Besides being beautiful flowers, what do the above lewisia, lobelia, erodium, lily, gentian, and calandrinia have in common? All were grown from seed distributed through the various plant societies. Specifically I participate in seed exchanges that are conducted by The North American Rock Gardening Society, The Alpine Garden Society, The Scottish Rock Garden Club, the Pacific Bulb Society, and the Species Iris Group of North America. Each of these organizations brings access to seeds that are otherwise very difficult to come by. This year I’ve already received my NARGS distribution of 35 seed packets and many choice elements are going to get planted this week. It includes Linum elegans, Bukiniczia cabulica, Eranthis pinnatifida, and many other items that you probably won’t find in the average seed catalog. I’m still waiting for my packages from the Alpine Garden Society to see which items I succeeded in getting. You get to choose from thousands of varieties of seeds but which ones you get depends upon when you sent in your request and whether you were a donor or not. In the past I’ve gotten over half of my first choice varieties even though I am not a donor for the overseas societies.
Besides the wealth of interesting seeds from the seed exchanges there are also other interesting sources of unusual seeds. We subscribed this past year to Chris Chadwell’s 29th expedition to the Himalayas in search of seeds. Our distribution arrived this month with 50 different seed packets gathered in Nepal.
In order to bring in seeds from overseas you need to apply to the USDA for permit for a small lots of seed import permit. And you need to be cognizant of which seeds are restricted. I’ve found the USDA folks to be very helpful and cooperative. I got a phone call on the day after New Year’s asking for clarification on the shipping address for my shipment from Chris Chadwell.
There are also some other wonderful sources of seeds gathered in the wild. I think in particular of Allen Bradshaw at Alplains who specializes in seeds gathered in the western U.S. Or Bjørnar Olsen from Norway who gathers seeds in China. There are a number of famous collectors in the Czech Republic. One I’ve used is Vojtech Holubec who has the most amazing pictures of his travels in asia.
More recently I was researching a Delphinium (Delphinium tatsienense to be precise) that is in my NARGS seeds for this year and I came across a very nice website in Canada (BotanyCa) that specializes in wild-collected seeds. She has choice list of seeds for sale and a lot of information about propagation and plant lore. Highly recommended.
The bottom line for all these ramblings is that now is the time for acquiring and planting all those unusual plants that you have been meaning to grow.