Thursday 7 June 2012

Six of the Best

Some while ago I was fortunate enough to receive a package of self-saved seeds from my blogging friend Diana, who is currently living in Australia. Amongst the seeds were some Aquilegia ones.

I currently have a bit of a craze on Aquilegias, so I was keen to sow those seeds. This was some time ago (06 April) and the seedlings had grown big enough to be pricked out.

Note:"Pricking-out" is the gardening term for transferring small seedlings from the seed-tray or container in which they were sown, to individual pots of their own.]

So here we are with all the kit ready to go (apart from a bag of compost...)

In the foreground you can see an array of dibbers. You need something like this to assist with the task. The green one is a purpose-made dibber, but the black one is just a plastic tent-peg. I actually prefer the home-made one cut from a piece of bamboo cane.

The first step was to gently tip the whole pot of seedlings out onto the work surface. You could if you preferred ease each one of the seedlings out of the container separately, but I felt that mine were too intertwined to make this an attractive option.

I chose a few of the strongest-looking specimens. You can see that they already had pretty strong root systems.

I filled six 7.5cm pots with compost and watered it well, so that the compost was evenly moist but not too wet. I used my dibber to make a deep cavity in the centre of each pot of compost.

I then used the dibber to transfer one seedling into each pot, taking care not to damage it in transit. It's best to hold the plant by a leaf, rather than the stem or root. If a leaf gets damaged the plant can grow another one, but if stem or root is damaged the plant will probably not survive.

Gently easing the roots down into the cavity with the dibber I then pressed the damp compost around the plant. I made sure not to cover the growing point (the top of the short stem, from which the long straggly leaves emerge).

So there we are - Six of the Best, all pricked out.

I have put this tray inside one of my mini-greenhouses for now. We are experiencing some cool dull weather with strong winds at present, and I want to give the seedlings some shelter until they are well established.

Naturally, being the sort of person I am, I could not bear to discard the remaining seedlings (there were probably about another 15 or 16 of them), I just planted them out in clumps amongst the mature pink and blue Aquilegia plants near my back door.

This is a fairly 'adverse' environment for the poor things - dry, stony soil in an area that gets very little direct sunlight - but you know how it is, they will probably do better than the six selected to be the A-team!

Diana didn't tell me what type / colour the Aquilegia seeds she sent me are, so I have to be patient and wait till next year to find out. With a bit of luck there might be lots of different ones.


  1. The ones you have planted out have every chance as they tend to self seed in unlikely places

  2. Nice post and and photo sequence on `pricking out` Mike I`ll be interested to see how they do, now when is your book coming out!

  3. Very good post. I had been wondering how you transplant all your seedlings.

  4. sorry Mark getting you and Flighty mixed up

  5. That's very well explained, Mark. I hope the ones you put directly in the soil does well too. It would be a delight to have them pretty flowers as you step out of your back door.

  6. Mine seem to self seed all over the place so much so I had to dig many last year and move them as they threatened to take over and cover some of my smaller plants. I do like them though!

  7. Hi Mark, thanks for sharing more depth on the pricking out of seedlings. I found it very helpful. I think it's cute that you are on a columbine craze :) Cheers, Jenni

  8. I have lots of self seeded aquilegias in the garden, but they always tend to be purple or pink. I grew some from seed a couple of years ago and got some other, more unusual colours which are still going strong, so I hope you get some interesting colours from your six of the best. Hope the underdogs do well too.

  9. I do love aqulegias io really must get some seed. I have never tried a dibber - I always just use my finger, do you think theres an advantage with using a dibber?

  10. Well Mark, you did it all properly just like a professional gardener. Good luck with your seedlings. I have lots of Aquilegias in my garden and every year I buy the new cultivars from T&M. Just be careful - they happily self-seed and can take over your garden.

  11. Liz, I think a dibber is more precise than a finger - and it stops your lovely finger-nails from getting damaged.

  12. Good tip about handling by the leaf only... And I agree with some of the other posters... They self seed readily...

  13. I am happy to see that the seeds sprouted for you.
    I think I leave you in suspense what colour the parent was.
    P.S> Thank you so much for the seeds. My eldest son was excited showing me your package during skype. The black cherry tomato has been in my wishing list for months so I am also very excited.

  14. It will be interesting to see how they all look next year - especially if they are not all the same type - with mixed seeds, the 'weaker' ones are often the more interesting colours, so I always try to select a range of 'strengths' to pot on. That said, the seed tray in which I raised Linaria maroccana 'Sweeties' still has a handful of plants that I didn't get around to pricking out or potting on yet, which have all started to flower - and they are all white, while most of those in the garden are bright colours!


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