individual amongst the seedlings which displayed characteristics remarkably different from the rest of their seedling batch; dwarf bushy plants! In the case of the Birch, after nine years our selected plant now measures less than 1 meter and has a bushy habit, all other plants grew much taller and average about 3 meters or more. From the alders only two plants survived, one growing to 2.5 meters, typical of whet on would expect, but the other is hardly reaching 30cm and retains a distinctly bushy growth habit. The dwarf plants from each batch we dug up and now grow as prized plants in our containers. With Plants that we have propagated ourselves, we create a stronger attachment when compared to bought plants. Seed raised plants have the bonus of potential individual interest, diversity and the potential to be something special.

November 11, 2012

Tom’s Tom- From red centiflor to little yellow pear

by Ciaran Burke

A few years ago we sowed some seed of a Tomato, the variety was called Tomato ‘Red Centiflor’. We purchased it from Irish Seedsavers Association. It grew well, a tasty little tomato. It bears its fruit in big clusters. The trusses, the fruiting branches f tomatoes, are packed with a huge mass of flowers and bear masses of small red fruit. We saved some seed of our own. Some of it we gave to my Dad, Tom.

The following year our seeds germinated and grew as we expected, masses of tiny red fruits on large trusses, but one of Tom’s plants of ‘Centiflor’ produced not round, but plum shaped red fruit, nice. In all other respects it was the same as the original variety, but the shape was like a tiny plum tomato instead of round. That is the nature of seed raised plants, genetic variation can lead to variants, new varieties. We encouraged Tom to save some seed. We sowed some seed this spring and the couple of plants that we grew produced masses of flowers in large trusses, and when the fruit appeared they were plum shaped, actually more like pear shaped.

It grew all summer and when towards the end of the miserable season the fruit eventually ripened they were yellow, not red! So from round red ones they have changed to plum yellow fruits. So this year we will save some seeds and see what comes up next year.

I want to keep the yellow pear shaped centiflor going so before the frosts finally put an end to the plants in the polytunnel I took a few side shoots off to make cuttings. Cuttings are clones, no variation. Tomato cuttings root very easily, even in a little water on the windowsill. I will try and keep it going through the winter and plant it in the tunnel next spring when the weather warms up again.

In the meantime, I will pickle the green fruits that I harvested yesterday using Helsinki Granny’s recipe that I used before. The small funny shaped fruit will look great in a jar and taste delicious with cheese.

Irish Seed Savers Association –LINK

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November 3, 2012

Euphorbia nematocypha add fire to the herbaceous planting scheme

by Ciaran Burke

Euphorbia nematocypha – foliage close up

Sulphur yellow flowers, bushy growth, intense autumn colour and bright red stems. Hardy too. This is Euphorbia nematocypha, a superb spurge for Irish gardens.

Each spring the strong upright growth of the red stems is topped with bright yellow flowers and bracts. The flowers last well into summer and give a fantastic display but the highlight is the autumn show. The green leaves turn to burning orange and red over many weeks through October and early November. Today in our garden, under low and moody grey skies it is luminous. As the leaves start to fall, the bright red stems are exposed, an added bonus to be admired into winter.

Euphorbia nematocypha -plant in our front garden showing autumn tints

The plant is perfectly hardy, I had it in my garden when I lived in Dublin and took the plant with me when I moved to Mayo nine and a half years ago. Here it has thrived, happy in all weather in its sandy soil home. Unbothered by any pest, ignored by diseases, never watered, never fed but never neglected, it thrives with only a cutting back in late winter to tidy the way for new growth to emerge in spring.


Euphorbia nematocypha – foliage and stems close-up

I remember the November night I first acquired this plant. I had had a few ciders. Not the usual circumstances for purchasing a plant. It was in Termonfeckin, Co. Louth, the occasion was the Alpine Garden Society Dublin Group Annual weekend. Two days of fabulous lectures, plant sales and on the Saturday night, the after dinner auction. Held when we all had finished wine with dinner and enjoying drinks from the bar.

I out bid my rivals for a bedraggled plant recently lifted from a members garden, purchased on a verbal description and an auctioneers praise, I think I paid ten pounds. The donor of the plant said to me afterwards that if he had known I wanted the plant he would have dug some from his garden for me for free. The auction money goes to the society so it was for a good cause.

The Euphorbia nematocypha at that time, I think it was 1998, was a very recent introduction from China. Only in 1994 had seed been collected on the Alpine Garden Society China Expedition (ACE). To raise funds for the expedition, members of this English based society, bought shares which entitled them to a quantity of seed collected on the expedition.  The plant which I bought in the auction was one of the fruits of this trip.

Euphorbia nematocypha


Seed was collected from plants growing on the Zhongdian Plateau, where it grows with Iris bulleyana. In June 1996 the AGS quarterly bulletin was dedicated to the expedition, it was filled with reports and information about the plants collected. Two different collection numbers E.nematocypha ACE 292 and ACE 412 are referenced. I do not know from which number collection my plant is from, the original hand written label accompanying the auctioned plant is lost. In the bulletin the writer, Elizabeth Strangman, recommends this as a plant that has “a lot going for it”. 16 years later I can say that I certainly agree, it is one of my favourite plants in our garden.

Euphorbia nematocypha with Libertia and Beschoneria yucciodes in our front garden a few years ago…The Beschorneria died during the winter 2010 – 2011

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