Atomic Seeds

by Ken Greene

There are all kinds of seed stories to tell. We tend to hear historical stories about the origins of some of our heirloom varieties, but seed stories are not just about the distant past. There are modern tales to tell as well.

Doug at the Tree project exhibit. Doug at the Tree project exhibit.

This one starts with Doug's childhood babysitter, Facebook, our mini-vacation, a magazine, and a whole lot of serendipity.  Sarah, the one-time babysitter, emailed Doug, since they are Facebook friends, to tell him about a seed-related exhibit at the Horticultural Society of New York called Leur Existence * Tree Project. She had read about it in Organic Gardening Magazine. It just so happened that Doug and I were planning on going to the city to take a much needed break. So, even though we were mostly hoping to do things entirely unrelated to the Seed Library, we put the exhibit on our things-to-see-and-do list. The subject of the show was too compelling to resist.

The trees that survived the atomic bombing in Hiroshima are called Hibaku trees or A-bombed trees. Artist Hiroshi Sunairi received some 2nd and 3rd generation seeds from these resilient trees and decided to grow them out as well as give them to people around the world. He collected letters and photos from the people who grew seedlings and put together the exhibit at the Horticultural Society. There are photos of the original Hibaku trees in Japan and the signs that commemorate them on the Tree Project blog.

Platanus seeling in elephant foot pot. Platanus seedling in elephant foot pot.

Hibaku seeds. Hibaku seeds.

Every spring I realize again the hopeful nature of seeds. Our saved seeds represent carrying the success of the past year's garden into the future. They represent continuing the stories of our ancient agricultural roots, migrations, immigrations, and cultural foods. The Hibaku seeds are a powerful reminder that even through horrific events, hope survives as long as we pass it on and share it.

While we were looking at the seeds and seedlings, serendipity struck again, as we met George Pisegna, Horticultual Director and Chris Murtha, Curator at HSNY. The Hibaku seeds created a connection between the Seed Library and HSNY that I hope will continue to grow. When we were ready to leave, George and Chris surprised us by giving us Hibaku seeds to grow on our farm. They are Platanus Seeds- a tree similar to the striking Sycamores we have on our land. We will be documenting the germination and growth of our atomic seeds on the blog and sharing the photos with HSNY and Hiroshi Sunairi in the hopes that this project will continue to grow. Even in the concrete jungle Doug and I can't seem to escape our seedy roots and we're glad for that.

If you are in the city it's worth stopping in at the Horticultural Society, seeing the exhibit, and learning more about the many garden projects HSNY undertakes.

Seedlings. Seedlings.