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Grandpa Ott's famous morning glory originated over 100 years ago in Bavaria. Photo by Jano Nightingale
Grandpa Ott's famous morning glory originated over 100 years ago in Bavaria. Photo by Jano Nightingale
Columns Jano's Garden

A morning glory brings glorious success

I had a bit of an epiphany this week when looking out of my bathroom window to see a purple and red morning glory climbing on the iron window grate. As a Master Gardener of over 20 years, this particular seed has been my nemesis.

It turns out morning glory is truly is not that easy to grow, although once started it will re-seed in one place for years. My friend, Chris, from Carlsbad Gardens explained, “You just throw them in a sunny spot in your garden with fertile soil, water frequently, and they take off!”

Chris had grown and harvested seed of Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory from the  Seed Savers Exchange catalog a year ago, but when he passed them on to me, I could not get them to germinate. This year, I took the extra step and soaked them until the seed opened, planted in a window box with fertile soil, and voila! Success at last!

A FRUITFUL PROGENY

The joy of this success was made exceptionally sweet by the fact that I recently found out that the origin of this seed is over 100 years old.

According to the Seed Savers Exchange catalog, “This non-profit foundation was founded in Missouri in 1975 by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy. Diane’s grandfather entrusted to them the seeds of two garden plants, Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory and German Pink Tomato. These seeds, brought by Grandpa Ott’s parents from Bavaria when they immigrated to Iowa in 1884, became the first two varieties in the collection.

“Diane and Kent went on to form a network of gardeners interested in preserving heirloom varieties and sharing seeds. Today, with 13,000 members and 20,000 plant varieties, Seed Savers Exchange makes its home on 890 scenic acres in Winneshiek County, Iowa, at Heritage Farm.”

Anne-Marie Newcomb learns the art of seed saving at the Carlsbad Senior Center Garden Club. Photo by Jano Nightingale
Anne-Marie Newcomb learns the art of seed saving at the Carlsbad Senior Center Garden Club. Photo by Jano Nightingale

“Seed Savers Exchange conserves biodiversity by maintaining a collection of over 20,000 different varieties of heirloom and open-pollinated plants, varieties with the ability to regenerate themselves year after year.

“Industrial agriculture and the chemicals and machines that it employs have required that farmers and, more often, scientists breed for uniformity in plants and animals. In the United States in particular, genetically engineered plant varieties have had a devastating impact on biodiversity.

“According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, since their commercial introduction in 1996, use of genetically engineered (GE) crops by US farmers has increased steadily. In fact, in 2013, 170 million acres of GE crops were planted in the US, seeds that are patented and cannot be saved and planted again next year.”

For more information about the Seed Savers Exchange, contact them at (563) 382-5990 or online at www.seedsavers.org. The website also has extensive information about joining the Seed Saving Exchange Program, in which members can exchange seeds and seed swap from the collection of over 20,000 seeds.

The site also includes extensive information regarding how best to clean and store your garden seeds.

SEED SAVING AT THE CARLSBAD SENIOR CENTER

I am currently teaching and supervising a large 60-foot square raised bed at the Pine Street Community Garden. The Carlsbad Senior Center offers a free garden class at the Community Garden, and our class recently tried our hand at seed saving. We followed the instructions from the Seed Savers Exchange catalog, and in less than an hour we had our own collection.

We harvested 20 seed heads from the marigold collection and after cleaning and packaging the heads, we ended up with over 100 seeds. My students Kin Shu and Ann-Marie Newcomb greatly enjoyed the process and went home with envelopes of seed to plant. Ann-Marie said, “This is so much fun, I am going to take the instructions home to share with my sister.”

Try your hand at seed saving this fall, and see how much money you can save and help to save the species!

Contact Jano at [email protected].

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