Many species are dioecious in nature, meaning that male and female flowers occur on different plants, and fruits form only on female plants. Growing these species from seed is an ideal way of ensuring that a mixture of male and female plants is obtained; if possible, grow on at least 4 or 5 plants to give yourself a good chance of having at least one male. Excess male plants can always be weeded out once it becomes clear what sex the plants are.
Details given for seeds in the tables below have a code for the recommended seed treatment prior to sowing:
Recommended seed treatments
Stratification of seeds involves mixing the seed with a moist medium and keeping warm and/or cold for a certain time before sowing. We recommend mixing seeds with moist (not wet) silver sand, using 4 parts or more sand to one of seeds; the mix should be placed in a plastic bag which can be sealed and re-opened. Label the bag well! Warm stratification means keeping the seed/sand mix at about room temperature, 60-70°F or 15-21°C; cold means keeping the mix at about 40°F (5°C) – a domestic fridge is ideal for small quantities. When cold stratifying over winter, seed/sand mixes can be placed outside in a rodent/bird-proof container (eg. a plastic dustbin). Whenever stratifying seed, check every week or two to see if germination is starting. When it does you will see white roots start to emerge from seeds, and if this happens then the seeds should be sown immediately. If this isn’t possible, keep the mix at a temperature just above freezing until you can sow.
Scarification of seeds involves softening the hard seed coat in some way to allow water to be imbibed into the seed. The simplest way of achieving this is to give the seeds a hot water soak, putting them into water at about 190°F (88°C) and allowing them to stand for several hours while the water cools. Alternatively, the seeds can be physically rubbed, eg. between two sheets of fine sandpaper – take care not to rub too much.
Dewaxing – some seeds are covered in a layer of wax (notably Myrica species) which stops the seeds imbibing water and germinating. This must be removed before stratification or sowing – the best way to do this is to rub the seeds between two sheets of coarse sandpaper (do it for periods of a few seconds at a time, then check the seeds – you only want to get rid of the wax and not damage the seeds!)
Seeds which take a long time to germinate are best sown in seed trays or pots, and covered with sand rather than compost. Very small seeds should be sown on the surface of the compost and the tray/pot kept moist by enclosing it in a plastic bag. Finally, don’t give up if seeds don’t germinate, or only a few germinate, in the first year – many seeds spread out their germination over more than one year. If the seeds are large enough, you can check their viability by cutting one in half – the seed embryo inside should be white and solid, and not soft or watery.
After the description of each species, codes are given for the recommended treatment to promote good germination. (Note that using these treatments does not guarantee germination. Seed lots vary in their requirements and these are a general guide only.) The codes used are:
- ND Not dormant, sow in spring.
- SI Not dormant, but must be sown immediately.
- SC Scarify and sow in spring.
- CS Cold stratify. Followed by a number of weeks, eg CS 13 = cold stratify 13 weeks (3 months).
- WS Warm stratify. Followed by a number of weeks, eg WS 6 = warm stratify 6 weeks.
Warm stratification can sometimes be followed by cold stratification, eg. WS 13 + CS 13 means 13 weeks warm first then 13 weeks cold stratification.
Example: Assuming an intended sowing date of April 1st, then 4 weeks of stratification should start on 4th March, 6 weeks on 17th February, 8 weeks on 3rd February, 13 weeks on 1st January, 16 weeks on 10th December, 20 weeks on 12th November, 26 weeks on 1st October, etc. If you have trouble counting the weeks backwards there is a handy date calculator at http://www.timeanddate.com/date/dateadd.html
We can send seeds anywhere as long as there are no import restrictions and that no phytosanitory certificate is needed – please make sure you are allowed to import the seeds you are ordering:
Or, browse seeds alphabetically:
Showing 1–12 of 350 products
Pacific fir. A large evergreen tree from Western N.America, growing 6 m (20 ft) in 10 years. Has beautiful silvery-white bark when young and very resinous winter buds. The young shoot tips can be used to make a fragrant tea. The timber is valued for construction, joinery etc. Likes a moist acid soil and sun or part shade; hardy to -20°C. Stratification: CS4. Number of seeds: 15.
10 in stock
Balsam fir. A medium or large evergreen tree from the Northern parts of N.America. Has very resinous winter buds. Grows 4 m (13 ft) in 10 years. The shoot tips are used to make a tea, and a sweet gummy exudation from the trunk is edible. Resin from the buds is used medicinally and in scientific laboratories. Timber is valued for construction etc. Likes an acid site in sun or part shade; hardy to -35°C. Stratification: CS4. Number of seeds: 23.
26 in stock
Grand fir. A very large, fast-growing evergreen tree from Western N.America, growing 5 m (16 ft) in 10 years. The fragrant young shoots are used to make a tea. The timber is valued for construction, joinery etc., and the young tops used as Xmas trees. Tolerates deep shade; hardy to -20°C. Stratification: CS4. Number of seeds: 40.
7 in stock
Noble fir. Large evergreen tree growing 50m (160 ft) high from the Western USA. Tops of young trees used as Xmas trees; timber valuable for construction etc. Likes an acid soil and tolerates deep shade when young. Hardy to -20°C. Stratification: CS4. Number of seeds: 15.
15 in stock
Siberian ginseng. (Syn. Eleutherococcus s.) A large shrub from Siberia growing to 7 m (23 ft) high. Fruits are juicy and edible, the size of peas. The roots are used as a ginseng substitute – widely in Asia. Likes sun and a well drained site. Hardy to about -25°C Stratification: CS26+WS13. Number of seeds: 25 (6 db).
27 in stock
Bears breeches. A perennial deep-rooted plant from Europe, growing 1.2 m (4 ft) high and 0.6 m (2 ft) across; likes a well-drained soil and sun or part shade. It makes a good ground cover, spreading by suckers. The leaves are used medicinally. Hardy to -15°C. Stratification: ND. Number of seeds: 5.
8 in stock
(Syn. Feijoa sellowiana) Pineapple guava. Bushy evergreen shrub with grey-green leaves growing to 2 m (6 ft) high or more. Large flowers are white and purple in midsummer, and are followed by reddish-green edible fruits 5 cm (2) long in hot summers. The fruits are delicious, being aromatic, with a pineapple-strawberry flavour. The flowers are also edible raw, being sweet crisp and delicious. Can be used for hedging in mild maritime areas – hardy to -12°C. Likes sun and a well-drained soil; good on walls in cooler climes. Stratification: ND. Number of seeds: 15.
33 in stock
Oregon maple. A large tree from Western N.America. The dark shining green leaves turn a clear yellow in autumn, and the clusters of large yellow flowers and bristly fruits are very ornamental. A good producer of edible sap. The flower clusters are edible raw (sweet) and it is a good bee plant. Timber is used for joinery etc. Likes a moist position in sun or part shade; hardy to -20°C. Stratification: CS12. Number of seeds: 8.
Out of stock
Box elder. A fast-growing, bushy-headed large North American tree, growing 5 m (16 ft) in 10 years. A source of edible sap and a good bee plant; the timber is used for joinery, cooperage etc. Likes sun or part shade; hardy to -40°C. Stratification: CS20. Number of seeds: 50.
Out of stock
Red maple. A North American large tree, whose foliage turns rich red and scarlet in autumn. A good producer of edible sap; also a bee plant and the source of a blue dye from its bark. Timber is used for furniture etc. Likes a moist, slightly acid soil in sun or part shade; hardy to -35°C. Stratification: CS4. Number of seeds: 40.
Out of stock
Sugar maple. The famous large tree from Eastern N.America, the sap of which is the source of commercial maple syrup. The foliage colours richly in the autumn. The dewinged seeds are edible if cooked and the tree is a bee plant. The timber is valued for joinery etc. Likes a moist, slightly acid soil in sun or part shade; hardy to -35°C. Stratification: CS13. Number of seeds: 12.
25 in stock
Yarrow. Mat-forming perennial, spreading via rhizomes. Edible leaves, medicinal, bee plant, ground cover, accumulator. Likes sun and a well drained site; hardy to 40 °C Stratification: ND. Number of seeds: 200.
19 in stock