Saving and Sharing Flower Seeds From Your Garden

purple columbine seed heads; foxglove seed heads in front of terra-cotta pot

"All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today" 

cypress topiary in terracota pot behind drying stems of flower seed
Drying seed heads ready for cleaning.
To which I say thank goodness! because today, whilst still in the middle of June, temps are already hovering around the century mark and the air is so sodden you could suffocate.

I am just finishing a book by Mark Epstein, M.D., GOING TO PIECES WITHOUT FALLING APART,  A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness (find it here),  a book referenced in 10% HAPPIER, that I wrote about in a post on Mindfulness and Heuchera (here) (Yes, I too am fascinated with the whole Mindfulness phenom and the black hole of books and literature it opens up.)

Columbine Seed Heads

In it he writes:

" carries with it the seed of mourning over its eventual demise."

A line that ever so perfectly captures the essence of a blossom and the ephemeral nature of its loveliness.  Happily, the seeds it produces are also beautiful in their own brown and crispy-haired way, and yes, portends more beauty ahead.

Stems of drying foxglove and columbine seed in front of terra-cotta pots.

Quite clearly, we have reached this dried and crispy phase in the life cycle of many of my favorite late spring/early summer bloomers, like columbine, foxglove, and poppies. Time to harvest their tawny, hope-filled pods to plant this fall and share with others. As I said in the 4 YOUR GARDEN segment 'Saving and Sharing Seeds From Your Garden' (watch it here) last Friday, seed saving for these flowers is quite straightforward and intuitive, but if you are new to the practice, here are some tips for harvesting flower seeds for fall planting.

Dried seed heads of purple columbine.
The translucent beauty of a dried columbine seed head. 
:  Seed heads will tell you when they are ready to be harvested, by their arid appearance and papery feel. The flower heads will desicate into either pods or seed heads that are brittle and may 'rattle' when gently shaken. Collect the seed when the casing pops open to the touch...if you wait too long, most of the seed will self-sow naturally in place by falling to the ground. If you want to scatter in other locations or share with friends, make sure to harvest before this happens.
Looking down on the a dried seed head of a columbine bloom.
See the dark seeds nestled inside the chaff?

DRYING: In our hot OKC summers, the 'drying' is not generally a problem, and the seed heads can go straight from stem to a snack zip lock or seed packet. But prevent problems by not cutting  when seed heads are wet. (Also, don't harvest prematurely -- the seeds inside will be green) . Snip off the pods and scatter in a single layer on a tray with enough room for air circulation if they need further drying. (Out of sunlight, in around 70-95 degrees). 
Pods of dry foxglove seeds on stem.

Foxglove seeds are extremely fine and abundant...
as are poppy seeds.

 I like to clean my seed over large metal trays using kitchen strainers of various size mesh. I simply crush the pods or heads over the sieve, then 'macerate' and slough off the paper skins against the mesh. A little shaking and the dry seed falls in to the square metal trays, the corners of which enable easy pouring into my containers of choice before packaging.
Purple, coral and red seed heads of pepperbox bread seed poppies.
Poppy seed heads come with their own built in seed shaker.

STORING AND SHARING: Almost any receptacle that will stay dry and store easily will suffice. Large quantities put small glass jars to good use (I also save small silica packets to ensure that seeds stay dry for this purpose). Plastic zip lock snack bags, empty film canisters (OKAY, I am dating myself...), you know. But my packaging preference leans toward actual seed packets from Amazon (here)  that can be purchased inexpensively, blank and in bulk for you own customization.

Rubber stamps, stickers, cards, dried petals, original artwork....Limited only by your imaginations! A fun summer project for kiddies ( I pinned this on my board 'When I Have Grandkids!' FOLLOW ME ON INTEREST HERE.
A wonderful way to celebrate the season and the cycles of life...sure to fascinate child and adult gardeners alike.

Make sure to note when the seed was harvested and any planting instructions on the back. :) For more information and video, watch me and Ali Meyer on 4 YOUR GARDEN below.


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