Monday, January 23, 2012
The Lisianthus Fairy
How many times have you studied a seed catalogue dreaming big garden dreams and passed by some flower or another because it is too exotic and surely it is one of those seeds that is much too difficult for the typical home gardener to actually get to germinate?
So you decide you will buy it as a bedding annual only to find it rarely available or insanely priced as a "premium annual"?
The lisianthus is one of those for me. Years ago when I lived in the Chicago metro area and belonged to a garden club of wonderful, vibrant gardeners; the lisianthus was on several of their want lists. Typically, locating it was the big issue, so if I came across a six-pack of these beauties I would pick up a couple and play ding dong ditch with them gardener-style. The lisianthus fairy had struck again. They always hinted they believed they knew who their garden fairy was, but I never confirmed.
Living in central Wisconsin it has been a few years since I have come across any lisianthus. Two years ago, my next door neighbor asked if I would like some bedding plants of which he had more seed germinate than he expected. The gardener, being Dr. Darrel Apps.
I really, really like lisianthus, so I pressed him a bit for culture details. He confided they germinated pretty easily. Surprising him as well.
Okay, for those of you just getting into gardening, my neighbor has a Doctor of Horticulture or Plant Sciences and is known as a daylily hybridizer of the Happily-Ever-Appster Daylilies, and has several, hundreds actually, daylily patents to his name. His easy is probably not your easy. He has a climate-controlled grow room, as much as the space is heated and he runs a fan to deal with humidity. He has some pretty good light racks, not the top end, but close. He uses domed germinating trays, heating pads, and the best seed starting soil science can deliver. And if there is any cultural information on growing lisanthus out there published by no-doubt a horticulturalist with whom he is on a first name basis, he has probably read it, if not talked to the author first-hand.
That's his "easy."
So except for the fan, my grow space is in an attic loft versus a basement, humidity is not as much of an issue for me; I can duplicate all of that: the germinating pad, domed germinating tray, regular florescent lights instead of really, really good lights, and the Internet instead of horta-buddies.
Last year, I did not come across any seed. This year though, I ordered seed from Park Seed, so I'm going to give it a try. I know Darrel ordered his seed from a commercial source. Hopefully, Park Seeds' will do just as well.
So if you see a six-pack of lisianthus on your doorstep this spring...