There’s a magic in the way that great big plants grow from tiny little seemingly dead seeds. It fascinates small children and for many of us is no less fascinating when we are past retirement age.
I have been collecting seeds from camellia bushes at the National Collection in Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, with their permission. I work there one day a week, helping to maintain the camellia collection and write about it on my other blog, jimscamellias.com .
Yesterday I collected seed of eight varieties, adding to the eight from a week ago. I have little idea how many seeds that was in total but it took a couple of hours to extract them from the fruits. Perhaps a couple of thousand seeds in total. They have all been sent off to go in the seed list of the Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Group of the RHS.
I don’t know what their viability is though when I have grown them myself it has been very high and I don’t know how successful people will be in growing them. What is clear though is that there is the potential there for a thousand new varieties of camellias to come into being, all different, all new, all un-named. Amongst them may be one or two truly outstanding forms; I wish I’d known which seeds they were, I’d have kept them for myself.
Who knows what will happen to them. Camellias are long lived, they could outlive their raiser by centuries. Will someone come along and “identify” one as (choose a name) because it’s a single red camellia and that’s what it looks like in their book? Will one get passed on to a nurseryman to name and launch and make his fortune with (dream on).
I hope that in ten years time, when the true potential of a particular seedling may become apparent, that the owner still has the information about its origins, but it seems unlikely. I have had camellias flower when less than two years old, but only by keeping them under-potted. The flowers they produce are an indication of what they might be capable of, but you’d expect them to do better when growing well in the ground.
There are many tens of thousands of camellias in cultivation already. You could argue that we don’t need any more or you could argue that we need to keep raising new ones for a heap of reasons. Nature doesn’t do clones very much, genetic diversity generally confers an advantage.
I’ve collected seed from one of my Dahlias too. I raised seedlings of ‘Orange Cushion’ a couple of years back and they’ve turned out well. I’m not sure it will give me viable seed this year but ‘Veritable’ is looking promising. I wonder what I will get, I want to grow them all, in fear of the one I throw away being the one that was going to be truly fabulous.
Then there are the Roscoeas, and Disporums and …………