Friday, September 30, 2011

The other kind of gardener…

Vegetable vs. ornamental?
Flower vs. foliage?
Romantic vs. modern?

No, seed collector vs. the one who can’t be bothered. I’m the one who can’t be bothered; Ann of Amateur Bot-ann-ist is the seed collector, and she makes house calls! Knowing that I’d invited Ann over to collect seeds I’ve been saving (i.e. not tidying up) several flower stalks that had clearly gone over to the seedy side of things. Still as she moved around the garden she found others I hadn’t even thought about. It really is amazing, all the potential new plants around me. It was fun watching her work, with her “tools of the trade” such as saved envelopes… And fancy "keep your hands free scissors" (how many of you need a pair of these? I know I do)… I am in awe of those who garden this way. They seem more of a “real” gardener somehow. The only seeds I bother with are the ones I plant in my vegetable garden. What’s wrong with me? Actually I’ve thought about this a lot and come to two conclusions:
#1 - I don’t have the space…any available space is put to use overwintering tender plants, there is no room to start seeds! #2 - I love to visit nurseries…and buy plants! Plants…the ones I can actually see, touch and (in some cases) smell. Buying seeds just isn’t the same. #3 – I am impatient. I can see how seeds could become addictive though, not planting them but just collecting them. There are so many different shapes and colors, different places they hide…and just plain oddities. For example Ann called an Impatiens “touch me not plant” and showed me how the seed pod would open in reaction to your body heat. I guess if they are further along they actually “pop” where as these just slowly opened. Pretty cool. I also saw her squeezing the base of my Kangaro Paw flowers feeling for seed (“you can feel if they are pregnant” she said)… It never occured to me that there might be seeds in there. I’m pretty excited about these Syneilesis (Shredded Umbrella Plant) seeds…if she manages to propagate any of them she’s paying back the gift with plants… I don’t think you could ever have too many of those leaves in your garden! So are you a seed gatherer, or a plant buyer?...Or both?

21 comments:

  1. Oh, I'm definitely a seed saver and I have the booty to show for it. Including a garden full of plants that seed themselves. Were all the seeds ripe or did she pick some before they were ripe. I usually leave mine until ripe but maybe I can do the job sooner. Love the scissors and have never seen them and good idea saving envelopes. I usually save those little salsa cups and yoghurt cups.

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  2. I'm definitely a seed saver, but it does get rather frustrating leaving all that brown stuff out there, when the OCD impulse for me is to tidy it up. I want to know where to get those cool scissors.

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  3. Both, I do keep in mind, the plant that I buy will set seed so I can harvest them to give as gifts or seed swaps via blogging. We have already started swapping seeds in some areas, this will be my 3rd year doing this....love to take cuttings and root too.

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  4. I love to start plants from seed. The hard part is nursing them to plantable size. I just planted a dozen mountain laurels I started from see this spring. I also have a lot of hesperaloe seedlings and even some amaryllis from a plant that set seeds. Can't wait to see what the amaryllis look like when they bloom. My problem is I'm not too good at rooting cuttings. But I'm still trying.

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  5. Great post, and, "Wow! Is that woman nuts about seeds or what?" :)

    Yes, I know. I am a seed person through and through but that's what happens when you dream of growing up to be a plant hunter. My mentor was in his 70s and 80s when I was just a young girl and he filled my mind with this passion. That's why my ETSY garden shop is named after him. His name was Milton Palm and he meant the world to me.

    As for the clippers, I purchased the them in Berkeley at Hida Tool & Hardware Co., but they can also be found online at Lee Valley Hardware.

    As for the ripe/unripe question it depends on the plants. Some have ripe seeds but are covered by thick membranes. Harvesting them early prevents them from rotting when the rains come. Some you have to wait for but it is almost always worth it.

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  6. I always have better luck with cuttings, vegetative progagation vs. seeds, but I'll try anything. I hope you have lots of shredded umbrella babies!

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  7. I'm definitely more of a plant buyer, but I do collect the occasional seed from my garden -- the easy ones like moonflower vine, coneflower, Texas bluebonnets, and datura. I like seed that can be sown directly in the ground versus ones I have to start in fussy little pots.

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  8. I like the idea of collecting seed and sometimes do to send to other people but don't have the time or space to start plants in pots indoors. Always collect poppy seeds to sprinkle about outside. Some people like to shop for shoes, clothes, etc. I love to shop for plants. Always up for a nursery visit or day of nursery visits.

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  9. Lancashire rose, from what I've seen of your garden I would have thought you were a "seedy" lady! As Ann says below some of the seeds she got weren't quite ready but she thought she could let them dry and would be okay.

    Alison, see Ann's reply below!

    Darla, cuttings too? You are the complete gardener!

    Ann #1, you make a good point, one that has kept me from growing more things from seed. You can't put a tiny seedling in a border of tall plants and expect it to take off!

    Ann #2, yep...she's nuts. Thanks for the scissors source info!

    Denise, I wish I could claim success with cuttings.

    Pam, "fussy little pots"...exactly!

    Peter, I went to the Cistus parking lot sale this morning!!!

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  10. I collect a few seeds of annuals. Perennials are too much trouble. I am in awe of those who do though.

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  11. Did you get any ripe seeds out of your castor bean plant?

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  12. Grace, but you've got some seed saver tendencies...I admire that!

    Justin, Ann took one of the spiky pods, there are several left that I'm leaving in place in hopes that I will...I haven't peeked inside yet. This one I actually would consider trying to grow from seed, although last time I tried I got one plant about a foot tall, the others never made it past about 5"...

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  13. I am a big seed collector, mostly motivated by the fact that on the island I live plants are extremely expensive and also the variety available is not great. I am so thrilled when I look at my large trees and palms and think that I actually grew those things from little seeds I collected! I even have several aloe dichtoma I grew from purchased seed.

    I like the fact that the challenges of living here have made me a much more informed gardener-I now know how to start many types of seeds that have defeated others (eg the scratch and soak in boiling water for 1 minute then soak overnight types etc.)

    I grow all my veggies from seed, too. In the tropics to me buying veggie starts make no sense as all you have to do is sprinkle seed on seed starter in a large pot or the ground and water every day for 4 weeks and then the plants are ready from transplanting.

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  14. Unfortunately I am a seed collector. Another facet to this over the top obsession with creating MORE plants. There are so many seeds ready as of late I feel like a hoarder. Just the other day I got a jam jar full of chilean glory vine seeds, silky black feathered little pepper grains. It's a lot of fun really...

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  15. I need to save more! This was an incredibly inspiring post~I've never known exactly when some seeds are ready~Some are noticeably ready, like asteraceae but others fool me. Like Pam/Digging I prefer to sow them directly in the garden. gail

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  16. I'm a big seed collector, but not as much of a seed sower. It takes a lot of time and patience! Some of the seeds I sowed last winter are now plants just getting planted out now. Partly due to the difficulty Ann mentioned of nursing them along, but also because of a lack of time (and cool enough weather). I'm trying to collect less this year and be more in line with what I can realistically sow.

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  17. Loree, it's put a smile on my face when I read this post, and somehow reassuring that I'm not the only one who belongs to the 'cannot be bothered' category when it comes to collecting and growing from seed.

    I see the appeal though, and totally understand the reward of growing plants from seed and collecting them on a regular basis. We don't totally shun the practice altogether as we do grow several plants from seeds, just not as much as others, way below the average gardener I'd say.

    I absolutely love visiting nurseries and buying plants, thoroughly enjoy it! And it suits our lifestyle better too :)

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  18. I'm strictly of the can't-be-bothered school, though the pride of my gardening life is currently the dozen Aeonium tabuliforme I (accidentally) grew from seed. A succulent from seed! I'm still agog.

    But otherwise, still can't be bothered.

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  19. I've gotten some very special plants through the seeds from HPSO...lots of failures, too. This topic sure prompted a lot of comments.

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  20. I collect seed like crazy and always mean to plant them...

    And then when I do remember to plant them they rarely survive.

    I'm sure I'm doing it wrong, because surely it's not THIS hard!?!?!?

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  21. Addendum - I was much better at starting seeds in Michigan. I had baby Japanese maples, baby ginkos, all kinds of perennial starts... absolutely miss my green green garden.

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