Looking back, we feel that we sounded WAY too smug when we wrote What Makes Victoria Seeds Sprout -- Or Not? in 2004. Reading it now, it sounds as if we had it all figured out and, based on our experience to that point, we did! As usual Victoria threw us a curve ball. It's not that we are back to the beginning but we have to assume that what happened to the seeds of the 2004 crop could happen again.
Germination of the 2004 seeds was dreadful! Even V. 'Longwood Hybrid', which in most years sprouts at 95% at room temperature unnicked, failed to germinate except sporadically. Of those we sent out, some recipients had no problem, some had spotty results and others had no sprouting. Why?
Since our results over all previous years have been so consistent, we must begin with the idea that the 2004 hurricanes had something to do with it. Storage after collection was as always - amazonica, 'Adventure', 'Challenger' and 'Columbia' at room temperature (76F). It is our policy not to chill the others until we see sprouting at room temperature. Then they go to a special refrigerator on our ground floor set at 60F. In 2004, we had chilled some 'Longwood Hybrid', some cruziana, some 'Atlantis' and some 'Discovery' which were just showing signs of sprouting. Others of those varieties, collected later in the season, remained at room temperature.
After the hurricanes, seeds previously on our kitchen counter were moved to a low cabinet on the ground floor. Although the thermostat there was set at 76F as was the kitchen thermostat, perhaps the cabinet was cooler. We doubt it was enough to affect the seeds.
So what did? Whatever it was, it affected almost all seed lots, chilled and unchilled, usually good sprouters and reluctant ones. Could it have been sustained and repeated vibration of the house itself? Could it have been sustained and repeated power outages? Could it have been sustained and repeated low barometric pressure? Discussing the problem with other growers, we began to suspect low pressure. Seeds that had been hand delivered did not sprout. Seeds that had been transported or mailed by air, usually in pressurized planes, did somewhat better.
Here, we put seeds into a pressure garden sprayer and keep the pressure up for a number of days. We still saw little germination when the seeds were removed from the sprayer and put in warm water. We had no other ideas to remedy the problem. Even now, a year later, we see little spontaneous germination of 2004 seeds.
We will keep an eye on the 2004 seeds to see if germination improves with age, something we didn't consider likely before. We have always thought that newer seeds were crucial to good germination but we have to rethink that, as least in part. Given the 2004 seeds' lack of sprouting and continued germination of 2001 Paraguayan and 2002 Argentinean cruziana seeds, actually improved from the first few years after collection, we don't know where this might go.