Now is the time to collect seeds and save pounds
DESPITE the washout weather, flowers have a bumper crop of kernels that are ripe and ready for harvest and I’ve gathered more seed than at any time since I had a job collecting seed at a botanic garden!
For the veg plot I’ve been bagging-up the heads of companion and cut-flowers that I’ll sow next year for colour along the ends of rows of vegetables. The fat plates of spent sunflowers, the wiry tops of larkspur and cosmos are all easy and worthwhile, as are French marigolds.
If you’re after that naturalistic Provencal potager-look, marigolds among the rows of ‘Cavolo Nero’ kale are essential, as not only do they look good and provide petals for salads and rice, they attract aphid-eating hoverflies that then patrol your plot.
However, the seed of French marigold sold in the UK is invariably of the shorter dwarf strain, so more Margate than Monaco, but collect your own from these dumpy customers and the plants you get revert to the taller more glamorous form.
Saving seed saves money, especially where you need a lot of plants for large schemes, such as ornamental grasses for prairie meadows. I’ve been gathering the awns of purple moor grass, Molinia caerulea, for a shaggy lawn inspired by a visit to Scampston Hall in Yorkshire, where it’s planted in alternating bands across the lawn.
Purple moor grass is a chameleon, turning through every shade of green as it grows, then turning purple and finally gold as the seed-heads dry in the sun. These stick around until late-winter when it’s trimmed to do it all again.
Like all grass, it’s simple to sow (you can do it now) in seed-trays where it’ll happily grow cheek-by-jowl. Then, once
it’s up, you can split it apart into readyto-plant clumps.
The other plants well-worth collecting are those with capricious natures and weak constitutions that need regular replacement. Echinacea comes into this camp and seed gathered from its teasellike tufts will flower this time next year, especially if it’s sown by late-February.
Not bad, especially when a plant in bloom costs well over a fiver.
“Plants in bloom cost over a fiver!”
If you have a large garden, saving seed will prove to be a worthwhile investment When clearing the garden this autumn, keep an eye open for ripe seed pods