Free seeds: given away with purchases of fruit

 It was a colleague (AKA Satu) who put the idea in my head, and the idea was this:

When you have eaten your fruit why not plant the seeds or stones?

If they don’t grow, what have you lost? If they do grow, you’ll have a new and interesting plant. Even if you know it probably won’t fruit in the climate you live in it’s still an interesting and free thing to do. 

I planted some citrus seeds in the spring. They came from an undersized orange and I used a method I found by googling. I can’t find the page again, but this is what I did. I soaked them for 24 hours in tepid water and then spent a frustrating time encouraging them to germinate by peeling off their slippery white husks to leave the beige inner seed. If you do this I advise that if. like me. you are doing it over the sink you should ensure that whenever the slippery little things fire out of your fingers and make a bid for freedom, unlike me, you will have already put the plug in to prevent them sliding straight down the drain!

When I’d finally finished peeling them (I had 6 left) I just planted them in multipurpose compost and waited impatiently. They take longer than you might expect to germinate and I have to confess that on more than one occasion I dug them up a bit to see if anything was happening. Shortly after I had given up on them the first shoot pushed up the soil. The others took their time; it was several weeks before the last got around to growing.

I was surprised and fascinated to see that the first seed to sprout was in fact twins. Now I’ve done a little reading I know that citrus seeds often are polyembryonic but I was particularly wrong-footed by it as at the same time I had a courgette plant producing conjoined twin courgettes and I felt a little ganged up on by unexpected multiples. I couldn’t tell you if the baby orange trees were identical or not as they all look pretty much the same to me! Later I had a couple of orange seeds come up as triplets. I have read that some of them will be genetically identical to the parent but others will be different and have more of the characteristics of a wild citrus tree. Apparently those characteristics are undesirable but as I am not hopeful of getting them to fruit in the British climate and even if they did it might take them 10 years to get around to it, I am happy to have a few more genetically diverse ones in my collection.

I am also growing some plum trees which I planted outside last autumn. I have three doing well and a fourth which is the runt of the litter. I won’t bother saying much about them as plums are happy growing in this climate and so are a little less interesting to write and read about than the more exotic seeds.

I am more excited by my pomegranate seedlings. After removing the fruit pulp from the seeds I let them dry out for a few days before planting. I had meant to soak 5 and dry 5 and then see which were most successful but I  forgot them and they all dried out. However, 7 germinated so drying seems quite effective. As with the oranges they took weeks longer than I was hoping to germinate and when they did grow they started at different times. I am intrigued by them because after the initial pair of leaves the seedings began to show differences, as you can see in the three pictures below. They seem to be quite individual even at this early stage. I shall be very interested to see how they develop.

I did try growing a mango seed but I don’t think I kept it warm enough to get started. I’d like to try figs and lychees next but I’ll wait until I see the fruit on special offer. I find it wonderful that seeds I would have thrown away in the past can make such interesting plants and even if they don’t always grow at least I already had the fruit to enjoy.

Bonding with plants

Today someone asked us to water his chilli plants while he’s away. A fairly unexceptional request until you consider the rest of the plants that he did not initially ask us to water. He has a beautifully kept garden with various hanging baskets and containers, but it was the little chilli plants on the kitchen window-sill that spurred him to ask us to come over and water. As it happens we’re happy to water the lot, but it got me thinking about favouritism in the garden.

I think the plants I’m most attached to at the moment are my aubergines. They have not actually produced any aubergines yet but the flowers are decidedly attractive and I can see signs of the fruit beginning to develop. The leaves are pleasingly furled and furred and there is the added attraction that I haven’t grown them before. They don’t seem to take too much water or space, unlike the spectacularly sprawling butternut squash plants and the decidedly horizontal courgettes. Also, they appear to be a viable plant in evolutionary terms. By this I mean that they seem (so far at least) to be able to grow without the support of stakes or other artificial aids in a strong and well structured shape. I cannot truly respect any plant so overbred that it cannot hold up its flower head or fruit without help. (Exceptions to this are climbing plants, assuming they will climb without human interference, and the likes of cornflowers and harebells which have evolved among supporting grasses.)

Despite the untidy flailing limbs, I am rather fond of the butternut squash plants because of their vigor and the huge round leaves. I did some reading on the internet and there seem to be those who think you should let them sprawl and those who think you should train them up as climbers. I decided to do a bit of both with the result that one shoot, trained up the pear tree, now reaches as high as I can stretch and shows no signs of stopping. It’s most impressive. The flowers aren’t opening yet so there won’t be anything produced anytime soon but I am a little concerned that one day a butternut squash may fall on my head!

The trouble with horticultural favouritism, however, is that there will be some unpopular plants at the bottom of the pile. At present the leafy rejects are the african violets on my desk at work. They have been hanging on in a state of advanced neglect for at least a year now and it is really time that I did something about them. I have been looking at them too long and have lost interest but cannot quite bring myself to throw them away yet because of the admirable way they’ve clung on to life despite my disinterest. They deserve better. But we don’t always get what we deserve…

Of course it’s only natural to have a plant hierarchy in our hearts – how else could any gardener decide which plant gets the coveted sunny corner? How else could we even chose what to plant? My partner reduced his planting this year to very little other than his favourite (tomatoes), but I’m not ready to abandon the variety of planting a few more crops than I have space or time for. It looks like I’ll be picking my favourites for some time to come.