Clever Gardening Technique
Collecting and Storing Seeds
Thrifty gardeners, or those who just want to add a new dimension to their favorite hobby, will enjoy gathering seeds for next year's garden. Success is mostly a matter of good timing; collect too soon and the seeds may not be viable, collect too late and the opportunity will be lost to wind, rain, or a hungry bird or critter.
Most flower seeds mature four to six weeks after blooms fade. A change in color of the flower head or seed pod is usually a good clue that the flower embryo is fully developed. Plan to collect during the driest part of the day, usually mid-afternoon.
When flowers are ready, cut the dried heads or pods from their stalks and shake them into a bag or a bucket. Composite flowers like daisies and asters, with tightly-packed seeds in their centers, may need to be pulled apart. Separate seeds from the chaff by pouring them onto a paper plate and rolling the plate from side to side.
Gather the cleaned seeds onto a second plate marked with the name of the plant and the collection date and set them aside for a few days. When the seeds are fully dry, place them in a plain envelope, again clearly marked, and store them in an air-tight jar in a cool, dry location.
Favorite or New Plant
I'm a huge fan of the late-blooming, tropical salvias, especially Salvia mexicana 'Limelight', a shrub-sized tender perennial for the back of the border. In the Middle South, the 6-foot tall and wide plant begins to bloom in August or September, energizing the autumn landscape with a bold color combination of vivid blue flowers held in chartreuse calyxes. The brightly colored calyxes persist even after flowers fall, adding to the plant's interest and beauty. Hummingbirds and butterflies love this plant too, as it provides vital sustenance for those embarking on a seasonal migration.