A frosty view from the propagation glasshouse at Wisley.
The sun breaks through finally on a frosty morning, the moment all morning my fingers and toes have been waiting for. Suddenly the stained glass windowed leaves of the poinsettia shine, eager to be off to their new home, poster children for Christmas in the Wisley Glasshouse. Today we lost them to their new home but there is plenty to be getting on with in propagation, as here its not so much about the present, nor the gifts, but the planning and preparing for the seasons ahead.
Euphorbia pulcherrima, also known as poinsettia
This week we have been chipping away at sowing sweet peas for the annual sweet pea trial. Sweet peas have a notoriously hard seed coat and a very small micropyle (a pore in the seed, remnant from pollination) which makes it difficult for the seed to absorb water and germinate. Here at Wisley we ensure evenness of germination by nicking the seed coat with a sharp knife at the opposite end to where the micropyle is.
The hilum or eye of the sweet pea where the micropyle is found (left) and the chipped pea (right) (click on the image to enlarge it)
This method is by no means essential and those at home sowing a packet of seeds might find it easier to soak their seeds for a few hours prior to sowing. I recently read about another method of getting good germination, involving shaking seeds in a jar to break the seed coat. Alternatively you can do nothing and germination will still occur it just may take much longer. Sowing sweet peas now in my experience will give earlier but longer flowering plants that are undoubtedly stronger. Once seeds have germinated here at Wisley (usually takes a couple of weeks) they will be pricked out into individual pots or into groups in larger pots. When a few inches tall they will be hardened off then placed in a cold frame ready to spring into life when the time is right.
Find out more about growing sweet peas and poinsettias from the RHS and take a look at this blog on sweet pea germination.
And did you see Sabatino's recent blog on his inspired sweet pea supports at Wisley? Just think what you could do...