Harriet, the trick to the results I get from sowing seed is I just keep sowing. For every plant that makes it under my conditions, there's probably 50 that die. Maybe that's an exaggeration...not sure. I don't keep records because it's too depressing.
I do generally group seed sowing of various species in three categories: down cold, still learning and repeatedly fail. I have found too that if I can move a few of the "repeatedly fail" over to the "still learning categry," all is well.
Re: the super red spines on the fero, that's how it looks post watering. I love how water brings out spine colors.