Last month, while reading the Morning Glory forums at Dave's Garden, I came across a thread started by baolvera. She had purchased an unopened packet of morning glory seeds from a seller on eBay that was dated 1949. She had about 100 seeds and offered a few of them to anyone that wanted to try to grow them. Well, I love a challenge!
I received my seeds on Monday. Tuesday, I purchased a Jiffy-7® Mini-Greenhouse at Walmart, and put my seven seeds in warm water to soak overnight. This helps soften and loosen their hard coat, facilitating germination. (Remember how I explained that the late winter freezing and thawing helped do this with winter sowing?) This morning, it appeared that one seed split, and the other was open, with a 'tail'. The other five seeds were a little swollen, but intact.
I soaked the peat plugs in the Jiffy-7®, as directed, and carefully put each seed about ¼-inch deep in the peat. I put the lid on, and set it on top of my computer tower to keep it warm. When I got home from work tonight, I got out my heating pad, turned it on low, and set the mini-greenhouse on top of it. This should be just warm enough to keep the peat warm, without cooking the seeds.
Now we wait.
It's interesting to think that it's possible to grow plants from 58-year-old seeds (they're probably older, being collected and packaged in 1948 for the 1949 growing season), but it's not beyond the realm of possibility, either. While most seeds have a shelf life of three-to-five years if kept cool and dry, last September seed scientists at The Royal Botanical Gardens in the United Kingdom successfully germinated seeds that they'd discovered in The National Archives. The seeds were believed to have been collected by Jan Teerlink, a Dutch merchant, during a trip to the Cape of Good Hope in 1803. Certainly stored in various conditions through the years, it was not expected that any of the seeds were viable. However, several germinated and grew, to everyone's surprise.
I grew morning glories in various places last year. It was the first time I'd ever grown them, and my mom assures me it won't be the last, even if I never plant another seed out there. That's okay with me. I love them, and if they threaten to take over, I'll just pull them out.
I grew the common morning glories, but I especially like the Japanese varieties. They're a little more exotic looking and have equally exotic sounding names. While the botanical name is Ipomoea nil, the cultivars I grew were 'Akathukinoumi', 'Asuka', 'Heian no Haru', 'Chocolate' and 'Double Blue Picotee'. Some of them look as if there is an LED illuminating them from behind.
I started some of my seeds inside last year, about a month before last frost date (May 15th). I soaked them in water for 24 hours and planted them in peat pots filled with starter medium. It's a loose, soil-like material containing no nutrients, but provides a good environment for tender seedlings, with no competition from other sprouts, such as weeds. It also drains well.
I had good germination from those that I planted, but there were a few that didn't do anything. I eventually returned the seed starting medium to my bucket of potting soil that I keep in the garage. A couple of months later, I used that potting soil to stuff a topiary turtle that I had purchased at the Cincinnati Flower Show. I planted wire vine in my turtle, but about July, I noticed something else with much larger leaves growing amongst the wire vine. It looked vaguely familiar. Those morning glory seeds that I thought hadn't germinated were just a little slower than their siblings. I let them go, and had a blooming turtle later in the summer.
Stay tuned for progress (or not) on The 1949 Project...
*Update posted here.