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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.