Real Gardeners...

In January, Country Mouse proclaimed "Real Gardeners Propagate" and delighted us all with a number of educational posts about propagation, including Tips from a Pro and More Tips from a Pro. I read those posts, and proceeded to buy about a hundred plants for my great front garden remodel from a plant broker. 1 gallon pots. Instant gratification. Kind of like a chocolate binge when someone tells you to watch what you eat.

But, truth be told, I also made some timid forays into propagation land, and my efforts have been rewarded. Last fall, I bought some bulbs from Telos rare bulbs and some seeds from the Theodore Payne Foundation. And while not all of the bulbs and seeds were a big success, and not all of the plants are regionally native, I'm happy and feel like a real gardener (who likes chocolate).

The bulb, pictured above, is Dichelostemma ida-maia (Firecracker plant). The photo does not do this beauty justice, it's actually a bright fire-engine red with a lime green edging. I love bright colors, and when I saw this plant last spring in another garden, I knew I wanted one. I planted a few bulbs in the front, a few in the back, and all seem to have germinated. (Like squirrels, I do sometimes forget where I planted something).

I was also lucky with Triteleia laxa (Ithurial's spear). What I love about this stunning true blue native bulb is the bright color and the long bloom time. I've had at least six weeks of Triteleia, slightly staggered and of different heights (the late bloomers did not get as tall). I also planted a white Brodelia which came up but did not produce blossoms. Maybe it wanted more water. Regardless, I'm conisidering the bulb experiment a success.

But bulbs probably don't really qualify as propagation, so I had to wonder whether a beginner like myself might be successful with propagation from cuttings and from seed. Being a bit timid, I started small.

A few pots with monkeyflower cuttings and some strands of Epilobium that I took out because it was overly enthusiastic. Then the seeds, covered with chicken wire as protection from birds.

It all looked reasonably promising, though when I read the propagation posts, I found I'd done a lot of it wrong. Thinning out? Well, it was too late for that. I was also never sure whether the babies of these sun-loving plants should be in sun or shade. I picked part shade, added some water every once in a while, and hoped for the best. Amazingly, the best did happen. A beautiful pot with Gilia tricolor, which is even locally native (though I've never seen one).

Gilia is also reaching up a baby Redbud in this pot.

I also tried seeds of Nemophilia maculata (Five spot), and was rewarded by pretty flowers about an inch across. I do love the pattern.

And even the monkey flower was an amazing 50% success. In spring, I planted some in the ground in the front garden and I planted a few in the large pots, to liven up the annuals. What amazed me was that the survivors insisted on blooming this spring. "Grow some more leaves," I said. "You'll be glad you did." But they all flowered. I hope they'll make it through the summer.

All told, the propagation experiment has been a great success, don't you think? And even better, I now feel like a real gardener. Now that calls for a celebration, maybe with some chocolate.


Love the Nemophilia maculata; so pretty. Of course real gardeners like chocolate. On our Michigan master gardener (MG) website there's a section called "you might be a master gardener if..." My favorite quote, which I've modified from MG to "real gardener" is: "You might be a normal gardener if you can crush a Japanese beetle between your bare fingertips. You might be a real gardener if you love the sound it makes when you do. -Tracey Knack, Master Gardener Coordinator, Isabella County
Emily said…
Those look great! And give me hope for my own propagation experiments...
Wonderful! I make a lot of monkeyflower cuttings and one thing I do is place a one gallon water bottle with the bottom cut off over the pot to make a mini-greenhouse (you can remove the cap to get a bit more air circulation). The added humidity is a big help. Don't place it in the sun, though, or it will cook - with or without the top.
Country Mouse said…
Great going TMouse! and good tip, Barbara. I'm trying to get some native ribes cuttings going but I think I may be too late in the year - I think it's indigenous ribes growing wild on my property and the plant looks old - so though it's late - next year may be too late! I want to try and get more growing around here! My other propagation efforts are going pretty well. I'll post about progress soon.
lostlandscape said…
Well, I think you qualify for a real gardener--no Japanese beetles required! Congratulations on your successes. The plants look great.

I'm trying to do more seed-rearing myself, partly because you can get lots more plants for next to nothing, and partly because I want to try growing seedlings of plants in the neighborhood.
Genevieve said…
That's awesome. My favorite is the nemophilia too, just because I keep planting them up here in the fog and they do OK, but not great - my climates not quite right for the little dears. We always want what we can't have!

I love the apricot of the monkeyflowers, too.
Anonymous said…
Oh you are on the slippery slope now, Town Mouse. I don't have space for anything but a small ornamental garden, but my master gardener friends and clients are all obsessive propagators. Like you, they start out small, but in no time, newly hatched plants are piling up everywhere. Some sort of Dr. Frankenstein addiction to the thrill of creating new life?

You'll have to join a garden club that has an annual plant sale so you can find your babies a good home once your own garden is full.
NellJean said…
If the end result is satisfying, then you didn't do it 'wrong' -- you just failed to follow the expert's instructions to the letter. Gardening is an art. The scientific part is knowing how something thrived despite our best efforts to kill it.