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Gerberas by the handful.

From seeds or plants, gerberas are a luxury. Plants cost $3 to $9; seeds are 4 to 90 cents each in small packets. But these daisies are worth it; in mild-winter climates, they bloom up to nine months a year in gold, coral, and vermilion hues. To increase your stock more economically, you can collect seeds from mature plants. Gathering and sowing seeds

As the flower fades, it forms a dandelion-like puffball. In cool weather, seeds rarely set, but with midsummer heat, more become viable. Enclose the seed head in a plastic bag to keep the fluff from flying away. Fresh seeds germinate best; sow them as soon as they ripen.

Fertile seeds are plump. Clean off the thistledown and scatter garden-collected seeds thickly over the surface of a fast-draining potting soil. Cover with about 1/8 inch soil. For expensive purchased seeds, place each one vertically, with the pointed end down and the top end just below the soil. Keep the seedbeds barely moist and in a warm place (about 70[deg]).

In two to six weeks, sprouts should appear. When they have three or four leaves, move seedlings to small pots and brighter light. When plants are several inches tall, place them in large pots or 1 to 1-1/2 feet apart in the ground. Bait regularly for snails and slugs. Feed frequently with nitrogen fertilizer in spring and summer.

Seedlings bloon in six months to a year, depending on climate and care. Plants grow larger and more prolific each year. Making you own hybrids

Most homegrown seeds mature into single, daisy-shaped flowers. To produce doubles like those shown, you usually have to help the pollenizing process. Male and female parts of the same flower mature at different times, and double flowers are less likely to cross-pollinate naturally.

To pollinate flowers, start with a fresh, just-opened blossom. Look for the forked female florets near the base of the outer petals. These are female pistils.

On a very mature or fading flower, look for pollen-bearing anthers toward the center (ripe pollen will be powdery). With tweezers, lift out the male floret, and use it as a brush to dust pollen onto the forked tip of a pistil. You can repeat the process each day as new pistils mature.

You can fertilize female florets with pollen from a different plant (crossing) or from a different flower on the same plant (inbreeding). Both give new variations. If you prefer to buy seeds

Here are three mail-order sources: W. Atlee Burpee Co., Warminster, Pa. 18974; Geo. W. Park Seed Co., Greenwood, S.C. 29647; Thompson & Morgan, Box 100, Farmingdale, N.J. 17727. Their catalogs are free.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jul 1, 1984
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