The National Begonia Society



Michael Richardson's Diary  2016

National Society Cut bloom Champion 2014

Michael's 2015 Diary



2016 Diary Episode 5   Germination – The memoirs of this growers first attempts

Cleaning the seed –


Now I am going to use the method demonstrated by James Evans in his “Hybridizing Presentation” to clean the seed.
    1. First I need some sheets of white paper.
    2. Then I empty the seed from the seed pod onto a piece of paper (see picture to left).
    3. Then I tip the paper to an angle of 45° as you can see by the picture to the right.
    4. The theory behind this is that the chaff will stick to the paper and the seed just rolls off onto the piece of paper under it as shown by the picture to the left.
    5. I do this 3 to 4 times or until I am happy that the seed is “clean” (see picture to the right).
    6. Then I store the seed in a plastic vial.
    7. Now all my seed has been cleaned and stored in plastic vials ready for use at a later date (see picture to the left).



Observation -
When I tipped the sheet of paper up I found that when the seed rolled down and off there was not a lot of “chaff” left on the paper. Wether the paper was too refined and not rough enough I don’t know.

Sowing –

Tuesday 19th January -
Now I had to improvise a little at this point as I never had any seed compost to hand, so I did the following –
    1. I mixed multipurpose compost and horticultural washed sand to a 50 50 mix. This should help knock the multipurpose compost back a bit as you can see by the picture to the left.
    2. I filled a couple of seed trays with the mix
    3. Then I tamped the above mixture down and levelled it out (see the picture to the right).
    4. The perlite I have is Sinclair’s medium grade so to help reduce it in size I put some perlite on a flat surface and using a wooden rolling pin I reduced its size by rolling it out (see picture to the left).
Warning - Make sure your wife / partner doesn’t see you doing this with a rolling pin or you will be in whole lot of trouble…..
    5. Then the perlite is layered and levelled then tamped down on top of the compost & sand mix (as shown by the picture to the right).
    6. Finally it gets watered in with Cheshunt compound – to help prevent the issue of damping off.
At present I am not using any of my greenhouses as there is no heat in them and they are in the process of being cleaned out and disinfected down one by one. My propagating greenhouse will be full of my adult tubers soon so I will have no room to rig up any makeshift growing light unit.
So I am using a Sankey propagator to put the trays of seed in, then I am going to stand the propagator in my conservatory as you can see by the picture to the left.
That is now reaching the desired temperature that I need it at in readiness for sowing.

Wednesday 20th January -
I had a hospital appointment today and afterwards I called into 2 “so called” Garden Centres on the way home, and could I find and get any silver sand…. No!! But I could have bought a parrot or sofa. How times have changed – in fact I do not know why they call them Garden Centres as they sell more “tat” (as my Father use to call it) than products that gardeners actually want.
That meant I had to sow my seed using no silver sand, but I had an idea how to sow it evenly.
My “seed compost” had reached the targeted temperature of 70°f that meant I was ready for sowing the seed.
My chosen crosses to try first are –
    • Joan Bryce over Tequila Sunrise – The whole idea behind this cross started my hybridising journey
    • Alana Hamilton over Tom Brownlee – I cannot explain why but this cross is the one that has got me all excited – well we will see.
So I had my “seed compost” ready and up to temperature and my seed ready.
I emptied some seed onto a clean piece of paper and holding the paper and seed in one hand and a sharp knife in the other I gently flicked the seed from off the paper and spread it pretty evenly over the surface of the seed compost (see picture to left).
Then placed both seed trays back into the propagator in the conservatory, fingers crossed the seed is viable.

I have a silent partner in crime north of the border growing some seed from the Burnout over Tom Brownlee cross, and guess what, that seed has germinated!!!.

Wednesday 27th January –
No signs of life in either tray yet – early days but I am starting to get twitchy feet.

On a daily basis -
Every day after work I checked the perlite on top of the trays to see if it was getting dry – and if so then it got a spray of water to moisten it and damp it down. The lid on the propagator has a pitched roof so any condensation that rolled down the sides of the roof to the edges of the lid and down the sides. This will hopefully prevent condensation dropping on the seedlings from above and contributing to the problems of “damping off”

Thursday 4th February –
On checking the seed trays when I got home from work I found a small green something in the tray with the Alana Hamilton over Tom Brownlee cross in.
Was it a trick of the light, a figment of my imagination or even a mirage I do not know, just as I was beginning to fear the worst with every passing day.

Thursday 11th February –
It is 23 days since sowing the seed and with the aid of a good magnifying glass I can see the odd speck of greenery starting to appear.
If I am honest I thought they would have been well away by now, however when you take into consideration they are stuck in a corner of a conservatory with no additional lighting I suppose I cannot really complain.

Sunday 21st February -
I can still see bits of greenery but they seem to have stopped growing, it’s just like they are in suspended animation (that’s the SC-Fi side of me coming out).
So out of sheer desperation more than anything I turned the heat up higher so it’s now touching 80°f / 27°c and not 70°f / 21°c.
On the bright side they have not died off….
Airing on the side of caution I sowed the last of the John Bryce over Tequila Sunrise cross in the same way as I did the other. However this time I used a seed tray half the size and cover the top with a plastic lid I “borrowed” off the top of a Tupperware Pot, then sat it in the Sankey propagator with the other 2 trays and left them (you can see by the picture to the left).
Observation - I was tempted at the start of the year to buy a propagating unit from a well-known horticultural catalogue – this propagator had x2 grow lights built into the lid/roof.
Next year I am going to treat myself to one.

Sunday 28th February –
Starting to see some seeds germinating now, at last there seems to be movement.

Wednesday 2nd March -
As you can see by the picture to the left the seeds I sowed on 21st February are starting to germinate after just 11 days!!!!
So I covered the original 2 seed trays with Tupperware Lids, to try to “help” them along a little.


Observation – I thought trays of seed sat in a Sankey propagator unit with the lid on would be enough to generate enough heat to germinate the seed. However I have found it’s not worked for me. So next year I will properly cover the trays with little lids to create a micro-climate inside the propagator. But who knows what will happen if I purchase a propagating unit with built in grow lights in the lid.

The day I saw the light –

Sunday 13th March –
It was 07:15hrs and we were collecting Robert Bryce on our way to Scotland and another day north of the border. Before we left Roberts he kindly invited me into his propagating greenhouse to show, explain and answer a question I had asked him earlier in the week - More about that in the next instalment. As he was telling me something I casually said that I sprayed the top of my seed trays with a fine mist of water just to keep the Perlite from drying out…. No - came the reply “you don’t water or mist spray any seed from above” I tried to protest my innocence in what and why I was doing it for, but to no avail.
Robert explained that any “liquid” from above at this stage could cause Damping Off….
Now if you remember I soaked the medium in my seed tray with a water and Cheshunt Compound – so it seems in one way I have tried to protect them – and in another way I have tried to kill them with too much pampering that could have resulted in Damping Off.
No wonder they have stood still as I have baffled the poor things by trying to kill and cure them at the same time!!!!

Monday 14th March –
As you can see by the picture to the left the seedlings I sowed on the 21st February are well away now.
The 1st 2 batches that I tried to kill are still showing specks of green but do not seem to want to move at present (just glad they are still there after what I have done to them).

Next Instalment - Pricking Out and Potting Up.

Until next time


Michael's 2016 Diary