a hint of winter

Greetings and salutations everyone; yes, once again it is I, Chess the purebred border collie, filling in for the guy I live with, and here to bring you the latest news from our garden. You may remember me from such posts as “A Day Without Antlers” and “After The Solstice”, among so many, many others.

Here I am in a characteristic pose. One of my nicknames, if you didn’t know, is Captain Cuddles, and here I am looking the part. The guy I live with was going to write a series of children’s books featuring Captain Cuddles, played by me, of course, and my mommy was going to illustrate them. 14121402They had the same idea with my Uncle Pooka, and the “Mister Offlesoft” series of books, that also never came into being. Some of the working titles were Mister Offlesoft at the Seashore, Mister Offlesoft Takes a Holiday, Mister Offlesoft Solves a Mystery. If you didn’t know that the guy I live with was a complete sap, you probably do now.

Look what happened in our back yard this morning.14121403


14121404It was the same in the front yard, both side yards, and the “way back”, too.

If you look closely at the first picture you’ll notice that the Arizona cypress is missing. It was a few feet to the left of the trough there. (The trough has limestone from the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, and is for Aquilegia jonesii, in case you were wondering.) Then if you look at the next picture you can sort of barely see the cypress’s branches, at the extreme right, so it was moved. Cypresses have shallow roots, I guess.

But the big deal was the snow. The guy I live with, who is still doing this14121405said the snow would be good for the seed pots, for insulation and so they don’t dry out, but the snow turned out to be really wet, which is weird. At this time of year it’s usually dry and fluffy, but it was wet. I slipped and fell on the driveway and the guy I live with was worried, but when he helped me up I wagged my tail to show that everything was okay. Border collies are much tougher than humans, I think.

But anyway the snow was wet, and it smelled really good outside.

Hardly anything else happened today. The guy I live with, who, as you may know by now, is totally obsessed with iris seeds, and has been fiddling with them every day. The batch of really old seed he got turned out not to be viable, which was disappointing, and then he decided not to keep the other seed in filter paper any more, because there was too much mold, which you usually don’t see in such a dry climate, so he went back to perlite, and transferred all the seeds.14121406There was some whining about how hard it was to see the emerging radicle against the background of the white perlite, and of course it doesn’t look like underwear now, but you can’t have everything.

I have lots of funny underwear stories to tell some day. I think I already told the one of my buddy Slipper racing out into the garden with a pair of underwear when the garden was on tour and he was a little puppy, but maybe not the time the guy I live with’s pants started giving him trouble while he was giving a talk on plants, and were slowly sliding down, but I don’t think I can tell that story just right. I’m pretty sure his pants stayed on, though he was never asked to do talks at that particular place again.

See how I get distracted?

You can see that there’s a little water in the plastic bags, so things should be okay. That’s what he says, though I can tell you he spends a lot of time down in the laundry room, where the little irises are, saying happy things. I don’t think he sings to them, though. Yet.

This came in the mail yesterday, and now he’s fretting over what to do about it.14121407I had to give him one of those looks that meant he needed to remember there was a budget for biscuits and my pills, so maybe he’ll be able to control himself just a little. He already sent two orders for seed, and there are only (“only”) about 150 B.E.F. Grower’s Pots (“best pots ever made”) left, and so he needs to think about that, too. Unless of course he decides to order plain old pots. But biscuits are very important.

There was a sunset a couple of nights ago that I forgot to post a picture of, so here it is now. It sort of goes with the silene pictured on the catalog. sunsetI’ve talked kind of a lot tonight. It’s probably about time for me to let you go. Here’s an excellent close-up of me, in case you needed one. 14121401


Until next time, then.


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more seed stuff

Greetings and salutations, everyone; yes, once again it is I, Chess the purebred border collie, filling in for the guy I live with, and hear to bring you some, well, at least moderately interesting news. You may remember me from such posts as “Guarding The Fort” and “Show And Tell”, among so many, many others.

Here I am in a characteristic pose.14121105You can probably see how things are going with me. The guy I live with has been obsessing again, or still, and so today’s post will be frightfully didactic, and yet mercifully short.

Remember the business about soaking oncocyclus iris seeds, well, this has now been taken a step further. The seeds come with an aril, or collar, which is why they’re called aril irises. (Someone who did seed germination for a living said that this process can be done with all other irises, though there isn’t a collar. You would cut the seed at the hilum, where the seed attached to the seed pod.)

The collar is the whitish thing on the right. It gets pulled off with a dental pick, which is why the seed is soaked, to make it softer.

14121102Removing the aril exposes the endosperm; or, if it doesn’t, a small amount of seed coat can be carefully pulled away to reveal it. The endosperm should be white, or off-white, and healthy-looking. (It’s easy to tell.)

Then a small (less than a millimeter) slice is taken off the tip of the endosperm, and you keep doing this, until you have also cut a portion of the embryo. Like cutting across both the white and the yolk of a hard-boiled egg. Use a razor blade, with masking tape covering one side. The seed in the picture below is probably not healthy, since you can see a brown ring around the embryo (brown is almost always bad in gardening), but it does show the embryo, surrounded by the endosperm, surrounded by the seed coat.

I know this sounds like hyper-counterintuitive, actually slicing the embryo, but this is the root end of the plant, and if you remove just a little, things will be okay.

What you are actually doing is cutting across the micropylar barrier in the endosperm; this barrier is so strong that sometimes it will heal, after the seed has been cut. 14121103And then the cut seeds are put in a folded, damp, if not actually moist, coffee filter (the underwear-looking thing in the last post, though some people just use a bag with perlite in it), and put in a freezer bag, and left in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for a month or so. (Not in the freezer.)

Then stuff starts to happen. Sometimes. 14121104At this point the seeds can be planted, though the guy I live with said that Prof. Deno suggested leaving them in the filters until the first leaf has emerged. The guy I live with is not that patient.

Well, that’s all. See, it wasn’t so bad, was it?14121101


Until next time, then.





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