End of Worst Year Ever.

15 years ago

Me again.

Just got an e-mail that goosed me, and how. I had posted some time ago that I would have approximately a bizillion chinese lantern seeds this fall, and to please let me know if you wanted any. Well, I have a SASE sitting here from someone else just waiting patiently for them (I thought I would have some earlier but the seed was terrible, have been waiting for this year's crop) and the letter reminded me that "hey, stupid! The lanterns are finally red, it's now or never!" I just finished picking them, I'll have the seeds I promised people within a couple of days drying-time.

So the email did 2 things: reminded me of promised seed that I've been slowly collecting (yes, the SASE was a daily guilt-o-gram, but I've got so MANY things to feel guilty about...), and that I really should touch base with the good GardenWeb folks again.

So I'll try to keep my usual marthon-letter to short-story length. Ok, Novelette at most....

Like the subject says: Worst Year Ever. Thanks to a tomato-angel who shall remain nameless (a million thanks and twice as many grateful hugs, Grungy), I had over 30 varieties of heirlooms to try this year. The garden started out quite well: I didn't overplant, the market-garden out at the farm was reasonable in size, and The Husband was excited about the tomatoes. Looked like it was going to be a good year.

Two things went wrong: health and weather. Won't bore you with details, but I live with a form of Parkinsons and it decided to get nasty. I'm too blasted young to spend a month in bed, and I still resent the lost time. And just to make it a royal pain, it was cold and wet on the Canadian Praries all summer. The tomatoes barely grew. I'm not complaining: the local farmers are really the ones who are suffering. I'm more frustrated and angry than anything (at my body and the's THAT for useless?!)


Ok, enough of that. Complaints never put bread on the table or seeds in the mail. Here's the current status:

Tomatoes - just finishing up the last 3 seed-ferments (holy compost, what a stink!). I've followed instructions as closely as I could, I hope I haven't gotten cross-pollination...but I probably have. If I understand correctly, that means they may get wierd next year, but soon the seed will revert back to totally true if I ensure no more crossing happens (if you know for sure, please tell me). Yes, I have everyone's requests here from last spring, and I am sorting them out a little each day. They all made enough for seed (in some cases that was ALL they made), except for VALENCIA, which didn't grow a single plant. Probably my fault. And the Sasha's Altai: it didn't ripen, and never quite grew red in storage, either. I've collected seed from it, but I'm not very optomistic. A shame too: I've heard they're among the best tomatoes in the world.

Chinese Lanterns - as I said, I just picked them. Now that I know how to ferment seeds, perhaps I should do that to them too? I'm keeping some for decoration, but have far too many for that. I'll read up on CL-fermentation as soon as I post this.

Vines - my attempts at getting Clematis clippings to root were pretty dismal. So I'm gathering the seedheads now (I have 3 vines that have been fairly death-defying for almost a decade now). I've looked online for "How to get clematis snips to root", but no good so far. Maybe you have to have seeds or divide the root? Still learning...but gathering up seedheads too.

Other seeds - just now getting to collecting them, though there are surprisingly few of each. The White Sonata cosmos seem to have made a few seedheads; same with the Rose Mallow. Right now I'm gathering the seedheads in paper bags. If I've understood correctly, this will prevent rotting and let them dry out while I wade through each batch. Question: should I do a germination test on each batch before wrapping them up? I planted dozens of Belle Blanche Datura last spring but only 3 sprouted. I don't know if this means the seed is sterile or if I just messed up (did it need to be fermented/frozen/other?)... One of the BB's formed seedpods so I have a few dozen again. I can't get them in Alberta, and I intend to try again. Any advice from the experts out there?

This is my first year of seed-saving from my own plants. I've been the extremely lucky recipient of other people's generosity over the past 2 years, and it feels good to be heading towards a giving-collection of my own. My Blue Shrimp Plant was seed-o-lific (but fertile? Must check), as were the usual suspects: Jacob's Ladder and Delphiniums (do they EVER die?) and Monkshood. Lupins are just now making fuzzy seedpods; some have not even flowered, it's been that cold.

Many of my plants are biennials....I'll know next year if they survived this rotten summer. When/if they do, I can add Pink, Heritage, and Yellow Foxglove, Money Plant, Sweet Williams (3 varieties), and others to the mix.

So....I'm part optomistic about next year, and part "ok-this-was-supposed-to-be-THE-year-so-I-give-up!"

Is this the lot of ALL gardeners, or have I just been particularly (ahem) "lucky?"

Off to sort through my Hare's Ear plants (Bupleurum rotundifolium) and hope for seedheads.


- Merri

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