Saturday, November 22, 2014

A DIFFICULT SEED TO GERMINATE? PENSTEMON COBAEA

In April 2012, I was driving to Dallas and took my usual short cut at Elm Mott. The two lane road winds through countryside and farm fields. Driving at 50 mph my attention was drawn to a flash of pale pink and blue on the side of the road. I couldn't stop then but marked the spot and determined to stop on the way back home. And so I did.

April 2012
I wonder how many years it took for this patch to form?

April 2014
As foxgloves are one of my favorite flowers in was not hard to see why this plant, Penstemon cobaea, found a place in my garden the next year. But not an easy plant to find. I left the seed heads to dry on the plant and collected them yesterday. The seed capsule was hard and tough on the fingers. In the end I got the rolling pin to do the job, crushing the seed head until it released the seed.


It seems ease of germination is related to whether the plants grow in the east or the west. As we are slap bang in the middle it's hard to know where we fall. I already know from watching my own garden that annual conditions can be responsible for whether a plant performs or not. Conditions in central Texas are often unpredictable. A wet winter; a dry winter; a cool spring; a warm spring; a dry summer a wet summer etc. We have it all and undoubtedly germination is affected by these conditions.


My Texas Wildflower book says they germinate easily but at least two sources say that the seeds need several weeks of 40° temperatures to initiate germination. Some winters may provide those kinds of temperatures but I decided to take half of the seeds and give them a few weeks in the refrigerator. On advice I wet some paper towel, sprinkled on the seeds and enclosed in a plastic bag. The rest will be sown in the ground with the hope of perfect conditions this year for their germination. Meanwhile I shall be checking the nurseries for 4" pots of this plant. I would like a few more of these beauties in my garden.

7 comments:

  1. Best of luck with your seeds. You were wise to divy up the seed and try a couple different ways.

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  2. That patch of flowers was gorgeous! I hope you have success growing more from seed.

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  3. I have relatives living in the Dallas area and always laugh about their weather. It seems to get both hotter and colder there some years. I am looking forward to hearing what works with your seeds -maybe you could investigate the weather for that area from the season previous to when you spotted those blooms and discern their preference?Aren't all those records a matter of public record and searchable online these days?

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    1. Who knows how long ti took to produce that gorgeous display of penstemons. They could have been there forever. I didn't see any others along that stretch of road.

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  4. I've seen some of these beside the road down here. Some in places I could pull off and not be killed.
    I keep saying I'm going to stop for some seeds. That just might happen next spring.
    Now I know what the seeds look like.
    I don't have the luck you do germinating seeds, though.

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    1. Look for the seeds in the fall, Linda. The next time we drive by the patch in the fall I will stop to take a look for seeds. Sometimes I despair at the lack of seed germination but I think snails are the guilty party.

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  5. It's a beautiful penstemon - and not one I can recall coming across here. I hope your experiment is successful and that Mother Nature also supports your efforts.

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