Way back in mid-Spring I thought I had found a life hack for the time- and money- drain of purchasing Pacific Northwest Native plants. I had purchased seed from a reputable purveyor, some seedling trays and soil, and deployed my
free child labor daughter to plant them. Alas, here it is almost fall, and no seedlings. As mad scientist/plant propagators go, I am almost a failure. I say ‘almost’ because the seeds I planted which were not natives had a 100% germination rate, and then we ate all the sugar snap peas up, yum. Back when I had a small vegetable garden–something I cannot have now–planting seeds wasn’t a misplaced act of hope, it was a given. Plant, wait, eat. Repeat.
Before I planted the native seeds, I had some native plant folk tell me I needed to burn them, or freeze them; one lady told me to eat them and collect the ‘residue.’ Umm… ick. In case you were wondering, I did not shake her hand.
I also heard from someone more, ahem, mainstream, who said just plant them…and now I have some seedling trays filled with mushy cardboard liners. Turning to the Most Expert expert I know, I asked Charles Knighton for advice. Mr. Knighton tended the Native Plant Gardens of the Royal BC Museum for 23 years, and British Columbia and Washington State share a common border and much of the same climate and native flora. I have a great affinity for Canadians, as the drinking age in BC is quite a bit lower than here and I used to go there a lot. I am very happy to have made Mr. Knighton’s acquaintance…especially as I have tended the putative Native Plant Gardens of Me for one year as of last Friday. I also am very sorry about the Pig War, a nasty bit of business about gardening that British Columbia and the U.S. hopefully can now work through.
Mr. Knighton’s advice is to collect the berries and fruits of the plants I would like to propagate from seed, whiz them in a blender, and ferment the slurry to simulate the digestive activity of the forest critters who might normally eat them and then spread them haphazardly. Already I like this more than that other lady’s idea.
Strain the fermented slurry and dry, then plant the pulp. I hope it should go without saying that each plant type should be treated separately, because we are not trying to make my grandmother’s boozy fruit compote here. To read Mr. Knighton’s complete answer to my question, you should visit his website, which if you have not already done you should do now. You can always come back here.
I think the fruit squeezin’ sounds like super fun and plan on doing it in the Mossmaster 3000 with my
free child labor daughter next year. In the meantime, I have four trays of seeds and soil. I am not giving up, because it does occur that salal, kinnikinnik, and Oregon grape all have fruit that ripens late summer to fall, and I planted the seeds in the spring. Since I didn’t label which tray has what in it (“I’ll know when the seedlings come up,” I said to myself. Hey, self: you’re a dolt), I don’t want to just dump them out, or I could eventually wind up with a giant mishmosh of forest understory plants growing somewhere where I don’t want them.
I’ll let them overwinter and see what happens next spring.
On a positve note, I did a plant count yesterday as I get ready for the anniversary of the Mitigation Plan. I have one kinnikinnik that got too much shade, one redtwig dogwood that was a Mountain Beaver salad bar, and a salal seedling that I moved after it had been in the ground almost a year (dumb–salal doesn’t like Mr. Diggy or any other shovel, and I know it). Three plant deaths over a nine month period. That’s just shy of 99.4 % successful, and quite a bit ahead of the Mitigation Planner, who achieved a better than 75% death rate in less time. If you’re Rain Man, now you know how many plants I’ve planted…and how many toothpicks were in that box I just dropped.