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Seeds of hope

Seeds of hope
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First Published: Thu, May 22 2008. 12 46 AM IST

Updated: Thu, May 22 2008. 12 46 AM IST
I start with a confession: In all these years of growing amaryllis at home, I never noticed the seed pod. This year, our amaryllis bloomed, and how. The stalk stood firm, and perhaps I forgot to deadhead the spent flower. Or, perhaps the plant is finally mature. I read somewhere that it is more likely that this year, the blooms were lucky to be pollinated by visiting bees. Now, that seems more likely because our amaryllis bloomed almost at the same time. And we had dozens of bees and several butterflies around at the time in our neighbour’s garden.
Soon after the flower withered, a seed pod began to grow where it had been. In a matter of weeks, it plumped out and began to yellow. Then, one day, it burst open. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There, waiting to be collected, were dozens of black, papery seed covers.
Afraid that the wind would scatter them, we collected them carefully and placed them in a perforated plastic bag that was kept in the open to air-dry. Then, I began to read up and ask friends and experts about amaryllis seeds. Most people suggested that amaryllis grows best from the bulb. But a number of my friends have also planted the seeds and met with slow, but certain, success. Still some others suggest that you soak the seeds for a few hours before planting them. Others believe it is safe to mist the seeds till they sprout. Still others believe in jumping in at the deep end: they float them in some water. Once the roots arrive, the seeds are ready to be planted.
The amaryllis got me thinking. There must be several other plants that we do not, but can, grow from seed. A friend came up with the story of her Adenium or desert rose. For years, she wasn’t quite sure what to do with the seed pods. Then she entered her garden for a competition. The judges came home and loved what they saw. After they left, she realized that the Adenium seeds were gone. She knew that Adenium can be propagated through grafting and cuttings. But from seed? The judges taught her an important lesson: The tiny seeds of the Adenium can be planted with success! Now, she collects the bean-like pods carefully before they burst open and grows her own Adenium.
When young, the pods are green. They ripen with time. “That is the time to watch out!” is the advice. Tie them lightly before they burst and scatter the mustard-like seeds. Once the pod opens out a little, the thread may be untied. The pod can be plucked and placed, open end upwards, in a pot with light potting mixture of equal parts of earth, leaf mould and soil. Sprinkle a little soil to cover it lightly. The seeds sprout soon enough. Once they grow to a manageable size, transplant them into bigger pots and watch your home-grown Adenium grow and glow.
Growing plants from seed is always more of a challenge. It can also take some years for the plant to bloom. Amaryllis grown from seed can take anything from 3-8 years to bloom. There are others that can beg for some time, too. Remembers avid gardener Vandana Kumar, who moved to Delhi from Kolkata, “The only flowers I’ve tried are my favourite torenia, which I brought from Kolkata and threw into the front beds.” The result? Initial disappointment. “They remained dormant until I gave up and then suddenly, the next winter, they came up in profusion and delighted me for the whole season till summer really was upon us.”
There you are. It’s tempting to bring in seedlings grown at the nursery as they have a head start and tend to flower much earlier. But when you grow something from seed, the wait is certainly worth it!
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First Published: Thu, May 22 2008. 12 46 AM IST