This autumn, the gardening team at Hever Castle will be helping visitors, of all ages, to learn how to salvage, dry and store seeds, passing on the essential skill of seed collecting – an art-form that’s seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years.
At Hever Castle we are always keen to leave the colour in the garden for as long as possible and ‘Faith’s Garden’ on Diana’s Walk is a treasure trove for seed collecting.
During Autumn Colour the gardening team have enjoyed taking visitors on a seed tour through the winding pathways this month (on Tuesdays and Wednesdays) pointing out the plants that are ripe for seed harvesting. This area of the garden is ablaze with autumnal colour thanks to the grasses, echinacea, rudbeckia and assorted asters.
Head Gardener Neil Miller gives his tips on seed collecting – the best way to increase the number of plants in your garden for free.
Seeds can be collected and saved from trees, shrubs, perennials, alpines, vegetables, herbs etc, at different times in the year, but Neil says at Hever he will be concentrating his seed-collecting efforts in October and camping out in Faith’s Garden – the fantastic perennial border.
Seeds come in all shapes and sizes and need careful handling during the sorting and drying process. Some, like grasses, are fluffy and a pinch works. Others such as Peony are so big they are easy to count individually and put into an envelope.
You don’t need many tools to do seed collecting effectively, just dry hands and a dry bowl. You’ll need paper bags, or envelopes (you can recycle your old ones) to pack the seeds.
A spare refrigerator or a cool place to store them is also useful and don’t forget to label your seeds too!
Neil’s top tips for seed collecting:
Pick a healthy and vigorous plant to collect from.
Don’t collect too soon – immature seeds will not germinate.
Collect on a dry day.
Look for seed pods which have changed colour from green to brown.
Cut or pick the seed heads and lay them out to dry somewhere warm.
If the pods aren’t fully open, then wait until they have dried, then gently crush the pods/capsules to release the seeds.
Some seed heads explode – they need to be checked every day. You can place them in a brown paper bag and wait for them to explode, or shake them.
Once the seed is free, make sure you clean off the chaff to prevent the seeds from rotting.
How to store seeds:
Most seed can be kept to sow in the spring (hellebores are an exception and prefer to be sowed immediately).
Use paper packets (or spent envelopes) and label them correctly.
Keep them in an airtight container with silica gel to absorb excess moisture.
It’s good to store seeds at 5c as they can remain viable for long periods if refrigerated.