Photo from The Gesneriad Society
Invisible seeds from the Ukraine
by Marcia Shaffer
It seems that I’ve always raised Gesneriads. You know them better as African violets and gloxinias but there are more interesting plants in this genus. I especially like the slipper gloxinias. At first, there was a Gesneriad club, a newsletter and whole greenhouses dedicated to the Gesneria family. Club members would trade cuttings and seeds and I would get a big box filled with baggies of cuttings of these special plants.
For years I’ve had a nine-inch round bowl with a light on top that Park Seed Company called a Sunbowl. It was sold for ripening fruit, but I used it to grow slipper gloxinias. This winter my Sunbowl broke, much to my distress. I found a new lightbowl but it was very much smaller. I decided that a Sinningia pucilla would fit perfectly in this little bowl. The plant measures 1” in width and the little 5/8” pink flowers stand up making a 1” tall plant. I got onto the computer and Googled a source for pucilla. I was surprised that I couldn’t just order a seed packet. After much research, I reluctantly decided to get some seed offered by Etsy that amazingly came from the Ukraine!!! The postage was more than I had in mind!
After a couple of weeks, Darla, our mail carrier, was at my door and asked me to sign for a little (4 x 6-inch) package. I carefully opened it and found a tiny paper envelope folded and refolded containing what I knew were tiny seeds.
That afternoon, I was anxious to plant the seeds and filled a small seed flat with potting mix for the tiny seeds. I’ve planted tiny seeds before so I knew how to do it. First you take a big breath so you don’t need to breathe and blow all the seeds away in the process of planting them. You hold the seed packet over the flat in case they slip out before you are ready. I knew the drill. The first problem was that I couldn’t unfold the envelope. After struggling with it I took scissors and just cut it in half. I tried to empty the first half of the envelope but didn’t see any seeds. Maybe the seeds were in the other half of the envelope. I emptied that half. No seeds. Was I cheated? Did they just not put any seeds in the envelope? Ordering seeds from the Ukraine was a dubious venture. How could I complain from Iowa when they were in the Ukraine? But I put a cover over the flat and put it under the lights. Each day I removed the cover and took the flat over to the light. Hmmm. Nothing.
A package of seed is a package of hope. I plant seeds each spring and wonder each time what will happen. But the miracle happened once again as one day when I took the cover off, there was a hint of green. I could barely see if it was moss or seedlings. In the light by the window, it sure looked like they were seedlings. And, sure enough, they've kept growing.
I wonder about the person in the Ukraine who folded up the envelope so carefully to send these seeds to me and I’m sorry I doubted him/her. All I hear about the Ukraine is guns and fighting. But somewhere I know now that there is a person there who, like me, loves Gesneriads.