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From tiny acorns, oaks

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Some of the most fun I've had in gardening is when I've grown dogwood and magnolia trees from seed. It's not an especially practical thing to do -- and it certainly isn't for the impatient -- but it's satisfying. And it's thrifty. It's also an ideal project for a parent or grandparent to do with a child.

Because seeds of hybrids don't come true (that is, the tree that grows from the seed of a named cultivar or variety may not be like the parent), it's usually recommended that you stick with the seeds of native plants.

I'd echo that advice if you're serious about having these trees make a contribution to your landscape. But if you're just having fun, go on and plant the bright-red seeds of that Southern magnolia -- kids love 'em. I do, too.

Planting seeds of a dogwood tree, a pussy willow shrub, or a Dutchman’s pipe vine isn’t difficult. But it’s not exactly like sowing packets of marigold seeds.

First, you need to know when and how to collect ripe seeds from native shrubs and trees. Then do you plant them right away or should you dry the seeds and store them for a future planting time?

Many need to go through some weeks or months of cold temperatures before they’ll germinate. This is called stratification, and it's what happens naturally when seeds fall to the ground in autumn, are chilled over winter, and then germinate in spring or summer.

If that makes the process sound complicated, an informative new book, “Growing Trees From Seed,” by Henry Kock with Paul Aird, John Ambrose, and Gerald Waldron (Firefly Books, $45), shows that it isn’t at all.


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