TOBY BUCK­LAND

Now is the time to col­lect seeds and save pounds

Amateur Gardening - - This Week In Gardening -

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

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