On a large shelf in our potting shed, there have been numerous envelopes and trays of seed heads since the end of the summer. Collected from the flower garden in dry weather, these are plants which are stalwarts of the garden here at Gravetye, we grow in large numbers or are difficult to buy from commercial seed producers. All that is needed to produce free seed in this way is a warm place for the seed heads to dry out and a little time to clean the seed before you sow. F1 hybrids will not come true to form from seed but for many of our favourites are reliable from home collected seed.
Here the tiny seeds of Viscaria ‘Blue Angel’, an annual with a stunning, delicate blue flower, are shaken from the seed heads onto a clean sheet of paper. These seeds being so small are the easily passed through a sieve to remove any parts of the seed head which have broken off in the process. the clean seed is then put in a labelled envelope ready to sow.
Larger seeds such as this Cynoglossum are big enough to be individually broken off and other seed, particularly grasses, need to be gently rubbed from the seed head. By using the large sheets of paper, we avoid any potting compost or other rogue seeds getting into the envelopes.
As with most things here in the garden, the autumn seed collecting can get rather over enthusiastic. Faced with so many beautiful plants and the prospect of free seed, we have more than we could ever possibly use. This enables us to produce packets of home grown seeds which we can sell to our guests. The envelopes, on sale in reception, have full instructions on the back ensuring that everyone can enjoy some of our favourite plants.
Words by Helena, photographs by Martin