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Faith in a Seed

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that I have a favorite wildflower. Sabatia angularis, Rosepink, or Rose Gentian, or Bitterbloom, or Pure Heaven (my name for its scent).

It's a big blustery showgirl of a wildflower when it's happy, each plant making a great big perfect bouquet of spectacularly fragrant pink five-petaled flowers. 

It blooms every year on my birthday. True. 

It grows on dry roadside banks and meadows in poor soil, companion of Queen Anne's lace and black-eyed Susans.
What is not to love? 

I've had my struggles protecting favorite stands from mowing, and I've seen rosepink come and go, mostly go. I decided I had to try growing it from seed so I could spread its rare and precious joy around. Little did I know what I was getting into. 

I first planted its dust-fine seeds in a long planter in the fall of 2010. They came up the following April in my Garden Pod, and the seedlings looked like this. Essentially invisible. 

By the next spring, the ones that lived all that summer and through the winter on the floor of my Garden Pod looked like this.

Lest you get excited, here is a year-old Sabatia with my fingertip for scale.

In the spring of 2011, I steeled myself and planted the precious surviving seedlings out on Bill Jr.'s grave in our orchard. I carried watering cans out there (more than a quarter mile away) all summer long, trying not to wash the minuscule plants away with the flow. I mulched them lightly with straw and prayed for rain that never came. As far as I know, all but one withered away despite my care. It grew to about three inches and made a tiny miniature bloom in July 2012, and that was that. It wasn't meant to be.

I did not give up. In the fall of 2011, having roped off the plants so they wouldn't get mowed, I gathered a honkin' bunch of seedpods in my favorite roadside patch.

The darn things don't even come ripe and dry enough to split open until November!

 Split pods, dust-fine seeds.

Yes. Those are seeds on my thumbnail.

I decided that something in my soil, water, light regime, or general karma was amiss. I couldn't grow decent Sabatia seedlings. So I'd let Mother Nature do it herself. I'd just sow those dust-fine seeds where I wanted them and see what happened. It'd be two more years before I'd know...Sabatia is a biennial, blooming in its second year of life, spreading seeds, then dying that winter. The seeds sown in the fall would make those tiny rosettes the following spring, and the plants would just sit there, growing roots and getting bigger, until they were ready to burst into bloom in their second summer of life.

 Let's see...that would mean that I wouldn't know if it worked until sometime in the summer of 2014.

In the spring and summer of 2013, I got down on my hands and knees and weeded Geepop's grave, peering intently at the soil for the tiny rosettes of Sabatia. I found nothing. I didn't understand how I could sow thousands of dust-fine seeds on suitable soil in full sun and get nothing. But again, it appeared that it wasn't to be.

I didn't give up. If I had to sow a million seeds there, I would see rosepink raise its beautiful blossoms. I gathered more seed in the fall of 2013.

I planted purple coneflower there, and it flourished and bloomed beautifully. I could only hope that someday there might be an understory of rosepink.

In my next post, come walk out to the orchard with me and see what happened.


NOOOO!!! I can't wait for the rest of the story!

freaking' plant cliff hanger....are you becoming Charles Dickens? BTW, that is the size of viola seeds....

A cliff hanger??? Have you gone Hollywood, Julie? ;-)

Posted by Anonymous July 28, 2014 at 3:40 AM

Gotta like a woman who can do a good scripttease...

Ha ha--love your creative commenters! And I too shall wait for the rest of the story, ... . And there was Chet, photo-bombing one of your photos. What a guy! He always knows where to be.

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