Saturday, January 30, 2016

Bees and their Comrades

Honeybee on Erica carnea
A day of warm weather with clear skies gave the bees a chance to venture out from the hive for the first time in weeks. Immediately I noticed a few bees working the Winter heath, Erica carnea. This is interesting, because in past years I have seen bumblebees on this plant while the honeybees have shown no interest in it. No bumblebees yet this year that I have seen. There are also fewer flowers after a deer snacked on most of them before deciding it didn't like it. Early nectar sources like this are crucial to honeybees this time of year, because they survive the Winter by feeding on honey from the previous year which has surely gotten low at this point.

Taraxacum officinale with a tiny Chalcidae wasp (top right)
Only a few other flowers are blooming now, including a few dandelions. Honeybees will work these, but typically only when they are abundant. One or two flowers scattered around the lawn will attract few to none. However, a group of them on, say, a dozen plants will probably get noticed.

Crocus sieberi
The only other thing blooming in my yard are the very early Crocus sieberi, with C. chrysanthus to follow. They have attracted few honeybees in the past few years, or ever as far as I know, perhaps as a result of blooming so early when conditions are too cold/wet for honeybees to venture out from the hives. These species also appear to yield less pollen than the large Dutch crocuses (C. vernus) which have historically attracted many bees.

Honeybee with a load of pollen
Despite the lack of flowers in my garden, honeybees are bringing in pollen from another source. My hypothesis is the pollen is being collected from filbert trees (Corlyus sp.) which are blooming prolifically alongside the rivers and creeks right now, soon to be followed by the willows (Salix sp.), alder (Alnus sp.), maples (Acer sp.), and others. Fruit trees (Prunus, Malus, etc.) and madrone (Arbutus menziesii) follow, all excellent sources of pollen and nectar.

Honeybee meeting
Honeybees greet each other as they return to the hive, clean each other, find out where the good flowers are at, and check for intruders. There was some nectar robbing going on, evident by the squabbles occurring around the hives. One hive did not appear to have any bees returning with pollen, and did not respond when I knocked on the side, indicating it is no longer alive, but instead being looted by the stronger neighbor hive. This is sad news if it is true, and I hope I am wrong. Hopefully it is not the result of mites.

Blow fly (family Calliphoridae)
 A variety of visitors were attracted to the scent of the hives on this sunny day.

Scathophaga sp.
Lucilia sp.
Lasioglossum and Lucilia
I noticed this small bee (top left) hanging around the side of the seemingly inactive hive. It is a member of the genus Lasioglossum, a small (sometimes social) ground nesting bee. It must have been attracted to the scent of the hive.

Lasioglossum and Apis
Strangely, it was left alone by the honeybees. This was, of course, on the apparently dead hive, so there wasn't anything to defend. This photo illustrates the size differential.

Alucita sp.
Not quite near the hive, but interesting enough, was this tiny many-plumed moth (family Alucitidae). In this photo, one can see why they are called many-plumed moths, their wings are not scaled like most moths and butterflies but rather composed of "feathers" with alternating colors. This creature was no wider than the width of a dime, smaller even, with its' wings expanded.

Apis on Erica carnea
One more view of a honeybee visiting the heath. Another sign of Spring! There will be more to come!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Bulbs from Seed: Germination

Crocus sieberi
The year hasn't started until the first Crocus bloomed, so Happy New Year, everyone! The year's first flowers have appeared outside my work, a couple weeks ahead of my garden at home. The tiny flowers, smaller than a quarter, hover just a few inches above the ground. Along with other various species and cultivars (around 700 corms in all, I believe), they were planted haphazardly in a few areas in front of the front office. The goal, aside from bringing variety and interest to what was a depressing sight (the landscaping, not the business, though it depends who you ask) as well as bring in forage for bees and other pollinators. In my experience, the earliest crocuses are of little value to pollinators because they bloom during what is so often cool or rainy conditions at the tail end of Winter. They also appear to produce less pollen than the large Dutch crocus, Crocus vernus.

To be honest, the small Winter crocuses are easily missed and the majority of passerby are likely completely unaware of their presence. This in no way means I am regretful of their inclusion, on the contrary, their early blooming and bright color is the reward to those who are observant and wish to find such beauty in an otherwise industrial landscape that is my work (a cabinet factory).

Back at home, the crocuses are a few days behind the ones at work. I have experimented by planting them in a wide variety of locations. Some have been eaten by voles or, believe it or not, turkeys who dug them up. A few, seen here under Pinus ponderosa with a southern exposure in very rocky ground, and in a south facing raised bed on the hot side of the house, have remained untouched by herbivores. It is my wish that they will become settled enough to naturalize in the only areas they have not yet been eaten. But for now they are cheap enough that I continue to plant some every year in the "safe zones" although I fear the day will come that they will be discovered by a convention of voles or something else and be wiped out in a single grande feast.

It is always a treat, the crocuses, because they come in such a variety of forms and colors. To the uninitiated, they all appear similar (as they did to me years ago). Yet, there are many differences to observe from the venation on the petals to the reproductive structures which can be quite variable and are often characteristic to the species.

Tulipa saxatilis ssp bakeri 'Lilac Wonder'
Other leaves around the garden include this tulip cultivar I planted a few years ago. Since planting, I have seen a single bloom and nothing thereafter, nevermind there are nearly a dozen bulbs planted (dozens more since they've apparently divided quite a bit). The fact that the deer, voles, or turkeys haven't decimated them is nothing short of astonishing, and perhaps a year will come when they will be happy with the conditions and send up a few flowers.

Anemone coronaria leaves
The crown anemone, Anemone coronaria, is typically pretty dependable if the tubers don't get eaten by rodents. They sometimes send up their leaves before the conclusion of the previous year, persisting through frosts and freezes, to reliably bloom in Spring. I was able to collect seed from some of these last year, which hastily germinated, grew shortly, and disappeared. I hope the seedlings, and the mature tubers, persist.

Allium amplectens
These are the few remaining survivors of last years' Allium cleansing (by the tyrannical vole empire). Like the Crocus that have not [yet] been eaten, these are growing in the south bed, a raised bed on the hot side of the house. The peculiar thing is there are signs of voles around the bed, though they have not yet been enticed into the bed itself. I fear the continuation of this year will prove otherwise. But alas, I had collected seed from these last year, one or two have germinated, so all will not be lost if these should fall to the lower intestine of the vile rodents.

Dodecatheon hendersonii exposed crown
Dodecatheon hendersonii (or rather Primula hendersonii?) is beginning to appear around the yard. This is a native which, as you can see, grows from a fleshy crown. This crown was exposed naturally, though I cannon attest to what had caused the exposure. Each segment of the crown can be removed, preferably earlier than the growth seen here, and grown on to produce a new plant (a clone).

Piperia (Platanthera) leaf
A superficially similar leaf emerges nearby, though in close inspection is quite different from the leaves of Dodecatheon, seen below. Piperia (new name: Platanthera) is a native orchid which has a spike of tiny whitish flowers (probably Piperia transversa). Note the venation, oriented in straight parallel lines, and the slightly more acute tip. A second leaf will appear soon, and perhaps a third if the plant is mature. Peculiar, however, that the orchids in this part of the yard (growing under Pinus ponderosa) have not flowered since I have been here, while those growing in deeper shade under Quercus, Pseudotsuga, and Ceanothus flowered last year.

Dodecatheon hendersonii leaves
The leaves of Dodecatheon have a similar venation to Primula, which it is considered to be a part of [see Revision of Dodecatheon (Primulaceae) by James L. Reveal]. D. hendersonii has fleshy leaves with smooth margins, and appear almost all at once (unlike the Piperia whose leaves emerge singly). Leaves will persist for a month before flowers.

Luzula comosa
Originally I thought this to be a type of grass. In fact, it is a type of rush (Juncaceae). This species is unique, because it grows from a true bulb. I learned this by chance when I dug some up while digging a trench a few years ago. I was perplexed, and nobody I asked seemed to know about the bulb even though this species is seemingly well known. I was reassured when reading Vol. 1 of the Flora of Oregon and in the dichotomous key to Luzula the bulbous structure is what differentiates L. comosa from the rest.

It is known as Pacific woodrush, and flowers in Spring. I took some photos last year before the identity of this "grass" was known to me. I will take some photos when they bloom this year (hopefully with some better skill), but you can see last years' photos in the post, Mystery (mind you, these mystery plants have since been identified).

Narcissus leaves and bud
Moving on to some not-so-native plants [again], the Narcissus are appearing now. All on the narcissus I grow are hardy, most tent to me mid-season bloomers. I do have a few early blooming plants, unnamed varieties that came in what was literally a mixed bag. This single plant is the earliest I have, consistently blooming first every year. The latest to bloom, mass produced variants of Narcissus poeticus, have appeared to dwindle. Each year I learn more about which can fend for themselves, an invaluable trait of a plant for a father of two (second one is due in March!), husband, and one who has a full time job.

Narcissus second year bulbs
Like clockwork, the young bulbs I had shown last year in Bulbs from Seed have emerged. They say it takes seven years to see flowers. Stay tuned!

Narcissus seedlings
Along with the others, the seeds of Narcissus (sown last Autumn) are now germinating. They were planted one inch below the surface. There is some debate as to whether they do better surface sown or submerged, but this may be a case where the seeds don't care much how deep they're planted so long as the conditions are right.

Chlorogalum second year bulbs
More bulbs in their second year of growth, the Chlorogalum are a native bulb. I had collected seed of these not too far from my house. The bulbs contain high concentrations of saponins, and when diced and smashed can be lathered to be used as a sop or shampoo. Their range has been threatened by the prevalence of herbivores (or probably the lack of predators due to human encroachment).

Delphinium nuttallianum second year growth
Last year, the seeds of these had germinated, grew briefly, and then disappeared. I had taken them for compost. Nevertheless, here they are! Though not a bulb in any true sense of the word, they do exhibit the marked dormancy as seen in many hardy bulbs. Their high toxicity makes them a perfect candidate for my pest-ridden garden, and bees adore the flowers. These are shorter than the typical horticultural varieties, often growing under one foot in height.

Allium albopilosum seedlings
A number of bulb seeds are germinating in the seed pots. Allium is one of the easier genera to start from seed, in my experience. The seeds do well when cast on the surface of a roughened seed starting medium and topped with a very thin layer of grit, just enough to keep the seeds from floating. If grit is not used, rain can and will splash the lightweight seeds into adjacent pots, not good if you want to know what you are growing before the flowers appear.

I have received a few inquiries as to what medium I start seed in. I mix up a very basic soil mix, sometimes with bagged potting soil as a base, sometimes from scratch. I mix together roughly equal parts of the following:

  • Coarse builders sand
  • Sifted compost
  • Chicken grit
  • Reconstituted coconut coir
I mix it up in a wheelbarrow, starting with the coir as it tends to require overnight soaking. The exact proportions don't matter that much so long as the mix drains freely yet not too quickly as to dry out too quickly. It also depends on the time of year. In Winter, more sand and grit keep the mix from holding too much water. In Summer, a more retentive mix is a plus. Substituting perlite or bagged potting mix is OK, except I find perlite to be a drawback if too much is added as the mix floats in water and is hard to start seeds in. Never use perlite to top off the pot as it will float. I don't use vermiculite as the compost and coir do a great job on their own at retaining moisture. I prefer coir over peat because it is neutral. Peat lowers the pH, which could be a benefit if the plant prefers acid soil, though adding iron to the mix prevents leaf chlorosis (yellowing from lack of chlorophyll production) in acid-loving plants grown in alkaline conditions. Experiment!

Erythronium hendersonii seedlings
My first time growing Erythronium from seed, I am seeing signs of success! I love this genus, though I find the bulbs a bit expensive. Like Allium, they prefer a surface sowing. Taking a cue from Ian Young, I soaked the seeds overnight in a sandwich bag with a drop of dishsoap.

Erythronium revolutum seedling
Another Erythronium species emerging, I had traded some seed of the native E. hendersonii for a few additional species. This is very exciting for me, and I do hope that they start to hybridize. Of course, I want to see bumblebees (their main pollinator) visiting the flowers. Strangely, I have rarely witnessed any pollinators visit the flowers of E. hendersonii.

Dichelostemma capitatum seedlings
Closely related to Allium, Dichelostemma capitatum (the earliest to bloom of the Brodiaea-complex in this region) is seeing good germ rates from surface sowing. Like Allium, the seedlings emerge crooked, apparently folded up inside the seed, so are less able to push their way through too much soil/grit.

Iris chrysophylla seedlings
The native Iris chrysophylla continues to show good germ rates, little leaf spikes in the irid fashion coming up from the baby rhizome at the end of the radicle. These seeds would have probably benefited from a deeper sowing, but will probably do just fine being sown on the surface. The next major challenge for me, when and how to transplant. I think I will individuate them into their own pots at some point, perhaps at the end of the year, though I am not sure and would appreciate some guidance.

Wyethia seedling
This is actually pretty far from a bulb. This is, in fact, a native sunflower relative. In Spring, mature plants produce 3-4" wide bulky yellow composite flowers on two foot scapes. Depending on how many plants I end up with, they will be split between my garden and my work, both of which could benefit from more native plants.

Toxicoscordion fremontii seedlings
A near-native (from the CA coast), this is a death camas. I am unsure of these are sufficiently hardy for my harsh zone 7 garden. I say harsh because the heat and frost is more severe than the neighboring Grants Pass. If anyone has experience with this species, I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments.

Colchicum hungaricum, bulb offsets from the PBS bulb exchange
The three bulbs of this Spring-blooming Colchicum that I got from the Pacific Bulb Society Bulb Exchange have arrived... above the soil line. I am excited to acquire more Colchicum bulbs because of their apparent toxicity of all parts. Screw the voles, and the deer.

Crocus sieberi
More to come!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Book Review: Flora of Oregon

Hardcover, dust sleeve removed
In September of 2015, volume 1 of the Flora of Oregon was published after many years of hard work by editors and authors Stephen C. Meyers, Thea Jaster, Katie E. Mitchell, Linda K. Hardison, and Tanya Harvey. The Flora of Oregon is a three volume set covering all vascular plants in Oregon from ferns (Pteridophytes) to flowering plants (angiosperms). Volume 1 covers all ferns, conifers (gymnosperms), and monocots. Volumes 2 and 3 will cover the dicots in two parts when they are published. [Volume 1 was a birthday gift from my parents in November, and although I planned on getting it myself, I was elated!]

The book has nearly 600 pages with various sections starting with a history of the project itself and an introduction to some of the botanists and taxonomists of importance to Oregon. Following are a few sections describing the different ecological regions of Oregon and all of the different kinds of habitats found there. Then comes the meat of the book: the treatments of 1,054 taxa in 46 families by a variety of knowledgeable persons. The book concludes with a variety of interesting appendices and a well organized and comprehensive index. Overall, the book feels good in my hands and is nice to look at. The sleeve has a beautiful serigraph of Iris innominata by Bonnie Hall, and the hardcover under the sleeve is a prestigious foil stamped Erythronium, which serves as the Oregon Flora Project's logo.

Note: I opted to make scans of the actual book (with explicit permission from the OFP) rather than receive the original PDS's so I may best represent the reality of the book as it is. I was also given explicit permission from both the OFP and the FNA to reuse illustrations by their respective artists for the sole purpose of this review.

Exploring Oregon's Botanical Diversity section by Edward R. Alverson
The first 64 pages are printed in full color on a thicker paper stock than the rest of the book. The first few sections cover the regions of Oregon and the different types of habitats, as well as a few notable examples of where to see a great deal of wildflowers. This page shows a few places close to me, including Upper Table Rock which I visited and wrote about in March 2015. It would have been a lot easier to key out the species I photographed with this book.

Following the colored sections is 500 pages of the 1,000+ taxa included in the flora. The first section of the treatment is the Pteridophytes, followed by the Gymnosperms, and concluding with the monocots. The monocots are arranged alphabetically by family. I wish it had been organized by order, which would have resulted in a separation of the wind pollinated grasses and sedges (order Poales) from the insect pollinated plants. Personally, I have less interest in the grasses (I use the term as loosely as possible to include sedges and other grass-like wind-pollinated plants) and would be content with just the insect pollinated wildflowers.

Section of three-page key to 34 sp. of Allium, treatment of Allium by Nick Otting, Richard E. Brainerd, and Barbara L. Wilson
There are dichotomous keys throughout the book from a key to the plant groups (Pteridophytes, Gymnosperms, etc.) as well as keys to families, genera, species, subspecies, and even to the varietal level if there is one. The keys are not for the lay man, as some basic knowledge of botany is required for the keys to be useful. However, the keys are quite comprehensive, as this section of the three-page Allium key illustrate.

Illustration of Fritillaria gentneri by Rena Schlachter, © Oregon Flora Project. Illustration by Yevonn Wilson-Ramsey, © Flora of North America Association.
Many pages throughout the book are accompanied by illustrations of a few representative taxa, though not every entry has an accompanying illustration. The illustrations are highly detailed and show the necessary parts of the plant in question to make a positive ID, which is after all the point of this book. A variety of artists from both the FNA and the OFP were employed for their artistic talents. What they show differs from taxa to taxa. For instance, many of the Allium illustrations show close-up details of the bulb coat, often having distinct identifying features when it comes to New World species. Many other taxa show close-up aspects along with the plant in whole (leaf and reproductive structure).

Illustration of Triteleia hyacinthina by Yevonn Wilson-Ramsey, © Flora of North America Association.
The bulk of the book is made up of treatments, which are printed on a very thin paper. The result is that the pages become mildly transparent, as seen in this scan. Yet it is not, in my opinion, very much of a distraction as it is a reminder than this book may not be the best [for me] to take out into the field lest it should become damaged. Also it is of a rather large size and heft, not desirable traits for a field identification resource.

Toxicoscordion, treatment of Melanthiaceae by Tamra Dickson Prior
A typical page, showing a key to the genus Toxicoscordion (syn. Zigadenus). Note that of the eight genera this flora accepts, only the five that occur in Oregon are included. This is another common feature of the book. While it does exclude a lot of neighborly taxa, it also includes a plethora of nonnatives, including noxious weeds and garden escapees such as Muscari and Narcissus, complete with dichotomous keys and illustrations.

To conclude this brief but concise review, I admit there are a few things I wish were different, but in all I would definitely recommend this book to any Oregon native plant enthusiast. For identifying native plants, it is far superior to the internet. Dichotomous keys are largely nonexistant for Oregon native plants online, as far as I have known, and this book makes up for that by having a key to everything. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, please visit their publisher rather than Amazon because Amazon takes a larger cut of the profits. The books are available, with a few more preview pages, on the Shop BRIT web page. Please consider adding this wonderful book to your library, and perhaps spreading the word!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Seeds of Bulbs, and Other Stories

A cold day, snow on the trees
It's the middle of Winter here in SW Oregon. It's cold, wet, and dark. The sun only checks in briefly once every couple of days to check on us. We have had brief encounters with snow, but the typical weather is overcast and drizzling, hovering above freezing most mornings and warming up to a toasty 46°F. As for plants, the most exciting growth is at the tiny seed scale. Seedlings everywhere, in pots and the ground, are germinating now. I grow seeds in two places, protected under my porch under lights with bottom heat, and the rest sunk into a garden bed out in the open. Seeds I know to be hardy and/or requiring the Winter treatment went out in the open, while seeds which I haven't yet been acquainted went under protection. I have had good success with this practice. Below are some of the current (hopefully persistent!) seed germination success stories that I have to tell.

Seedlings under lights on the porch
My porch seed starting setup is a basic two-shelf open light rack placed against the wall. I have a heat mat under the top rack (shown). The lower rack is full of marginally hardy second year pots of Kniphofia and Agapanthus and some type of perennial Ranunculus. The former two were started from seed last year while the buttercup was a door prize from the local NARGS chapter I am a member of. These are species which [apparently] do not require a cold period to germinate. The leafy bunch of seedlings in the rear center are Arisaema heterophyllum, the first of the family Araceae that I have attempted, and received happily (by mistake) from the Pacific Bulb Society (PBS) Seed Exchange (SX). There are also a few Alliums in the back right (senescens ssp. montanum and subhirsutum). I'm still waiting for a few pots to show signs of life. For a complete list of all the seeds I have started this year, see this post from September 2015.

I became greatly confused when researching the identity of what I had received as "Scilla latifolia" from one of the PBS seed exchanges last year. (I wrote a summary of my confusion here, near the bottom of the post.) No matter, they seem to be growing on just fine and not being sure of the name doesn't ruin my enjoyment of a plant. One has apparently been killed by frost, while the others remain. This is an example of the importance of genetic variation, as the ones that do not make it would not have done well as mature adults in my climate, whereas the survivors will be better able to withstand what may be the edge of their limits. If I can ever attain seed from these plants, their offspring will be even better suited to living here. This is the idea behind heirloom seeds and the reason open pollinated plants are better than tissue culture clones or F1 hybrids, in my opinion. 

To the left is my pot of Autumn blooming Crocus goulimyi. The seed was planted halfway down the pot, as suggested by Ian Young, and the results are good! This success is because unlike many other bulbous monocots the cotyledon comes out of the seed point-first and is not folded like Allium or Erythronium, which need to be surface sown. It was suggested by Ian Young in one of his Bulb Logs (SRGC) that the location a seed must be sown is determined by its mode of germination. If the leaf is folded it cannot pierce through a thick layer of soil. To be safe, the best course of action is to scatter the seeds onto roughened seed starting medium and stir it in (only the top half-inch) with your finger, then adding a thin layer of grit to keep the medium or seeds from floating, then tamping down and watering in.

Toxicoscordion fremontii
Probably better known as Zigadenus fremontii, this species is native to low elevation SW Oregon south to Baja, likely in coastal regions. This was a PBS SX acquisition, and due to the relatively mild climate it is known from I have thus far kept it under protection just to be safe. This is a very toxic species, one of my attempts to grow something that will not be eaten by the local fauna that inhabits my yard and allows me to garden (or shall I say, allows me to prepare lunch). This is an interesting genus, all parts being toxic including the pollen and nectar. I have not seen bees visit the local T. micranthum, yet there are so few individuals that it is not a fair study population. Native bees are suspected to be the pollinators of these plants, and I can't help but wonder if, like caterpillars who feed on toxic plants to become toxic and distasteful themselves, the bee larvae provisioned with pollen and nectar from Toxicoscordion similarly protects them from pests or predators.

Allium trifoliatum 'Chameleon'
One of the Allium selections I had lost to voles last year (painfully reminisce my woes) had fortunately set some seed, and I was able to collect it before the bulbs were ruthlessly devoured. These two (three?) seedlings are the first to appear, and excellent examples of the bent cotyledon I mentioned above. Allium seed leaves (aka cotyledons) are folded inside the seeds and they grow "elbow first" and in return cannot effectively push through a thick layer of topsoil. With Allium, I do not stir in the seeds, but leave them as they fall and cover them with grit before tamping and watering. The tamping is very important because it helps ensure good contact between the medium and the seeds allowing moisture to soften the seed coat facilitating germination. Hopefully I will be able to bring these bulbs to maturity and redistribute them in my garden, this time in vole-resistant cages.

I am growing a few dicots, mostly from the Lamiaceae and Asteraceae. Visible here is lavender, seed collected from plants in my garden. I had collected seed from a variety of the lavenders in my garden, from about six different types, so I'm not sure exactly what I'll get. Just now the true leaves are maturing, quite different from the rounded cotyledons. These will likely be planted in both my garden and in front of my workplace, continuing the project I started last year (read about that project). The tiny seed of lavender, and others in the Lamiaceae, are easily planted by stirring into the top half-inch of the soil. I didn't use grit, but a thin layer would have been useful to keep the tiny seeds from floating.

Monardella odoratissima
When this first germinated, it looked identical to the Lavendula above. This isn't surprising, both Monardella and Lavendula are members of the Lamiaceae, and like all dicots have the typical rounded cotyledons. But as they mature it becomes clear they are very different. This is a native, unlike the lavender, and is a perfect candidate for xeriscaping as it tolerates both drought and direct sun. It grows in both sun and shade, prostrate in the latter, and flowers reliably. It will be distributed as per the lavender.

Pseudomuscari azureum
Now to the unprotected seed pots, these are seeds from hardy plants that benefit from the freeze/thaw cycles of Winter. This seed of Pseudomuscari azureum was collected from my own plants. Typical of many hardy bulbs I have grown, the first sign of germination is the emergence of a radicle, the embryonic root. It emerges from the seed and dives into the soil. I counted five germinating seeds in this photo with six radicles, how many can you find?

Depending on the genus and species, the bulb is either formed at the tip of the radicle or at the surface by the seed. Seeds which produce the bulb next to the seed at the top of the radicle benefit from a slightly deeper planting to help the tiny bulb achieve depth. Otherwise, contractile roots pull the growing bulb deeper and deeper into the medium over a series of years until the preferred depth is achieved. The perfect depth is dependent on a variety of local conditions, and thus it is always best to err on the shallow side when planting bulbs rather than deeper as they cannot fix themselves if planted too deep, and will likely perish.

Allium carinatum subsp. pulchellum f. album
One of the easiest bulbs for me ever, this species has been with me for years now. Just last year, many were decimated by voles, but I was able to collect seed first. Many are germinating, and they are easy to germinate. This species does not need a freeze/thaw cycle to germinate, and will probably germinate at any point in the year (though I planted these late). I had donated a lot of these seeds to the PBS SX last year, I wonder if the recipients of those seeds are having the same high level of success as I am. If you are one of the ones to acquire this seed, I'd like to hear from you!

Iris chrysophylla
A native Iris, I had read that they are notorious for low germ rates. I see no evidence of low germ rates, there are at least nine radicles visible in this closeup! This is great news for me, I am going to plant these at my work and get some more native plants into that industrial hardscape whether they like it or not (...but of course they like it). Along with the Allium seed above, I had donated a lot of these to the BS SX and I would like to hear from you if you were a recipient of this seed.

Now here are some non-seed related photos, just for the hell of it:

Erica carnea poking through the snow