Nope, not this time. This time I’m preparing for next spring. As I’m “truckin” my way north of the border, heading for Toronto once again. As usual I’m always looking, hunting and scavenging. The splendor of summer — that is flowers busting in full color everywhere — is giving way to winter’s chill. Sad, yes … BUT wait!
Never one to miss an opportunity to DIY or reduce or repurpose or recycle AND to save some money, when I see spent blooms, I dead-head. I pull the dried-out flower off it’s stem and save the seeds for next spring. My garden beds and yard are full of plants and flowers I’ve seeded this way. What satisfaction!
This trip is no different. My poor husband, Antonio, nearly drives off the road when I yell, “Stop, stop, stop!” (You’d think he’d be used to it by now!). So, having pulled over several times so far, I already have several packets of seeds just waiting for the spring sunshine and sowing season!
DIY Seed Packets: Here’s what I’ve gathered so far
1. Dark Purple Asters: In Italian we call these, “setembrini,” which nearly quite literally means “little Septembers” DUH! They bloom in September. In my garden, I already have bundles of wild light purple asters, having dug them out of a friend’s garden in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts – with permission of course! The wild dark purple asters will be a really nice addition. I’ll no doubt plant them right next to the light asters. Moving west toward Toronto, we stopped in Rockport along the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River. The river is dotted with one tiny island after the other, ergo the name generally used to describe the area – Thousand Islands – SO BEAUTIFUL! We stopped at a riverside park where I found
2. Milkweed: Lots of milkweed with pods ready to explode and release what as children we used to call “wishers”. It was always a good day when we were lucky enough to catch a wisher, make a wish and to once again release it into the breeze.
Now-a-days, those silky transports are just as important as a childhood dream; they carry with them the milkweed seed, which if it takes roots, provides an integral part of the Monarch Butterfly’s stopping ground during it’s marathon migration from Mexico and Southern California to locations as far north as Canada! In case you haven’t noticed, there are not as many Monarch Butterflies around this year. Painting with a broad brush here, let’s just chalk it up to climate change. This is a whole other subject which as Green Divas we will definitely be talking about on an upcoming show/podcast, in the meantime we can all begin to help. Plant milkweed! It blooms in the summer … the flowers turning into prickly pods full of seeds … which burst every autumn. I cannot wait to plant the milkweed, nurture the seeds and hopefully create a critical “rest and refueling” stop for any Monarchs finding their way into my corner of New Jersey. Just call me Mizar Milkweed Seed!
In Toronto, the dead-heading continues
3. Cosmos: Cosmos grow just about EVERYWHERE! I love these plants because while technically they are annuals, cosmos are champion RE-seeders; dropping hundreds of seeds which are just more than willing to winter over and pop right out of the ground as soon as the sun warms the soil and the spring rain delivers its first drops of water . Then there’s
4. The Mystery Flower (for now): I think it too is an annual, a beautiful orange/yellow daisy-like flower which in its case, I will gladly re-seed. Despite my research, I can’t really pin down exactly what this flower is called, but I will. The seeds are pretty cool as they are shaped a bit like kidney beans. And finally, my last “pick” so far … what I’m calling Number
5. The Niagara on the Lake: thing of beauty I have NEVER seen before. Again, I’ll have to research it in order to identify it but that’s no big deal. It grows in bed after bed along the main street in this quaint little town which every year hosts The Shaw – George Bernard Shaw – Festival from April to October.
This flower looks like it might be related to the Hardy Hibiscus which I’ve had in gardens at every home I’ve ever owned. The most amazing thing is just how beautifully this plant .. or should I say tree grows.They’re huge!
If President Thomas Jefferson did it, so can I! Collecting these pods … Ouch!
Everywhere he traveled, our third president Thomas Jefferson, collected and catalogued seeds which he later planted on one of his 2 five-thousand acre plots of land. He brought them over from Europe; couldn’t wait for Lewis and Clark to return with what they had gathered; was always grateful and intrigued when a friend or colleague sent him a new species. Once planted, those seeds produced plants from which more seeds were harvested. To this day, we can purchase seeds from Monticello have a direct link to those Jefferson first used in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Pretty cool huh?
Taking a cue from Jefferson, I collected the seed pods on this mystery plant … they hurt – a lot! They are covered with lots of extremely sharp thorns. Getting them off the plant was nothing short of a challenge. There WAS some blood involved!
I could have left them intact, however, the gauntlet had been dropped and I was out to win this particular battle with Mother Nature! I gingerly pried the seed pods open to reveal rows and rows of seeds, hopefully all charged with the right DNA to produce this plant with its marvelous blooms.
The pods gave way to hundreds of seeds; pulling them off was then pretty easy.
Needless to say … I feel like I hit the jack pot! and hopefully so will my fellow Green Divas and one particular friend – a biologist – who delights in dead-heading as much as I do …. Hmmmm??? – in his case, we could actually also be talking about the Grateful ones!
Over the years I have collected dozens of seeds which have delighted me with all sorts of beautiful plants and flowers. Here are just a few:
Goldenrod Cleome Pink Cone Flower
Wild Black Eyed Susan Phlox Purple Loosestrife
Remember … a “weed” is just a “flower” you don’t like. To me, these are NOT weeds.
The trip home will bring us along another 500 miles of highways and byways. I have no doubt Antonio will be gritting his teeth several times along the trip as I insist on stopping to procure whatever it is I think might be interesting and fun to grow in my gardens next year. He’ll stop for sure. He loves my flower gardens and lets face it, he loves me too!