Janis Ruksans Part 2

Janis is immersed in bulbs - from finding them in far off exotic lands to propagating and growing them. He grows from seed - wohoo - in large plastic bulb boxes (40 x 60 x 23 cm) filled with medium. They are similar to what we call lily trays - very open, slotted plastic sides and bottoms. The handles are very well reinforced, allowing them to be lifted from inside to out and back again. He plants from 30 to 50 of these yearly.

This amazes and inspires me since I have always tended to use many small ( 2 1/2 inch) seedpots even when sowing in quantity. The few times I experimented along his vein with rhododendrons mixed with Primulaceae have heretofore been disasters. I used shallow propagation trays with covers.The primula germinated readily, while the rhodies never had a chance to compete. His answer is distinct genera with similar moisture requirements - frits with crocus and muscari. I am getting ideas already!

He uses a home made medium recipe which reminds me of old timers like Linc Foster's: equal parts peat moss, coarse sand, and composted loam. He doesn't mention cooking the loam to sterilize it, the way Ellie Spingarn used to do (she did admit it had a certain smell). He only talks about composting it for several years. He adds dolomite and low nitrogen fertilizer with microelements. (This is right in keeping with the current trend to add crushed mineral rock.) He finishes this base with added sand to the touch for a well drained mix. After he sows the seed, he covers it with a coarse grit. The equivalent locally would be our sandblasting grade sand. Depending on the seed, numbers one and three are best. On top of that he adds a mulch. This is one thing new to me and it makes sense! Have you ever gotten lift-off from the top peat layer on a pot of say Narcissus bulbocodium when it starts to emerge from dormancy? From now on, I will add a mix of vermiculite and peat to all bulb pots as last layer.

For a detailed accounting of all his practices, I recommend his book Buried Treasures: Finding and Growing the World's Choicest Bulbs (Timber Press 2007). Not only will you find his growing practices but accounts of his adventures. Few of us can dream the life of a modern day plant hunter such as he. If you wish to share in the splendor of what he has propagated, you may order from him. For MSWord format, email him at janis.bulb@hawk.lv


Barry Parker said…
Hi Elizabeth,
I started my annual seed sowing just last week. I think your methods are very similar to mine and also your taste in plants. Janis Ruksans- fantastic! I heard him speak here in Toronto.

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