Tag Archives: propagation

A Nod For Natives

October 16, 2017

These days I hang out with volunteers of the Washington Native Plant Society (WNPS). I don’t tend to say much. I know my place (right field).

These are pleasant knowledgeable folks and I am learning a lot. One member coaxed me to sign sm-greenhouse-wp_20171014_012up for a native plant propagation class at Oxbox Farm last Saturday. It was fantastic. Bridget McNassar is a trained teacher and has been working in their nursery for five years. The nursery is pristine. I asked if I needed to take my shoes off. Check out those hanging hoses.

She covered seed collecting, cleaning and sm-oregon-sunshine-seeds-wp_20171014_005storage and showed us when a seed head is ready for collection. In the photo she collects seeds from the flowering Oregon Sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum).

We reviewed germination, including the issue of dormancy, and Bridget graciously provided us with Swordfern spores to take home. In the photo, she is patching out. She takes a fern that has emerged and sm-patching-wp_20171014_008plucks it out and pushes it into a bare area of the same medium (bark and compost).

Sun, Nov 19, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, Dec 17, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, Jan 21, 2-4, Work Party

She offered several types of seeds for us to take and gave us the link to the website Native Plant Propagation Protocol Database so we could look up how many days we had to keep some of our seeds in the refrigerator (cold stratification) before we tried to sow them. Salal needs 42-100 cold days so I will put the seeds in the refrigerator in mid-winter for spring planting.

The class size was small so questions were answered, either by Bridget or by a high school boy scout quite familiar with the Latin names of plants!

Tips from Bridget:

A seed is not mature if you can dent it with your fingernail
Consider a food processor with a plastic dull “blade” to separate pulp from seed for fleshy fruit
A good way to scarify seeds is to rub them between two sanding blocks
Simple cotton bags work well to dry seeds
Make sure seeds are dry and cold for storage
The 6 mil plastic zip lock bags don’t let gases through in the refrigerator
Be patient! Trillium can take three years

There are still two sessions left of this class – Saturday October 21 and October 28

You can use your phone to start your native wildflower education. Those hard-working people at the Burke Museum have a smartphone app at  https://www.pnwflowers.com/app

Help is with our own native plant area at the south end of the orchard at the next work party. We just acquired a Scouler’s Willow (Salix scouleriana), the most drought tolerant of the natives.


Space To GROW

September 17, 2014

We have plenty of space to grow more plants in the orchard! We could spend a lot of money purchasing all the berry bushes and companion plants we need to fill the tree guilds and planting beds. Instead, we are propagating our own plants, mostly from cuttings and division. New plants, new skills.

I took my first propagation lesson at Seattle Tilth. The winter savory we cut and planted in that class 140530 propagation WP_20140530_004is now growing in the Liberty tree guild. A ‘cutting’ is a piece of new growth taken from the plant and cared for while it races to develop roots to stand on its own.

Propagation from a cutting is not as simple as just snipping a woody stem and sticking it in the soil. Some plants, like willow, are almost that easy but most require careful attention to several factors. The new growth must be cut at the right time, properly prepared, placed in the right medium, and kept moist, but not wet. So far, I’ve been successful with winter savory, grapes, currents, honeyberries, lavender, and elderberry. I have failed with figs and blueberries, but I’m not giving up. I’ve learned a few things and I’ll try again.

Propagation by plant division is much easier. Often it is as simple as digging up a plant, dividing the 140917 straw propagation 910root mass, and replanting as two or more plants. For example, at a spring work party volunteers divided the daffodil bulbs growing around the pear tree and moved half of them to the Early Fuji tree guild.

Strawberries divide themselves by sending out runners. I’ve been placing the young runners in little pots where they can take root and mature. I then move them to a new guild.

Propagation from either cuttings or plant division gives you an exact copy of the parent plant. As such, it is important that you like what that parent produced. Before I take cuttings of a fruit-bearing plant, I taste the fruit! Likewise, if I want to propagate a pollinator plant I make sure I’m cutting from a plant that bees like.

Sun, Sept 21, 2-4pm, Work Party
We can use weeders
Sat, Oct 18 2-5pm, Cider Fest!
We can use volunteers
Sun, Oct 19, 2-4pm, Work Party
We can use compost

As I’ve worked at starting new plants, I’ve amassed a few resources. I usually start by doing a web search on the name of the plant I want to grow and then add ‘propagation’. I find the state and county extension service sites most trustworthy. A good one from North Carolina is http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/hil/pdf/hil-8702.pdf  The Secrets of Plant Propagation, by Lewis Hill, is an excellent manual to which I refer frequently, but I am not always patient enough to follow his highly regimented methods.

We still need volunteers to help on the Plant Selection Committee. Please consider serving.

Nancy H.