Mediterranean Garden Society

Seeds: the highs and lows

by Janice Thompson
photographs by Pete Thompson

Photographs to illustrate the article published in The Mediterranean Garden No. 114, October 2023

The photo at the top of this page shows the Pinus pinea grown from seed

Janice Thompson is a keen observer of wild flowers in the Marche region of Italy. She writes: 
Years ago, when we were still living in England, we holidayed in various countries, one of which was Portugal. Like all gardeners who are seed kleptomaniacs, we collected various specimens. The Pinus pinea (stone pines) were so beautiful that we took seeds from dried cones,

Pinus pinea cone

and Peter collected Pancratium maritimum (sea daffodil) seeds from the beach.

Pancratium maritimum

Back home, all the specimens were planted with great expectations. Of course, many did not germinate, but the stone pines and the sea daffodils were a great success. Originally there were several of each growing in pots. Over time however a few of the pines died. We collected several other species which did not survive to tell the tale.

Sea daffodils still in their pot when they arrived in Italy

When we retired to Italy in 2003, all our plants came with us of course, far more important than belongings ... By the following year only one of the pine trees had survived, 40 cm tall, but the sea daffodils were still doing well. We planted the pine tree in a generous space between two olive trees, and Peter made a special bed of beach sand and gravel into which he planted the sea daffodils.

Stone pine now is five metres tall

Today the pine is five metres tall and 'interfering' with the two olive trees. The sea daffodils grew well and flowered after a few years and continued to do so with up to 20 flowers each year, until a porcupine ate them all. Chantal Guiraud has just provided us with some more seeds, so we live in hope.

Delphinium consolida

I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences. A couple of years after we moved here,  Peter was walking along the edge of our neighbour’s cornfield and spotted a blue flower, just the one, It was on the border of our field and our neighbour’s field. Knowing that it would disappear before seeding when the corn was cut, he carefully removed it and planted it in a safe place in our field. Both fields are now uncultivated. I identified it as forking larkspur, Delphinium consolida (syn. Consolida regalis).

Garden display of Delphinium consolida

It has spread prolifically, so much so that we intend to collect seed and send it to Chantal Guiraud for the MGS Seed Exchange. In the 19 years we have been here we have never seen another specimen anywhere (as those of you who read my Walks in the Sibillini Mountains will know). It is such a beautiful flower and could easily be a garden plant.

Antirrhinum siculum

Yet another plant which brings us pleasure each year is Antirrhinum siculum (Sicilian snapdragon). It was growing prolifically in the limestone breakwaters below the garden where we were staying in Sicily a few years a go. We collected some seeds and on our return home we planted them in an almost identical limestone rock, purchased years ago. Not only has this snapdragon established well but there are now flowering plants all around the area.

Jacaranda mimosifolia

Probably the most exciting success was collecting Jacaranda mimosifolia seeds from Africa. I sowed them and the few that grew were nurtured for five years. They have been overwintered in our makeshift greenhouse, heated in more severe winters, and bought out to ‘sunbathe’ during the summers. Of the eight that germinated, three have survived; they are now two metres tall, with one flowering for the first time this year, to my great excitement.

Today, when any of these plants are in flower or just growing successfully, we cannot help but recall where they were from, and the holidays spent plant-hunting.

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