Growing Season 2003
An unexpected gift!
11/14/2003 @ 1200

Got a great gift in the mail today. Pete has been following this page, and he sent me some bur oak acorns he has collected from a couple of sites in Pennsylvania. The acorns are huge! I have never noticed these before. There are all sorts of oaks around, especially the ubiquitous white oak, but I have always been looking for unusual types. Now I have two types - these bur oaks, and sawtooth oaks (see below).   Here are some photos of the acorns; click on the photo for expando-shot. (Pete, email me if you want to trade some seeds.)

Planting for next year
10/08/2003 @ 1000

Let the fall planting begin! I collected some horsechestnuts and sawtooth oak acorns this week. I have never germinated these before. I have buried these seeds in potting soil, and have them in my outdoor tree container. I will try to keep them moist all winter.    

Scouting for seeds...
08/22/2003 @ 0930

Now is the time to begin scouting for the seeds you want to collect this fall. Catalpa - the "cigar-bean" seeds are green now and full sized. Osage orange fruits are appearing; some are on the ground already. Acorns are beginning to fall for a few species; ginkgo fruits are visible; redbud seeds have been visible for months now, but are now full size. As you travel around be sure to notice the trees you want to collect from - if you are like me, some you don't even know what type of tree it is yet, just that it looks cool. Next time you can bring your tree book and go for the identification.   

08/06/2003 @ 1330

Transplanted the Goldenrain seedlings today. Yield is 10 seedlings out of 18 seeds planted.  Some of these seedlings are small due to late germination, with the roots not quite filling the planting cup. More rain the last few days. A surprise - two more ginkgoes germinated - I thought they were done for the year.   

Transplanting continues...
08/04/2003 @ 1300

Transplanting continues. Moved the Osage Orange trees into 4" pots; 17 of 18 germinated. Checked the ginkgo seedlings: of 60 planted, only 8 germinated. Dug out several of the remaining seeds and found them rotted away. I definitely need to work with these more, or maybe this is the normal germination rate. The weather continues to be much wetter than usual, and a little cooler.   

Transplanting begins
07/21/2003 @ 1430

Began transplanting today. The Kentucky Coffeetree and the Catalpas are all ready to repot. The germination rate for the catalpas is 100%, as usual. These are the easiest trees to grow - just stick the seeds in the dirt and walk away. The Coffeetree seeds require a little more work - see their page.   

Quicker Ginkgo germination
07/14/2003 @ 1300

Two of the ginkgo seeds in the 5th tray (from the 3rd planting day) have germinated. This was on 06/16, so just under a month. I scratched these seeds with a hacksaw - maybe this helped. Or it could be the warmer weather.  

Finally! Some more germination
07/11/2003 @ 1400

Finally, some more germination. A 5th ginkgo has germinated, and is just poking up through the soil. Also, I have 1 redbud (Tray 1, Row 8) and 2 hornbeams (Tray 1, Rows 10 & 11) seedlings. This is 60 days or so - I don't know if this is normal for these, or just due to the wet cold spring. The weather the last 2 weeks has been hot and sunny, with a little rain.  

The Wet Summer
06/20/2003 @ 1000

Checking the Kentucky Coffeetree seedlings, only 5 of the 12 germinated. The other 7 seeds rotted away, probably due to the wet conditions. Also, some of these pods were picked from the ground and definitely were weathered a little. Last year all the pods were either knocked out of trees or picked up fresh from the ground. I scarified 7 more seeds with a hacksaw and planted them in the tray. 

New Trees
06/17/2003 @ 1200

Finally, some of the ginkgo seeds have germinated. I had given up on this entire tray (Tray A), but while checking it today I found one shoot from a ginkgo, and a partially uncovered seed that had cracked open. This is 40 days after planting. It will be interesting to see if the scarified seeds planted yesterday will germinate more quickly.

Planting Day 3
06/16/2003 @ 1200

The third tray of seeds included 2 types of seeds that (as of 06/16/03) failed to germinate:

  1. Ginkgo (ginkgo biloba) - these seeds were ordered over the Internet. I bought pods instead of cleaned seeds.  The seeds were scarified before planting by using a hacksaw to cut into the seed. Some of the seeds were just scraped lightly, while some were cut deeply.

  2. American Hornbeam (carpinus carolinia) - these seeds I collected from Brandywine Park, just across from my house. These seeds were scarified by rubbing across a rather coarse metal file that we have here in our shop.  

Here is the diagram of the Day 3 planting tray. Be sure to see the page for each individual seed type to learn more.

Back from Europe!
06/16/2003 @ 1215

Back from visiting Vienna, Slovakia, and Prague. Lots of hiking, a nice climb of the highest peak in Slovakia, and walks through some very pretty cities. Best of all, lots of "pivo" (Slovakian for beer). Here is the best picture from the trip, me checking out the workings of a common farm implement.

While I was gone there was about a foot of rain, and only 2 days of sun. With all the rain the planters were a little flooded, but Bob made a rain cover that kept them relatively dry. 

Tray A: no germination (the ginkgoes, redbuds, and hornbeams). I'm hoping that now that the sun is out and things are warming up they will start to go.

Tray B: Most of the Kentucky Coffeetree seeds have germinated, as well as the Scholar trees and the Goldenrain trees. The catalpa seeds are all doing well, as usual. By the way, the catalpas I grew last year and planted around the property are doing very well, even the ones that were nipped off by our resident deer herd last fall.

Tray C: Nothing from the Virgin Islands Honey Locust, probably due to the cool temperatures. All of the thorned honey locusts, and most of the smooth honey locusts, are up, as well as most of the osage orange. 

Tray D: 2 of the "Mystery Seeds" are up, though wilted. Not enough leaves to identify these yet. Several mimosas are up, while the paulownia and "mystery cherry" are doing nothing. The catalpas in this tray are up and thriving.

Last report for a while...
05/30/2003 @ 1215

I'm off to Europe for 2 weeks, so this is the last progress report for a while. The sun is out today, getting very bright. I lost a few seedlings last year to the sun, so this year I have built a sun shade of burlap. The trays are going into the planter box, with the anti-deer chicken wire, and the sun shade. I have arranged for the seeds to be watered while I am gone.

Nothing has sprouted in Tray A, very disappointing. A few of the Goldenrain seeds have sprouted, as well as the Scholar tree. The catalpas are going strong, as are the honey locusts.

Things are Happening
05/27/2003 @ 1215

After a very rainy and cool Memorial Day weekend, things are finally happening. One of the "mystery seeds" is sprouted (D1D), and two of the mimosas (D2A, D3B). Almost the entire two rows of catalpas (D11 & D12) are up. A Kentucky Coffeetree has sprouted (B2B) and several of the other seeds are open. Most of the honey locusts are sprouted, both the thorned and smooth (C11 & C12, C5 - C7). The tray tops are off as of today, as several of the sprouts are too tall. Today is partly sunny, but the clouds and rain are expected back tomorrow for at least three days. 

More Life
05/22/2003 @ 1215

Back from 2 days away, one sunny day and yesterday rainy and cloudy. I kept the trays covered to avoid the strong sun on Tuesday, and the plastic tray covers are on. The soil is not too wet, just damp now. The weather looks gray and cold (60F) for the next week. Some more germination: B1B continues but no leaves yet. The honey locusts are starting to emerge: C7C, C11C, C11F, C12A, and C12E. A possible sprout at A6F, Eastern Redbud. I expect slow germination given the cold weather.

First Signs of Life
05/19/2003 @ 0815

The first signs of life were spotted this morning when I arrived for work. A Kentucky Coffee Bean seed was sprouting (location B 1 B), and several others were starting to disturb the soil. Nothing else is happening, but I moved the seed trays back into the sun. There should be 2 days of sun before the rain starts again.

Planting Day 2
05/09/2003 @ 1300

The second tray of seeds included:

  1. Virgin Islands "honey locust" - these are seeds that I collected in April in the Virgin Islands (and smuggled through customs). The trees resemble honey locust, with extremely large pods containing many multi-colored seeds. These probably can't withstand the winters here, but maybe they can be kept in pots. I scarified these with a few swipes from a hacksaw.

  2. Wisteria - these seeds came from a beautiful large vine growing at Longwood gardens.

  3. Honey Locust (...) - this is a thorned variety, a large specimen of which is growing at the bottom of Augustine Cutoff. Scarified with a hacksaw.

  4. Osage Orange (maclura pomifera) - these I collected from a tree growing near Brandywine Park and the foot of Augustine Cutoff. A huge tree, with lots of fruit each year. These seeds were a pain to harvest - I literally had to tear several fruits apart with my hands to collect just 20 seeds. 

  5. Honey Locust - this is a thornless variety from a side street near Christ Church off Rt. 100 near Rt. 52 just north of Wilmington. Scarified with a hacksaw.

  6. Black and White mystery seeds - I have no idea what these are, except that I collected them sometime, somewhere, in my wanderings. Stay tuned for more info....

  7. Silk tree, or mimosa (..) - from the property where my plant is. These trees appear to be very hardy, considering the soil here is mostly clay and landfill dumped over the last 200 years. I planted some of these last year, and they all have lots of thorns.

  8. Box Elder (acer  ....) - these grow around the property at my plant. Every year we are swarmed by box elder bugs, so if these trees have anything to do with the bugs I will probably get rid of them. But, hey, they are seeds; let's give them a try.

  9. Mystery (cherry?) - these seeds I found on a small tree in front of Lower Friends school one day when I was on my bike and taking a shortcut through Alapocas. The fruits were cherry-sized, but translucent and juicy, almost like a grape, but firmer. 

  10. Empress Tree (paulownia (tomentosa(?)) - these grow wild all around my plant, and all along the Christina River where it joins the Brandywine. The seeds are very small, and come by the thousands in the pods of this tree. These trees are grown as crops (for lumber) in some parts of the country, primarily the south, but around here might be a nuisance plant. 

  11. Catalpa - the same as #7, previously described. I planted more for my retree effort around my plant.



Here is the diagram of the Day 2 planting trays. Be sure to see the page for each individual seed type to learn more.


Planting Day 1
05/08/2003 @ 1200

The first tray of seeds included:

  1. Ginkgo (ginkgo biloba) - these seeds were ordered over the Internet. I bought pods instead of cleaned seeds. These are stinky! I can see why only male trees are usually planted in cities. I wore surgical gloves to handle these babies. After a winter of sitting the pods were slimy and the seeds just popped loose. The seeds were planted without any scarification.

  2. Eastern Redbud (cercis canadensis) - I collected these seeds last fall from the garden at Wilcastle Center. I had about 30 pods, but not all contained usable seeds, and my total yield was 24 seeds.

  3. American Hornbeam (carpinus carolinia) - these seeds I collected from Brandywine Park, just across from my house. There are several hornbeams in the park, but only this one has seeds that are accessible from the ground. Lots of seed pods, each with a good seed.

  4. Kentucky Coffeetree (gymnocladus dioica) -  these seeds are incredibly tough and require scarification. I have read that the seeds can remain viable for up to 10 years. Last year I tried scoring the shells with a triangular file, but they were too hard. A hacksaw works, but takes too long. The way I finally came up with is to put the seed lengthwise into a bench vise and tighten up until the seed "pops", i.e., the shell breaks. This does not hurt the seed if you are careful and go slow. These seeds usually germinate within 10 or so days.

  5. Scholar tree (saphora japonica) - also known as "pagoda tree" - these seeds were collected just around the corner from my house. Earlier this month the entire row of these trees was removed by the city - apparently the residents complained about the mess from the pods. Too bad, this summer when the temperature hits 100 and the sun beats down on their houses they will think about this again.

  6. Goldenrain tree (koelreuteria paniculata) - there are many of these trees growing here in Wilmington. I collected these from in front of Zanzibar Blue nightclub.

  7. Northern Catalpa - I love these trees. Last year I was in Kansas for a week in early June, and all the small towns were planted with these guys. They were all in bloom - some of them must have been 100 feet tall. Very pretty. I collected these seeds from a house near Bancroft Parkway. 

Here is the diagram of the Day 1 planting trays. Be sure to see the page for each individual seed type to learn more.

Seed Storage
05/07/2003 @ 1200

Most guides to storing seeds recommend the refrigerator for storing over the winter. I have the advantage(?) of working in an unheated plant, which in Delaware means that the low temperatures required for dormancy are available without any additional cooling. In fact, this past winter we had several days where the pipes froze and we had to spend part of the day thawing them out. 

Seed Collecting
05/07/2003 @ 1200

My seed collecting started last fall.  



Welcome to "The 2003 Growing Season," the story of the 2003 Trees from Seeds growing season. This column will provide you with a regular update on the status of this year's crop of tree seedlings.

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Last updated: 01/08/2008 03:32:00 PM