Monthly Archives: August 2015

Propagation pleasures

Seed packet gifts containing Papaver, Cerinthe and Nigella seeds - © GAP Photos

Seed packet gifts containing Papaver, Cerinthe and Nigella seeds – © GAP Photos

From summer onwards, the eagle-eyed thrifty types among us begin to view the garden differently. No longer are we wowed by the dazzling, lurid colours of attention-seeking petals – our attention has instead turned to their potential successors. Inflated, rattling, desiccated seedpods pique our interest as we fervently gather jam jars, envelopes and pens. The seed collecting season has begun.

There’s an abundance of plants that lend themselves to propagation this way. Annuals and biennials in particular produce over-generous amounts of seed in their scramble to survive from year to year. Nigella, foxglove, calendula, poppy and honesty are just a few familiar self-seeders. But don’t neglect more refined plants such as hellebores, calendula, violas and primulas. Your seed compost had better behave itself.

Collecting and storing seeds. A selection of flower seed heads and seeds stored in vintage containers. Including Echinops, Phacelia, Helianthus  - © GAP Photos

Collecting and storing seeds. A selection of flower seed heads and seeds stored in vintage containers. Including Echinops, Phacelia, Helianthus – © GAP Photos

Just bear in mind that not all flowers will come ‘true to type’ – that is, look identical to their parents. Species, such as Verbascum olympicum and Silybum marianum will come true, but varieties and hybrids are less likely to do so.

Collecting and storing seeds. Vintage case with Calendula seed heads - © GAP Photos

Collecting and storing seeds. Vintage case with Calendula seed heads – © GAP Photos

Ensure that the plants you collect from are healthy – you want to multiply healthy gene pools, not weak ones. Plants showing any signs of pest, disease or virus attack should be avoided.

Harvesting Allium seeds - © GAP Photos

Harvesting Allium seeds – © GAP Photos

Collect your pods as soon as they start to dry out, doing so on a dry day. Cut the stems with scissors then either lay the pods on a tray to dry fully, or place them in a paper bag.

Collecting seeds from Cosmos 'Sensation Mixed' - © GAP Photos

Collecting seeds from Cosmos ‘Sensation Mixed’ – © GAP Photos

Once the seedpods have dried fully, they will release their seeds. Gently crush any that are stubborn to let go of their contents. Blow away any chaff before storing your seeds.

Collecting and storing seeds. A selection of flower seed heads and seeds stored in vintage containers. Including Phlomis, Papaver orientale - © GAP Photos

Collecting and storing seeds. A selection of flower seed heads and seeds stored in vintage containers. Including Phlomis, Papaver orientale – © GAP Photos

Store your seeds in a jar or paper envelope. Label with the plant name and date collected. Place in an airtight tub and keep your seeds somewhere cool and dry. Ideally place some desiccant alongside them, and keep in the fridge.

In a flap


Do urban blackbirds strip your strawberries before you get the chance? Or do rural pheasants raid your sweetcorn crop while you’re out at work? Put paid to all this garden thievery by erecting a tail-turning deterrent among your most precious crops. This is an upcycler’s dream – there are hundreds of ideas for transforming disused items into bird scarers – just look at some of the projects we’ve got on show here. Of course, the classic scarecrow is a brilliant assignment for children, young and old, to get stuck into. Dad’s stain-splashed shirt combined with your brother’s leaky trainers and mum’s rather-too-tight jeans never looked so good. One of these placed among your cabbages instantly adds some Peter Rabbit-style character to your plot. Is the latest boy band old news again? Your daughter won’t mind you raiding her CD collection then, to string the likes of Harry or Danny among your raspberries. Or how about recycling an old pop bottle as a mini-windmill that will shimmer and rattle in the slightest breeze? Just cut repeated vertical lines into the sides, compress the top and bottom ends together with some string and hey presto, you’ll strike terror into pigeons from here to the garden gate – and hopefully beyond.

Buckets of ideas


There’s nothing more cheery than gazing upon a bouquet of flowers, especially if those blooms are home-grown. When the garden is in full swing during the height of summer, the abundance of colour means that amounts can easily be spared for a galvanised bucket, jug or vase. Skim off a handful a week and you’ll never even notice their absence from the earth. Although spring cut flower beauties like hyacinths and tulips may be slumbering, there is an abundance of choice for summer arrangements. Will you opt for a classic posy of scented rose, lavender and honeysuckle, or a flamboyant combination of dahlias, zinnias and ornamental grasses? Let your imagination run free.

Lasting for longer
So, what are the secrets to giving your vase superior shelf-life? Well, it’s important to have both healthy flowers and containers. Ensure your vase is scrupulously clean – give it a good scrub and, if it’s really dirty, a blast of boiling water or treatment with sterilising tablets. Changing the blooms’ water daily is ideal, yet if you’ve not time for this then adding flower food will help as most brands also prevent bacterial build up. Cut your flowers first thing in the morning when fully pumped with water, remove the lower leaves and plunge up to their necks in water for 24 hours. This ‘conditioning’ will extend their life by days. And, if possible, cut them when the flowers are just opening – don’t wait till they’re fully out.