by Christine Maccabee
Winter Musings: Seed Stratification
Through the many days and nights of this long, cold winter, trillions of seeds lay sleeping. They rest in their icy cradles of earth, awaiting the warmth of spring. Offspring of last year’s flowers, herbs, grasses, and trees, these seeds—though inactive—are preparing for change. Naked, these small capsules of life lay exposed to all the elements, without one word of complaint.
Yes, seeds of plants are in a state of dormancy, being prepared for germination by a process we humans call, stratification.
I have learned through trial and error that the germination rate of wildflower seed mixes is much higher if the seeds are sown in the fall or winter, or put in sealed containers in the freezer until late winter or early spring. Also, some vegetable seeds we save from the past year of gardening need a period of freezing, such as spinach. However, I find most vegetable seeds do quite well kept in a cool, dry place in sealed glass or metal containers to keep moisture and mice out. Mice will chew through plastic if desperate.
As humans, we experience many cold, sometimes difficult, times in our lives, perhaps a form of human stratification. Surely, out of struggle and depth of feeling have come some of our greatest symphonies, art masterpieces, writings, and other creative works. Even out of the depths of depress-ion, and through sheer determina-tion and inspiration, creative potential and genius are released through the cracking of a sort of protective epidermis.
I am thinking of Van Gogh’s prolific paintings, Beethovan’s music—in spite of deafness—and so many others whose flowering of inspiration inspire us all.
One of my favorite songs to sing is by Dottie Rambo, whose pain nearly drove her to suicide. Instead, she wrote a song called “Beside Still Waters,” a powerful song expressive of her pain, yet also of the faith and hope she had in order to overcome it. Human stratification…hmm.
Sitting by my window on this icy, cold day, I gaze out at the gardens, fields, and mountains, painted in shades of greys and browns. Difficult as it is, I must acknowledge my own need for this “down” time. For many of us, January and February can be too cold, too solitudinal, even depressing. To comfort myself, I reflect on the seeds out there of my favorite wild edibles, as well as medicinals for teas. Many of those wild plants depend solely on their seed progeny in order to come again in the spring. As I drink teas from the plants I dried last year, I find myself dreaming of spring, which cannot come soon enough.
Time passes all too swiftly, some say, so we must embrace the moment, finding joy beyond the sorrow. Even lonely, frozen days in January and February will pass more pleasantly if we contemplate the flowers to come, the potential within the soil, the seeds which are stratifying, and the potential within ourselves. All we need, like the seeds, is to weather the elements of our lives with patience and hope.
Spring is on its way! See you in March.