Growing Season 2004
I return to action....finally!
09/29/2004 @ 1000

Sorry about the long hiatus, but I have been very busy during the dull part of the tree seed season, the growing time, but am now gearing up for the fall.

Here in Delaware we have had strange weather this summer, and between that and a lot of traveling my seedlings haven't fared too well. Here is a report:

  • Bur oak - I germinated 6 of the 21 seeds that Pete sent me; 1 is in the ground at my plant, 1 died off during a dry spell, and the other 4 are in pots.

  • Wisteria - all my seeds germinated, all are alive, and I can't give them all away. I checked out my favorite vine over the weekend, and couldn't see any seed pods. Maybe they only produce seeds every other year?

  • The "Mystery Tree of 2004" has  been identified. I found it looking through a gardening book my girlfriend bought. The plant is "hardy orange" (poncirus trifoliate), and here is a link to a site.  I checked out a couple of the plants last weekend, and there are a lot of fruits ripening. Drop me a line if you want to try these guys.

  • Hophornbeam - these guys are turning into my favorite tree - I have 3 little seedlings in pots now. Only the seeds that I stratified moist over the winter germinated, so next year all of them get this treatment.  (Note: the only tree that I have found has no seed this year).

  • Osage orange - as usual, all the seeds germinated. I am very pleased with the ones I planted in the spring - they have done very well here at my plant, where most of the soil is really clay, hardpan, construction debris, brick, and stone. During the summer the ground hardens up to concrete, but the trees are doing well, and some are over 3' tall.

  • Ginkgo - I still haven't mastered these yet, with only 10 seeds germinating from one tray of 72 I planted, and none in the other tray I planted a few weeks later. Next year I will get them going earlier. 

A cool gift!
05/20/2004 @ 1330

Received a great gift today - some silver maple seeds from Shawn in Tennessee. I haven't grown maples (on purpose - they are always finding their way into my garden and pissing me off) but I am excited to grow these. The seeds are the largest of the maples, the earliest to fall, and they germinate right away. I'll send Shawn a few seeds from up here in return - as usual, I collected way too many. 

More germination!
05/20/2004 @ 0900

More germination! The weather has been sporadically hot, but mostly spring-like, with a lot of rain. I'm off to Scotland for 2 weeks, starting Saturday, so there will be no reports for a while. Here is the status of the seeds now: 

  1. Bur Oak - just this morning I noticed that 2 (of the 21) acorns have germinated - tall straight sprouts. I was worried that these seeds were duds, or that I should have put them in soil over the winter.  Thanks, Pete.

  2. Ginkgo - 1 sprout! These typically take a long time to germinate, so this is a good sign. Last year my germination rate was very low, but those seeds I bought over the Internet. This years seeds I collected right here in Wilmington, so maybe they like the climate better.  We'll see. (Planter D).

  3. Sweetgum - 2 of 24 germinated, so far. I have never grown these guys, so this might be typical progress. (Planter E).

  4. This year's "mystery seeds" have all germinated. These are the ones that I dug out of the lemon-like fruit this spring, not the ones that sprouted over the winter in moist perlite. (Planter F, rows 9-12).  

  5. Osage orange - most of these have sprouted (Planter G, rows 5-8). From last year I knew these guys grow very easily. 

  6. Kentucky coffeetree - the seeds that I used a hacksaw on have mostly sprouted by now, while the ones I cracked in the vise in our workshop have done nothing. Maybe they were damaged? (Planter H, rows 1-2). I have more of these seeds available if anyone wants some. The usually germinate within 3 weeks, so there is still time for this year.

  7. Northern Catalpa - these are very easy to grow, and germinate quickly. Just about all of these are up. (Planter H, rows 5 - 8).

  8. Peppers - My pepper partner from Connecticut, Joe-San, and I planted a couple of trays of these over St. Patrick's day weekend, and expected to have over 100 little hot pepper plants by now. We usually keep them in his basement with a grow light, and germination is quite good. Well, this year was a bust, very poor germination. He was traveling a lot through the spring, and had someone else watering, so maybe they were too cold, or too wet, or something. My tray, which I planted at the end of April and have kept outside, is showing some signs of life - I will check it tomorrow before leaving for two weeks.

All the seed trays are uncovered now.


Some germination!
05/03/2004 @ 0900

The germination status so far: 

  1. Wisteria - All the wisteria seeds have germinated, and the sprouts are about 2" high. 

  2. Redbud - the seeds that were sprouted are still alive, but very spindly. None of the seedlings have developed their second set of leaves.

  3. Littleleaf linden - one of these has germinated.

  4. Hophornbeam - only the one seed that had already sprouted is up, about 2" high, just getting its second set of leaves.  

The weather has been a little cool, in the 60s and low 70s. All the trays are outside now, in the shaded planter box. The covers are still on the trays with no seedlings.

Planting Day 5
04/28/2004 @ 1330

Back from Alabama, very hot there already, everyone at Auburn University wearing shorts, sandals, and tans.  

The next tray of seeds (tray "H") included:

  1. Kentucky coffeetree - I love growing these guys - the seeds are the toughest seeds I have ever handled. I put these in a vise to hold them, and sawed through the tough outer coat with a hacksaw. I have grown a lot of these over the past 2 years, but the survival rate is not really good here in the clay soil I have at my plant. These are so much fun to look for and collect that I will keep on trying.

  2. Kentucky Coffeetree - this set of seeds I cracked in a vise. This technique works well; even though the seedcoat pops when it splits, it apparently doesn't damage the seed inside. 

  3. Northern Catalpa - these are so easy to grow, and do very well here at my plant. I gathered two nice pods from a tree just off "ginkgo row" near Bancroft Parkway last fall, stuffed them into a plastic bag, and just cracked open the pod today. The seeds just need to be covered over with about 1/2" of soil and kept moist; they germinate in about 10 days.  

  4. Littleleaf linden - these seeds were kept in a ziploc bag over the winter, and were for the most part just squishy blobs. I planted them anyway; maybe the seeds survived. 

Here is the diagram of the Day 5 planting trays. Be sure to see the page for each individual seed type to learn more.

I also planted the left-over hot pepper seeds that Joe-San and I plant every year - here is the diagram. My tree area is ideal for peppers - sun all day. It might be too late for germination.


Planting Day 4
04/23/2004 @ 1200

Sunny today, weather expected to change tonight to rain. Off to Alabama for business,  but managed to get another tray of seeds planted today.  

The next tray of seeds (tray "G") included:

  1. Chestnut - I collected these last fall at Valley Garden Park - confused as to exactly what they are. As far as I know all the American Chestnuts are gone, but these don't really look like Chinese Chestnut. Perhaps they are some hybrid. The tree these seeds came from is pretty good sized, though, so this might be a remnant American.  

  2. Osage Orange - I love these guys - I saved two fruits from my favorite tree in Wilmington, and held them in a plastic bag over the winter. They were totally rotten and very soft when I open the bag last week - in fact, I had to wear latex gloves, as the bag was full of this very funky liquid, and the smell was amazing. The other guys here made me go outside to squeeze the fruits. Typically there are 50 - 100 seeds per fruit, so 1 is all you need per year. These germinated well last year; I planted them as a growing fence around our plant here. Too soon to see if they all survived the winter, as they haven't begun to leaf out yet.

  3. Scholartree - the ones I grew last year are leafing out now, very pretty. These are good street trees here - resistant to urban conditions. They appear to be growing very well, over a foot tall in one year.  

Here is the diagram of the Day 4 planting trays. Be sure to see the page for each individual seed type to learn more.


Planting Day 3
04/20/2004 @ 1100

Continued good weather, with rain expected for the next 5 days. Fortunately(?) I am headed to Auburn, Alabama for business, where it is going to be sunny and in the high 80s for the next week. Have to take my SPF 45 - we pink guys don't do well in the sun.  

The third tray of seeds included:

  1. American linden - these I collected late in the fall from a certain section of Wilmington off Union Street where there are a lot of trees. The seeds are marble-sized; I just held them over the winter in a plastic zip-lock bag. I was able to peel the by-now somewhat mushy fruit from some of the seeds using just my fingernails. Some of the seeds were a little soft, and I ended just stuffing the whole thing into the planting soil. Not quite the scientific method, but I do this for fun. 

  2. Dogwood - I collected these guys from a flowering dogwood in front of the house I used to rent near Trolley Square. There weren't many seeds last fall, while the year before there were 10 times as many. This is a beautiful flowering tree, with nice orange colors in the fall, and pretty red-orange seeds. These seeds were just aged over the winter in a sealed zip-lock bag, and planted as they came from the bag. 

  3. Sweet gum - everyone has seen these "monkey balls" - I found a row of trees outside my dentist's office last fall, grabbed a few, and let them dry out in a plastic bag. I began tapping them on the table (still in the bag), and about a million little seeds fell out of the "beak" part of the seed ball. These trees are supposed to be good for urban conditions - resistant to smog, dirt, drought, etc. 

  4. Crape myrtle - these I collected from a row of trees in Brandywine park last fall when walking there with my fellow collector. There are several colors, and I of course mixed them up, so I don't know what will grow. These were aged over the winter in a plastic zip-lock, and just stuck in the soil.

  5. Lebanon cedar - these seeds I got from my friend Vik, the tree expert at the Delaware Center for Horticulture. Someone had collected them from Brandywine Cemetery and dropped them off to him. Vik is a ISA Certified Arborist, and directs much of the tree planting efforts in Wilmington. 

  6. The return of the "Mystery Lemons". I planted the seeds from another fruit that I had just held over the winter in a loose plastic bag. The fruit was extremely moldy, and fell apart quite readily, but the seeds look good. I just stuffed them into the soil.

Here is the diagram of the Day 3 planting trays. Be sure to see the page for each individual seed type to learn more.

I also planted the bur oak acorns that Pete sent me last fall - he collected from two sites. These big acorns went into individual pots; several were cracked open, and one had a little tap emerging. Some were a little moldy, so it will be interesting to see if they germinate. While these are white oaks, like the sawtooth oak that I collected last fall, and should germinate and be planted in the fall, I tried holding them over the winter. 

Planting Day 2
04/19/2004 @ 1600

The weather was in the 70s and 80s this weekend and today, so I am getting inspired to get everything into my seed planters. 

The second tray of seeds included:

  1. Goldenrain trees - I collected these seeds last fall from in front of the Post House restaurant on Main Street in Newark. There was a nice group of young trees here in Wilmington that I collected from in the fall of 2002, but they were damaged by the salt used on the roads the winter of 2002, and most of them are dead. I just held these seeds over the winter in a plastic bag, still in the pods, in my unheated area. I planted a full tray (72) of these guys, as I would like to give some away later this year. I still have some seeds left over if anyone wants some - contact me.

  2. Ginkgo - I collected these seeds from my secret area here in Wilmington. I put them into a sealed zip-lock bag over the winter, and just squeezed the seeds away from the flesh today. I had to wear gloves - these guys really stink. The seeds I bought over the internet last year didn't have the greatest germination rate; I hope these local ones will do a little better.

Here is the diagram of the Day 2 planting trays. Be sure to see the page for each individual seed type to learn more.

Planting Day 1
04/15/2004 @ 1600

Let the games begin! I was rummaging in my seed collection today, and found several bags of sprouted seeds - I guess we are a little ahead of last year. I think my storage area is a little warmer than usual for this part of April. It rained like crazy the past 3 days, but the next few should be warm and sunny - just right for getting me in the mood for planting.

As usual, I plant in the standard seed trays, 6 by 12, that you can buy at any home store. These have a plastic lid to make a "greenhouse" to keep the trays from drying out until the sprouts get more than about 2" high. 

The first tray of seeds included:

  1. Mystery seeds 2004 - these are the seeds from the lemon-like fruits from the plant that is all thorns. Last fall I removed the seeds from the fruits and held them over the winter in moist perlite. All of the seeds germinated, and I have a bag of little 1-inch sprouts. I planted 32 sprouts, and I will plant some seeds from the remaining fruits (the fruits are totally moldy, but the seeds inside look OK.

  2. Eastern Redbud (cercis canadensis) - these seeds were pre-treated and held in moist perlite over the winter. The seeds that I boiled were all just mush, but the seeds that I scratched with sandpaper are all little 3-4 inch high sprouts.

  3. Redbud - these are seeds I held in the pod and allowed to dry. I scratched them with sand paper today before planting.

  4. Eastern Hophornbeam - seeds that I collected last year, planted as-is, with no pre-germination treatment,  after aging over the winter.

  5. Eastern hophornbeam - these seeds I held in moist perlite over the winter, and one was germinated. The rest were very dark in color, and a few had split open.

  6. Wisteria - these are seeds I collected from a large tree at Rockwood Park - I was walking there around the end of last year, and snagged several seed pods. 

Here is the diagram of the Day 1 planting trays. Be sure to see the page for each individual seed type to learn more.

Linden (basswood)
11/25/2003 @ 1500

I collected two types of lindens this year, American Linden (tilia americana), and Littleleaf Linden (tilia cordata). Both are grown as street trees here in Wilmington. Had an inquiry from the web from Tony who has collected some lindens from a particular tree - he was interested in germination tips. This is my first year collecting these, so I have no experience. However, from what I have read, these seeds need both scarification and cold stratification. The seeds are very hard, and this outer skin needs to be weakened. I will write more as I work with these seeds.   

This year's Mystery Seeds
11/24/2003 @ 1400

Well, the Mystery Seeds for this year are very interesting. I collected them a few weeks ago while walking with my fellow collector around on Kentmere parkway near Rockford Park. I noticed some small round yellow fruits on a shrub planted along the sidewalk - the plant was almost all thorns. Of course we had to try to get some of these fruits. Several scratched hands later... They smelled vaguely citrusy. I cut into a fruit today and found it full of seeds, much like orange or lemon seeds. The fruit looks and smells like a lemon or orange; a little research on the web makes me think it is some sort of lemon that is hardy here in Delaware. The plants are very interesting, since I am looking for some good shrubs for a border around my plant. Most of the info on the web says that citrus seeds should be planted as soon as they are removed from the fruit, before they can dry out. I washed the seeds (I got about 20 from one fruit) and am stratifying them in moist perlite in a zip-lock bag. I will monitor these for a few weeks, and if they germinate I will germinate the rest.    

Eastern redbud seed storage
11/23/2003 @ 1200

I collected seeds from a nice Eastern redbud (cercis canadensis) growing here in Wilmington a few weeks ago. I gathered about 50 pods, and each yielded 3-4 seeds. I split the seeds into two groups. The first I mechanically scarified by rubbing the seeds between two sheets of coarse sandpaper. The second group I put into boiling water, turned the heat off, and allowed them to cool for 3 days (over the weekend). The water was light brown after the first day, but almost black after 3 days. Both of these groups I put into paper envelopes in zip-lock bags with some moist perlite.  I will hold them at ambient temperature until the spring. Hopefully these two steps will overcome any seed dormancy.   

American hophornbeam seed storage
11/20/2003 @ 1200

I collected seeds from the only American hophornbeam (ostrya virginia) growing here in Wilmington a few weeks ago. It was quite the adventure, since the tree is in the middle of the Market Street Mall, and I had to unload a stepladder from my truck during the day to get to the seeds.  Got a few strange looks, and was almost busted by the guard in the building where the tree is, but the operation was a success. Sorted the seeds today - got about 35. I divided them into two groups, one to stratify moist, and the other dry. For the moist seeds, I mixed some coarse perlite with water, until I could not squeeze any water out of the mix, and added this to a plastic zip-lock bag. I put the seeds into a paper envelope in the bag - the seeds are quite small and I don't want to lose them. The other seeds are just in a zip-lock dry. I will stratify them until the spring and compare the germination. None of the seed references I have found mention the need for scarification. While the temperature has been warm this fall, it will get cold and I plan to stratify in the ambient temperature as usual.  

Seed Collecting
11/19/2003 @ 1400

My seed collecting started a few months ago, with a lot of exploring to find new trees for collection.  So far I have collected:

linden (American and littleleaf)
Kentucky coffeetree
sawtooth oak
bur oak (sent to me by Pete)
crape myrtle
American hornbeam
Eastern redbud
Eastern hophornbeam
Northern catalpa
Chinese scholartree



Welcome to "The 2004 Growing Season," the story of the 2004 Trees from Seeds growing season. This column will provide you with a regular update on the status of this year's crop of tree seedlings.

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Last updated: 01/08/2008 03:32:00 PM