Yesterday, to make myself feel a little better about accomplishing something, I did begin one small task in planning ahead--I collected some seeds. So many of you have talked about starting this or that plant from seed that I decided it's time I, too, become a little more thrifty and take advantage of what I already have rather than buy all my plants at the local garden center/nursery. My technique for gathering seed in the past has been random and very unscientific . . . I might take a seedhead from a coneflower, as pictured above, and crumple it all over the garden bed, hoping a few might take hold and become seedlings in the spring.
Although this method does work--one section of my main flowerbed was overrun with coneflower seedlings this spring--I wanted to be more organized this year and collect seeds the "proper" way. In particular, I wanted to collect some seeds from my old-fashioned, heirloom hollyhocks since many of you expressed an interest in these when I posted some photos of them in June. I found a very helpful website through ivillage.com that gives instructions for collecting and storing seeds in general as well as for specific plants. Here are the instructions given on this site for gathering hollyhock seeds:
1. Do not remove spent blossoms from the hollyhock. After blossoming, a plump green disk will appear on the stem, which eventually will turn a yellowish brown. Soon after, the top of the pod will open to reveal a ring of seeds. The seeds are dark gray flat rounds.
2. Remove the pod and allow it to dry for a few days. (Oops! I'll have to remember this step today.)
3. Once the pod is dry, pull back the top of the pod and remove the seeds. Spread them out in an even layer on a plate and place it in direct sun for a few hours. The reason for this step is that the pods often contain weevils, very small insects with pointed heads and visible antennae. The weevils don't like bright sunlight and will scurry off the plate. A good tip: use a heavy plate, not a paper plate, in case a gust of wind comes along.
--------Yesterday was overcast, and we had a brief rainshower, so there wasn't much sun. Even so, I noticed a few tiny insects crawling off the plate. Just to make sure they've all left, I'm going to set the plate out again today.
4. The author of this FAQ page recommended some precautions because some people get an itch after working with hollyhocks. She suggested wearing long sleeves and washing your hands immediately after collecting the seeds. I didn't notice any itch, and I usually get a minor irritation after brushing up against green beans and tomatoes. But it's a worthwhile precaution if you are sensitive to some plants.
5. After the seeds have dried in the sun for at least an hour, stir them to check for more weevils. Once you see no sign of them, bring the plate inside and allow seeds to dry for a few more days.
The website also offers tips for storing seeds, but the main rule is to keep them cool, dry, and away from direct light. The author stores her seeds in paper envelopes, but also said zippered plastic bags are fine as well.
Seeds can be gathered from many other plants as well, including daylilies. Not all daylilies are fertile, but many are and will develop a seed pod after they have bloomed. Once the seedpod turns brown, you can easily pull it off, let it dry, then gently remove the seeds within.
Sorry for the blurry picture, but I'm sure you've seen these seed pods before. I have no intention, though, of collecting seeds from these daylilies. These are my Stella d'Oros, and they badly need to be divided this fall or next spring anyway. By the time I divide them, I will have more than enough without going to the bother of collecting seeds!
I am going to collect some coneflower seeds, but my main focus is going to be on the hollyhocks. If any of you would like some seed, just drop me an e-mail. (I just opened a new e-mail account for this blog and have added the link on my profile.) Hollyhocks are well-known for cross-hybridization, so there is no guarantee on what color they may be. However, I did mark my one lone yellow hollyhock, and I'm trying to keep those seeds separate, although there won't be as many of these. Some of you have also offered me some seed. I can't remember now who offered me what, but I am interested in cleome--especially the tall variety; verbena bonarensis; and a bright blue flower that I can't remember the name of but I think are often called bachelor's buttons. Of course, I could just buy these seeds next spring at a garden center. But this past spring Beckie gave me some small tomato plants started from seed that Cheryl had sent her. It was so much fun watching those globe-shaped cherry tomatoes ripen, knowing that they had come all the way from England!
Finally, I hope you aren't tired of all my photos of the praying mantis, because I must show you this one that I took just yesterday.
If these two are doing what I think they're doing, that may explain why I've had an abundance of praying mantises in my garden this year!
Hope you have a good week--it's a glorious day here, and I am off to finally get some work done in the garden!
Oops, I forgot to add that if anyone has other tips on collecting and storing seeds, I would love to hear them.