sixty to zero

Greetings and salutations, everyone; yes, once again it is I, your popular host, here today to bring you a partly didactic post, with some weather talk, too. You may remember me from such posts as “The Caterpillars”, among so many, many others.

Here I am in a characteristic pose.
You can see how sunny and nice it was; a little over sixty degrees F (about 16C).
There isn’t anything in this part of the garden except for the huge cotoneaster (Cotoneaster multiflorus), which is so big you can see that the branches are pushing against the fence on the left. (The pieces of wood under the gate are to keep bunnies from coming into the garden. They still get in, but I’d prefer not to talk about that.)

Because it’s been so cold, for so long, there isn’t anything in flower here except for snowdrops. Which is perfectly okay, according to the guy I live with.
This is Galanthus elwesii ‘Theresa Stone’.
This is a seedling of ‘Theresa Stone’; there must be a thousand of these in the shade garden.
This is a super rare one, not in the shade garden, Galanthus koenenianus.
And there’s mud. Lots and lots of mud.
This is the path under the arbor. That big piece of wood was for something, but it’s warped now, and may just stay there like it has for years. Letting things stay in place for years is kind of what the guy I live with does. It’s a mystery to me. Maybe he’s a weirdo.
He did say he might put some rock or something here, under the arbor, because when the snow melts in the main garden, the water trickles down here and makes an incredible mess. The mud must be six inches deep.

So, as I said, it was a little over sixty today. It might be worthwhile to think about this for a few seconds. Sixty.
By tomorrow night, it will be zero, with snow. Zero. Minus 17.7C. That’s quite a drop in temperature, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
Talk about a relentless winter.

But the guy I live with has stuff to do. I mean besides making me listen to opera all the time. (Yesterday it was Il Signor Bruschino, and Ariadne auf Naxos, if you were desperate to know. Today he went to the store, so it was quiet here for a while, except for the music on the internet radio he bought for me to listen to while he’s away.)

The “stuff” sometimes involves germinating seeds, and that’s the other thing I’m going to talk about today.
Namely, how to deal with various members of the pea family (Fabaceae).
The guy I live with says you can sow seeds in autumn or early winter, and hope that cold weather will help germinate the seeds, or you can nick them and have them germinate in a couple of days.

I’m going to show you how he does that, though it was impossible to show the actual action of nicking the seeds, because the guy I live with doesn’t have an extra arm to hold the camera, and I don’t know how to do that.
These are seeds of Caesalpinia (Hoffmanseggia) repens. It doesn’t matter how old the seeds are.
All these seeds require is some way for water to get to the endosperm, and nicking the seed coat is “counsel of perfection”. (The guy I live with used to read a lot of English gardening books.)
The seed coat is nicked with a very sharp knife, at the point indicated by the pencil.
Just a little flicking motion with the knife is all that’s necessary with most seeds.
He uses a watchmaker’s loupe to be able to see what he’s doing.
All the time very much aware that there’s a sharp blade close to his eyes.

The seeds are placed in a dish with hot water overnight, and then put in a damp coffee filter or paper towel, and placed in a plastic bag, in one of the propagators in the upstairs bedroom (with bottom heat); the seeds germinate in a day or so and are potted in peat pots when the seeds have formed roots. The peat pots can be planted directly into the garden.
The guy I live with says this could also be done wearing reading glasses, with the seeds and knife at a safe distance, or without glasses for people who can see what they’re doing without magnification.
Most of the seedlings will be given away. I know that sounds strange, but I’m used to things like this.

That’s all I have for today. It’s okay if you want to think of us at this time tomorrow night, when the snow is falling, the winds are howling, and there are no degrees at all. We do have a new furnace, after all, which was inspected by the furnace inspector just today. I barked at him in my usual ferocious manner, and then showed him where the furnace was, downstairs.

Until next time, then.

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30 Responses to sixty to zero

  1. Paddy Tobin says:

    It will be hard not to think of you as the temperatures plummet. The temperatures you describe would be very close to record lows here and would certainly be exceptional. Stay warm and indoors!

    • paridevita says:

      Thanks; it’s -14C here right now, and snowing. It was +16C yesterday.
      Those temperature drops aren’t all that unusual, but snow on the ground for fifty-six straight days with no warm-ups in between definitely is unusual for here.
      The last five winters have been like this. Winter used to be the guy Ilive with’s favorite gardening season, but he’s been rethinking this, lately.

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        I couldn’t take that level of cold, I imagine.

      • paridevita says:

        You get used to it. We purebred border collies are tough, and don’t mind the cold. The guy I live with is used to cold, too, from working outside, but he has to wear a lot of extra clothing when we go on our walks.
        Still, he says he’s tired of being cold.

  2. At this moment, it’s -1F with the windchill in Denver. We just came in from a super quick potty break outside…yikes! We’ll be snoozing on the sofa today, thank you very much-no walkies for us. We’re not just staying warm, we’re staying inside!
    Your fur-iends,
    Norman & Elsa 🐾

    • paridevita says:

      We go for walks regardless of the weather. I’m pretty tough, and the guy I live with has a down parka, which he’s had for over thirty years, so we go out.
      The walks might not be long ones.
      He said the first two purebred border collies who lived here went on walks every day, even in the rain, which it used to do back in the last century (they had ponchos to wear; the ponchos are still here). This started when Pooka had to have a ligament in his leg replaced, and the doctor said to start walking, so they did.

      • Our mum would love to walk but as we are two senior dogs (one with creaky, aching joints and the other with epilepsy where extreme temps can trigger a seizure), we’ll stay indoors today. Enjoy your walk-about.
        ~Norman & Elsa

      • paridevita says:

        (The guy I live with didn’t see this comment until now.)
        Chess, the purebred border collie who lived here before me, had seizures. Well, two of them. He took phenobarbital and then zonisamide.
        Yesterday wasn’t too bad, though I was forced to wear my boots on both of my walks. The guy I live with kept saying how he could tell that I knew the boots made everything better, but I just don’t like having them put on me.

  3. WHAT THE CAT??? Mani yore winter is not only reelentless; it iss weerd!!
    How can it go from 60 deegreess to ZERO so quiklee?? Iss sorta sp00ky rite?
    As fore not changin’ thingss yore Guy an BellaSita Mum are simmylar. Shee likess fam-ill-yur thingss an peeple an soundss around her.
    Our upstairss nayburr moved you yesterday an last nite wee both missed THE sound of Tee V tray tabell beein pulled back an forth. An missed nayburr’ss walk… feelss empty….
    All THE Snowdropss look so lovelee…..wee hope they sirvive THE snow….
    Wee were told BEEG storm here an wee have a ‘skiff’ (what efurr THAT iss?)
    You look furry manly inn yore fotoss….happy trailss deer frend……
    ~~~head rubss~~~BellaDharma~~~ an {{{hugss}}} BellaSita Mum

    • paridevita says:

      Thanks. The snowdrops are fine with snow, though the snow itself is becoming tiresome.
      We wouldn’t mind having our neighbor move.
      It used to be pretty common for temperature drops like that; the guy I live with said that’s what winters here used to be like. Days in the 60s, and then a sudden drop, and then back to days in the 60s. Now it’s days in the 30s and 40s, and on the rare occasion that it does warm up, it’s a sign of a temperature drop the next day or day after.

      • Yore nayburr iss not nice eether….wee reememburr from past postss Mani an Guy! Why due peepell think they are ‘entitled’ to due what they want with no consideration fore otherss??
        Our snowdropss are stick their stalkss up thru dirt; butt iss so cold they not bloomin….. BBRRRRR!!!!

      • paridevita says:

        I don’t know why people are the way they are.
        It was nice today, but now it’s windy.

  4. jimbler says:

    A timely post on scarification. I have a fresh batch of Astragalus and Oxytropis that I would usually plant in flats and neglect in the weather for months, and pluck out the ones that sprout and pot up. But your method sounds better!

    • paridevita says:

      The guy I live with wrote an article in the NARGS journal about astragalus seeds. What he did there was nick and soak the seeds in early summer (you never can tell if it will freeze here in May), then when the seeds had formed roots, they were planted directly (and carefully) into the soil-less mix in a trough. Then watered regularly until there were true leaves.
      One time, someone told him the only way to germinate Maihuenia patagonica seed was with 25-year-old seed. Like he had time for that.
      He got some seed, chipped it with nail clippers, soaked the seed over night, and there was germination in two days. (Also works with pediocactus and sclerocactus.)

  5. ceci says:

    Its supposed to be 80 here in Virginia tomorrow. Beyond weird. We are trying to get some pruning done before the birds start building nests, which normally would not happen this early, but who knows.

    Glad the new furnace passed inspection, sounds like you will need it!


    • paridevita says:

      We do need the furnace, for sure.
      It’s been 80 here in February, too (just five years ago), but winters where it can warm up like that seem to be a thing of the past.
      The guy I live with said that last century it was very common for winters to be mostly warm here, and everyone would freak out because roses would break into new growth in February.

  6. The weather is so cold here that you would call it romping conditions, and so do Petey and Sachi. Not me! It’s in the 50s with gale winds and I have no 30-year-old down jacket having had no previous need for one. In a word, brrr. It probably will rain, and if it snows the white stuff might reach down to sea level. Sea level! If ever you were to visit Southern California, now’s the time as it is your kind of weather.

    • paridevita says:

      The guy I live with grew up in Southern California, and he said it would rain at this time of year. He totally freaked out when it rained so much last December, but he also liked it. (Though now there’s a thick layer of ice under the snow.)
      The down jacket isn’t waterproof, but there’s no need here to have a jacket like that.
      (Maybe I’ve already told this story, but when the guy I live with went to Portland with his wife, their host said “Bring your raincoats”, and he said “No one has ever said that to me.” He still doesn’t have a raincoat.)

  7. tonytomeo says:

    Amazingly, SNOW was in the forecast for HERE! That NEVER happens. It snowed very lightly at home, but that is at a higher elevation. It is very cold, with occasional light rain. I am worried that if it does snow, it will make a mess of the redwoods, which are not accustomed to it.

  8. Elaine says:

    We are in the same Arctic Freeze flow you are in as well. Similar huge temperature shift. We are going down to -31C tonight but it will be close to -40 when the wind chill is factored in. I am intrigued by how fast your seeds germinate with the scarifying. Do they all respond this quickly? I ordered a number of seeds from NARGS and will try your method with some of the larger ones. Enjoy your warm cozy bed for the next few days Mani.

    • paridevita says:

      The guy I live with said that seeds of any member of the pea family can be nicked this way. You have to practice, though, because what you want is a nick in the seed coat that exposes the endosperm; not just a scratch, and also not cutting into the endosperm itself.
      With the seeds he did, it was just a flick, and a little part of the seedcoat came off; the endosperm is very much visible after nicking.
      The seeds almost always germinate within two days.
      It also works with members of the morning-glory family, and some others.
      Really hard seed coats are another story.

      • Elaine says:

        Good to know, thanks. Will practice on some old pea seeds I have rather than risk mangling my more precious ones. Absolutely beautiful outside, blue sky and pristine white snowy trees, especially when viewed from inside the house.

      • paridevita says:

        You’re welcome. The guy I live with said some people do this with a scalpel, with the seeds on a table, and some means of being able to see the seeds. But this is the method he’s used for years.
        A steady hand helps. Even with arthritis, and occasional nervousness, he can do this pretty well. Naturally one or two seeds have flown out of his fingers, across the kitchen, never to be seed again.
        Since there are over a thousand posts, we tend to repeat ourselves sometimes, and in the post “Ice Isn’t Nice” you can see a picture of a nicked seed (on Caesalpinia repens; the nick is on the left side of the seed).
        The sun is out, here, and it’s even above freezing.

      • Elaine says:

        I think I might be more concerned with slicing off my finger tip. I have a very sharp utility knife I will try first with. Will check out the recommended post. Is there a better end to nick the seed? Thanks

      • paridevita says:

        There is that concern, but you don’t slice. The guy I live with holds the seed firmly between his thumb and forefinger, places the knife right against the edge of the seed, sort of presses downward a little, and flicks the knife. Off comes a piece of the seed coat, about the size of half a grain of rice.
        A utility knife might not work. A pair of small nail clippers would work, if you just use the corner of them, and don’t cut too deeply.
        The sharp pocket knife method has worked for the guy I live with, but he’s had a lot of practice, and germinated hundreds of seeds that way.
        Some people use sandpaper, but since that involves a lot of sanding, the tendency for the seed to fly away is considerable, and also you have to look closely at the seed to make sure you’re not sanding into the endosperm.
        Some people say to nick opposite the hilum, the spot where the seed was connected to the pod (easily visible on a bean), but, really, anywhere on the edge of the seed will do.

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