Flame flower germination success

Tropaeolum speciosum (the Flame Flower) is a plant I only discovered when I moved to Scotland. Though I often read it described as half hardy (really?!?) it is a faithful stalwart of the garden, returning year after year to creep through shrubs on the shady side of the back garden.  And so far this “half hardy annual” has returned year after year and sustained temperatures of minus 20.

Come September, it looks incredible as it winds its way through Yew and next door’s evil Leylandii.  For the last two years the 3 plants I have (all garden centre bought) have also been covered in hundreds of bright steely blue seeds.

I wasn’t sure how to germinate them, so I tried different methods – indoor and out, cold and warm, shady and sunny, pots and trays.  In the first year I had a single germination (outside and shady) and it didn’t survive.  The rest didn’t appear to germinate and so I eventually recycled the seed compost and planted other stuff.

This year, it seemed my strike rate had doubled – I got two. I’ve fussed and nurtured them and they’re doing well in the cold greenhouse tent.  The rest seemed dead and so again, I reused the seed compost.

Well, this week I was away for 8 days on a work trip.  I neglected everything outside.  We had gales, sun and monsoons apparently.

And completely bizarrely, dozens and dozens of flame flowers have germinated in my absence.  Whether it is this years or last year’s seed I am not sure – they have popped up in pots and seed trays that have other things in.  They are in with the seed lillies, in with the cuttings – even in my Pitcher Plants that catches bugs in my greenhouse tent.  (I have no idea at all how a seed got there, I definitely didn’t plant it.)

So, clearly, a shady, unheated greenhouse is all they require – plus one, or maybe two years wait.  And possibly help from the local mice or birds.  I’m looking forward to getting these beauties planted round the garden – and given they sell at £5 to £7.50 per little plant, I feel I’ve made a little fortune from thin air!