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I was attracted to the wild, fantastic forms of Eryngium giganteum umbelliferae (also known as Miss Willmott's ghost), so I ordered a pack of seeds from a local seed shop:

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I also received the instructions for starting them, that say, among other things:

To improve germination rate, after placing the seed in the soil, cover the container with glass, and keep it outside for 2-3 week in the cold. Then move it indoors to a room with temperature 15 degree C.

It just sounds too complected for a beginner like myself!

I searched the internet, and I got even worse suggestions - some of them said that it may take a year for this plant to germinate in a container. This was so depressing.

This actually stands in a stark contrast to the stories that are told about this plant:

This species is sometimes commonly called Miss Willmott’s Ghost in reference to Ellen Willmott (1858-1934), English gardener in Essex, who so loved this plant with its silvery ghost-like appearance that she reportedly scattered its seed on a regular basis in gardens she visited without telling the owners.

and

This plant was named after Ellen Willmott, an eccentric English gardener who loved it so much that she secretly dropped seeds in the gardens she visited without telling anyone and the plants would mysteriously appear later.

Should I just give up starting from containers, and scatter the seeds just like Miss Willmott (but in my own yard)?

My hardness zone is 8a.

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They are telling you you need to cold stratify the seeds before they germinate. What are your current climatic conditions?

Sow Spring and early Summer

Surface sow onto moist well-drained seed compost. Just cover with potting mix. Propagate 18-22°C. for 2-4 weeks. Do not exclude light. Germination can be slow. Seal seed container in a polythene bag and leave for 2 further weeks, then cold stratify. Move to a fridge 4°C for 3-6 weeks. After this return to warmth but no more than 18°C. If germination does not occur within 6-10 weeks return to fridge for further 3-6 weeks. Examine regularly whilst in fridge and immediately remove any seeds which show signs of germination. Move to 8cm pots. Acclimatise and plant out when large enough.

https://www.owairakaseeds.co.nz/product/eryngium-giganteum-miss-wilmotts-ghost-giant-sea-holly/

  • So, cold enough to stratify outside if you don't want to use the fridge. – Graham Chiu Mar 8 '18 at 17:42

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