Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Seed Collecting - Member Stories of Seed Collecting from our Yards to Add to Seed Share

This page will be devoted to seed collecting stories by our membership of seeds other than the ones started in our seed share journals.   Please post your name and date and any photos when sharing your stories!

July 29, 2014 Posted by WV Sprout
Columbine (Aquilegia sp)  Columbines are one of my favorite flowers.    I have a lot of white ones in a shady moist area along my front path.   These are the ones I am harvesting and will share. They are mixed in with astilbe, bletilla, and omphalodes under two dwarf sargent crabs.  They are wonderful in shady woodland gardens.  They have relatively few garden pests and need minimal care. If they are happy, they self seed and show up in fun spots around the yard.  Although not invasive at all, they are easily pulled out if you have too many. After you’ve collected columbine flower seeds, the easiest way to grow them is to plant directly in the ground where you want them to grow. Plant columbine seeds late in the fall so they can germinate in the spring. The first year you’ll probably get only foliage, but by the second year your columbines will show a flush of blooms.   The three photos below are all photos I have taken through the years.  The one on the left is the state flower of Colorado (Colorado Columbine), (Photo 1) the one in the middle is the little white one from my yard (Photo 2) and the one on right is the small native columbine, Aquilegia canadensis. (Photo 3)

1 Colorado Columbine
2  White columbine in my yard for seed share
3 Columbine native to WV
I almost missed harvest time because of vacations.  But there were still pods to harvest with limited seed, but enough for 1 or 2 packets.  Photos below show the steps I took.  (Photos 4, 5, 6 & 7)

 4  This is one small pod from the plant.  The
columbine  stem will be tall  and
 branched with lots of pods like this.

5  Look closely at the base of the pod.
You will see one or two small dark seeds where I
slit open the side of the pod.  I did this to each pod.   If I
had not been so late with my collecting,  I could have cut
a branch, shook it, and harvested a large amount easily.


6  My finished stack of pods.

7  A container full of small seeds and
some chaff.  Next I will put it through a sieve
and wind up with a nice collection of seeds.

August 8, 2012 Posted by WV Sprout
Stokesia laevis  (Stokes' aster)
From  is native to wetlands, bottomlands, wet pinewoods, savannas and ditches mostly along the coastal plain from North Carolina to Florida to Louisiana. It is an evergreen perennial that typically grows to 1-2' tall. It features fluffy, cornflower-like, violet blue flowers (to 2 1/2” across), each with notched rays surrounding a pincushion center of feathery disk florets. Flowers bloom from early to mid-summer (sometimes with a fall rebloom) atop generally erect, leafy stems that rise from a basal rosette of lanceolate to elliptic, medium green leaves (to 6" long). Stem leaves are stalkless and smaller than basal leaves. Leaves are evergreen in warm winter climates.
WV Sprout experience: I am particularly attached to this plant.  Years ago, when Zone VII had an every other year zone hort meeting, I had the pleasure of attending one in the Raleigh-Durham area.  We could purchase seeds at the NC Arboretum that were collected in their gardens.  I purchased a small pack of Stokesia.  From my 6 plants that germinated I now have a very large bed of Stokes Aster. (Photos 8 & 9)  I love the blue color.  I originally would dead head.  Many years ago I decided to let self-sow.  Well, now I am pulling up plants and giving them away to friends every years.  I read with interest many of the comments on online gardening sites about difficulties with this plant.  Not in my yard!  The hardiness zone is more southern as the above states and I am in WV.  Zone 6 a few years ago, now Zone 6b.  I have a hot sunny south facing spot that gets moisture from a few natural springs in the hillside. So, it is wet in the spring and dry in the summer.   I would not recommend the plant in our mountainous areas as it would not be hardy due to the elevation, but in Charleston it will do just fine given the right conditions.  Hot sun, fairly poor soil, well drained but moist soil.  So, I will be sending seeds to Shirley Meniece definitely from this plant.  A wonderful butterfly, bee attractor! (Photos 10, 11, 12 & 13)
8  Stokesia in early summer in full bloom.
I love it!

9  Flower bloom in August.  S
till sparsely blooming which means more
 seeds to collect later. Not as intense blue
as the first flush earlier in the summer.

10  Seed heads forming.  Don't pick yet!

11  Wait - a little more patience needed.,
The heads need to close up slightly more
as the seeds are hard and not ready to pop out.
12  Here they are - the seed head has closed up slightly.
When you pull back with your fingers, the seeds practically
spring out.
13  Lots of seeds here as you can see.  This pod was a little past peak but still ok to use.  Lots of chaff with this one.  So, it is a little easier if you can catch it somewhere between the photo above and before the
seed head completely closes up like the one in the bottom photo. Easier to take a pair of tweezers and pick the seeds out.
Baptisia Australis (Blue Indigo)
Another garden favorite of mine, but this one appears that germination may be harder than collecting.  I would suggest that you read both of these articles before starting.
Here's a photo of the plant and flower. (Photo 14)   Also a photo of the pods and the large seeds that just fall out easily on their own. (Photo 15)  Baptisia is hardy Zone 3-10.  Most all of the gardening sites suggest 3 years before flowering. Blue Indigo is a native host plant for the following butterflies - Wild Indigo Duskywing, Eastern Tailed-Blue, Orange Sulphur, Clouded Sulphur, Frosted Elfin, and Hoary Edge; so definitely a benefit to your garden.  Baptisia does not like transplanting very well and also takes a while to become established, but once you have it you will really enjoy.  The seed pods turn black and are also great to use in flower arrangements. 
A challenge for those that enjoy the end result! Does anyone that has successfully grown these have comments?

14  Baptisia Australis in bloom.
15  Look how easily the seeds fall out.
 Too bad it is not as easy to start!
August 18, 2014
The Hort Committee, now chaired by KittySprout for the upcoming year, met for the first time for the 2014-2015 year.  Approximately 17 members came - all enthused and refreshed after great summer vacations with family.  Lots of catching up to do and sharing of vacation stories. 
16  Part of our luncheon were these WV 63 tomatoes
shared by Kitty Sprout
 All the members brought dishes to share and after a delightful lunch WV Sprout demonstrated how to save tomato seeds (photo 16) (saving procedure on a separate post just on tomato collecting) and Mamsprout gave a brief talk and demo on saving perennial seeds.  She brought lots of samples from her garden:  Marigolds, an unknown Aguilegia, Amsonia tabernaemontana, Lychinis coronaria, Nicotiana alata, Papaver somniferum, Shirley poppy, Baptisia (False Indigo), Acanthus spinosa (Bear's britches), and Kniphofia uvaria (red hot poker).  Spring Sprout brought hyacinth bean pods - she is the only one so far out of our group whose hyacinth beans have made it to this stage!  Another member brought Opium Poppy seeds from her yard. 
After showing the different stages of the plants and showing how to wait and recognize when the seed pod was ready, all left for home with seed envelopes, small bags of seed pods, seeds and lots of new knowledge.  Some will go to Shirley Meniece, some will be saved for our group to start the process over again next year.  (Photos 17, 18 & 19)
17  Mamsprout demonstrates seed collecting
to the Hort Committee

18  Seeds ready for labeling and putting in envelopes.
These are Lychnis coronaria seeds.  They were so ripe that when the seed heads were cut we quickly put into a clear baggie to catch the seeds as they fell out of the pod immediately. Lots of tiny seeds!

19  Many different seeds - Red Hot Poker in the foreground.
Another one where the seeds were so ripe they fell right
out of the pod into the baggie.
September 3, 2014
Patience and good eyesight should be added to the list of tools for seed collection!  I am certainly learning.  I love a good challenge and am finding seed collecting and the resulting propagation methods fascinating.  I have decided I never made it out of Jr. High School and science fair projects. 
If not for the Seeds site I found on Flickr and have also referenced on our sidebar under Seed Share blogs I would have saved the wrong thing.  The Seeds site is beautifully done with over 254 artfully arranged seeds arranged around a dime so that you get an accurate comparison of seed size. 
The other day I collected the seed heads of a wonderful Rudbeckia hirta that I have in my yard.  I bought one or two plants a few years ago.  The photo below shows them now.  Mine are on a south facing dry, clay bank and have multiplied like crazy. (Photo 20)  I am Zone 6b, but am able to grow some Zone 7 plants on this site.
20  Rudbeckia on my front hillside.  What a show!
  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower site classifies this as an annual.  The Missouri Botanical Garden site (linked above) states:
Biennial or short-lived perennial that is winter hardy to USDA Zones 3-7. It blooms in the first year from seed planted in early spring, and is accordingly often grown as an annual. It is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Best in moist, organically rich soils. Tolerates heat, drought and a wide range of soils except poorly-drained wet ones. For best result from seed in the St. Louis area, start seed indoors around March 1. Seed may also be sown directly in the garden at last frost date. Some varieties are available in cell/six packs from nurseries. Set out seedlings or purchased plants at last frost date. Deadhead spend flowers to encourage additional bloom and/or to prevent any unwanted self-seeding. Whether or not plants survive from one year to the next, they freely self-seed and will usually remain in the garden through self-seeding.
The goldfinch feed constantly on these flowers.  I had concerns that they might not save anything for me.  Between our rainy days I collected some very dry seed heads on Sunday.  (This is where the patience comes in as I have found I collect too early.  When the information says dried seed heads, they mean it!)  I put the seed heads in a gallon size Ziploc and left alone on my kitchen counter for a few days.  I emptied them onto a white paper plate today and noticed that there were two different small "things" that were on the plate.  Using my magnifying glass I could distinguish them apart.  Looking at the Flickr Seed site I was able to distinguish between the chaff and the seeds.  So, here I am today with my tweezers, picking the tiny seeds out and dropping them into my brown envelopes. (Photo 21)
21  Look closely.  Chaff and seeds are circled by the large blue line.
Within the two smaller circle are seeds.  Chaff is the longer skinny piece,
seed is the little short stubby piece.  You can see how dried the seed
head is. 

September 15, 2014
This morning I decided to work on packaging my fennel.  I grow the herbaceous fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and not the bulb fennel. I did a little research to try to find the difference between the bulb fennel to eat as a vegetable.  Florence Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum) is the type to grow if you want to harvest the bulbous stems to use as a vegetable. The leaves and seeds of this variety are also edible, so you get three uses in one plant.  Herb fennel is a tall perennial herb native to the Mediterranean. It has a sweet licorice taste, and is widely used in Mediterranean cuisine.  The seed is delicious in many things, great on pizza!

Fennel is indigenous to the Mediterranean shores but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks.  **Note - I am not in either area but my fennel has returned now for 3 years, including last year's very cold winter with a lot of snow cover. 

My primary reason for growing fennel is that it is a host plant for the anise swallowtail - so look for seeds from my plant at the fall Shirley Meniece conference.  It is easy to harvest and collect and produces an abundance of seeds.

I started harvesting in August as the seeds ripen.  The easiest way to harvest as the seeds are small and prone to dropping when ripe is to cut the entire seed head and some stem off and drop upside down into a container.  Then the seeds will fall into the container.  As the head continues to dry additional seeds will fall.  I just continued to collect until now, then rubbed the heads some to get more seeds to drop.  Spread out on a piece of white paper and now will package.  You will get an occasional very tiny spider, but they will crawl right out of the seeds on the paper to try to escape.
(Photos 22, 23, 24, 25 & 26)

22.  Fennel plant in yard. A little
hard to photograph as it is so lacy and delicate.
Fairly tall - about 4'.
23.  Fennel seeds not quite ready to harvest.
Still yellow. 

24.  Ripe seeds.  The head is droopy now and
seeds  are brown.
25  Cut the seeds and put the entire head and stalk
upside down into a container.  The seeds will then just
fall on their own into the bottom as they continue to ripen.

26.  All of this from maybe just a dozen
cuttings.  Plenty left outside for the birds. 

October 20, 2014
It is 35° outside - time to get another seed collected.  My hyacinth beans (Lablab purpureus) are finally ready.  And this is the easiest one yet!  No work here. 

Our hyacinth bean stories may be found on 'Kitty's Litter' post. The hyacinth bean seeds should be collected before a heavy frost.  It is said that Hyacinth bean was introduced from Asia and North Africa in the 1700s and was grown at Monticello around 1817, thus earning it the additional name of the Jefferson bean.  The pods are 3-5" long and shiny purple, like patent leather.  Lovely.  The more moisture you have during the summer months, the more beans (seeds) inside the pods.  If you pick the pods when shiny the seeds inside will be green and not yet ready.  Wait until the pods are brown and dried and somewhat shriveled.  Just split the pods open and inside are 3-5 lovely black seeds with a white stripe on the side.  As there is a lot of moisture in the air today I will let the bean dry inside before putting away.  Legume seeds should breathe, so store in a cool place and preferably not sealed in a plastic bag.  Remember that hyacinth beans should only be eaten cooked as they can be toxic raw.  We will start these seeds indoors next year - remembering to plant in a larger pot than the seed starter trays that we used this year.  We will try to find something that can go straight in the ground as they do not tolerate transplanting well.  If using in a container try a large size peat pot or a deep paper cup that will disintegrate in the soil.  The seeds can also be saved and planted directly in the ground after the last frost date.

July photo of my bean climbing
the boy's old basketball pole.  By October
the backboard was covered and the beans
growing back down the pole.
Purple pod in the middle - not yet ready.
Brown & dried pot at top - ready.
Harvested seeds at bottom.


  1. Working on collecting Stokesia laevis (Stokes Aster). A great butterfly and bee perennial. Look for it at Shirley Meniece.

  2. Collecting Rudbeckia hirta today. Tedious!

  3. Worked on finishing up packing fennel seed this morning. A lot of seeds from just a few flower heads. Pretty easy.

  4. New post on collecting Hyacinth Bean seeds today. Pretty cold temps here in the morning, so time to get them in.