PLANNING STAGE: Now that you’ve harvested your first pod, dried the seeds for about a week and gathered all of your seed sprouting equipment, its time to sprout!
The wonderful thing about brugmansia seed is that once it sprouts, each successfully sprouted seed will become a small tree, if all goes well. Isn’t that special? Why then are you planning on planting 1500 seeds? Unless you intend reforesting the USA from coast to coast, or replenishing all the rain forests in Brazil, sprouting more than 100 seeds is a little nuts. Do the math. Five seeds from 10 crosses, if successful, will produce 50 trees. Two successful seedlings from each of ten crosses will produce twenty trees. Sound better to you? So, the first thing to consider when sprouting seeds is acreage. I know its fun to see those little green faces poking out of the soil, but remember what could happen if you adopted 50 St. Bernard puppies. Same deal.
BUYING SEED: If you don’t know how, or don’t want to make your own seed, you can buy it from a reputable member of the brugmansia community, or ask them for freebies. Where do you find a reputable brugmansia seed retailer? Visit Brugmansia Growers International on the web, or Brugmansia Lovers Unite on Facebook and ask. Both are long-standing brug groups with lovely, helpful members who have been where you are…at the beginning. They’re more than happy to help guide you to an honest seller who not only has a history of selling good seed, but offers a bit of ongoing help when you have a problem. They also care very much about the outcome of the seed. If their cross produces a sultry, Hollywood worthy brug in your garden, it makes their day. Some of those seed (and plant) sellers sell on eBay. Others sell on their own sites. The bulk of them sell wherever they can, because soil and fertilizer aren’t free and it takes time and work to make the seeds. Seed breeders also like to eat occasionally. Making seed crosses helps keep production going, throws the occasional meal on the table and puts Meow Mix in the cats’ bowls. Its a living…almost.
The flip side is seed jockeys on eBay that buy seed in bulk and peddle it for profit only. They don’t care if the seed they post in the ad will anywhere near match the accompanying photo in the ad. They don’t know how old the seed is. It could have come from a Babylonian swamp over 600,000 years ago and is dead as a door nail. Not their problem. They buy bulk seed, count them into seed packs, send them to you, then count the money. They’re counters and depositors, not hybrid brugmansia breeders with years of experience. If you don’t do your research before you buy, you could get stuck in their game. So, ask around before you invest.
SEED VIABILITY: Seeds are not eggs. You cannot candle them to see whether the seed germ inside is viable. You also cannot X-Ray them like Madame Curie. Some seeds have absolutely nothing inside them. The only way to assure every seed has a viable germ is to peel off the outer cork and take a look. If you’re in the business of selling seed, that about 10,000 seed peeled. Not only isn’t it a practical solution, it will have you in an expensive funny farm in short order. Peeling thousands of seeds is something reserved for 16th century French kings a bit short on the receiving end of the gene pool and locked in a lovely room for their own and others’ safety. Your seed seller generally will not peel seed for you. We’ll get to peeling later, but don’t expect seed germs stripped down to their birthday suits like pole dancers.
Another way to test seed viability is done at the selling end by the breeder. If you have the room, time, and the growing season on your side, the seller will plant about a hundred seeds, wait until they sprout and determine what percentage of them are viable. Huge seed companies do this kind of thing with marigolds, zinnias, you name it. Brugmansia seed breeders generally don’t germinate test. Why? First of all, we don’t have thousands of seeds or maybe even hundreds of seeds from each pod (or individual cross) that we do. As a result, the number of available seeds from the various crosses is limited. A pod might yield 100, 50 or 20 good seeds. If they were tested for germination using the standard method – there would be nothing left! So, you should consider brugmansia seed crosses as heirloom seeds. In doing so, you as a buyer know the seed is of a limited number and that your purchase of them involves some risk as far as germination is concerned. These seeds are generally sold in packs of 10 with a few extra supplied if the number of seed in a particular pod allows for it. Some advertise 15 seed per pack. If all of your seeds sprout, you’ve hit the jackpot. If half of them do, you’re still good. If only one or two do, there are a variety of reasons why that may be. We’ll discuss them later in this article. So, if all 10 seeds sprout, you’ve won the 10 million dollar lottery. If 5 sprout, you may have to be satisfied with the 5 million dollar lottery. You’re still going to have 5 blooming trees from that pack and hundreds more from the other packs you’ve pigged out on. LOL! I know. I’ve done it. Its fun to sprout seeds and dream. When you’re a little more experienced, you learn some restraint, MAYBE.
Seed viability and time. Your seed seller should post good information about the seed:
1. Clear information about the parent plants. Mom (pod parent)and dad (pollen donor). The mom is the first name in the information. The dad is the second name. Thus, Dorthea x Moulin Rouge.
2. An accurate photo of each parent plant should be posted in the ad.
3. The date that the seed was collected.
Including the collection date of seed is very important. Why? Because, seed loses viability as it ages. It also loses viability if it is stored incorrectly as it waits for sale. If the seed you buy is from last year, even optimum storage conditions may not have prevented viability loss. So, get them while they’re hot! Look for the collection date. If its not listed in the ad, find others that DO have a collection date. Fresh seed is the best seed.
PRICE: Brug seeds sell for about $1.99 – 7.95 a pack on average. The junkers are on the low end. The more well thought out crosses and the rarer crosses are on the high end. Sometimes, brug seeds are bid up to thirty or even fifty dollars a pack. Those seeds are placed for bid for a variety of reasons and the price is consumer driven. If you see seeds bid up to high prices, there’s a reason for it. The customer believes the cross is a good one, shows promise as a possible source of something innovative or new, or they just like the pictures. Who knows. That’s the spread and the reasons for it.
So, once you’ve either made or purchased seeds, you need to get them growing!
NEXT POST: Starting the process