When a bouquet is finished, the flowers that make up the center are often what attracts attention first. Here are 10 easy-to-grow cut flower varieties that are a joy to behold.
Lilacs are classic heralds of spring, while iris flowers look like they were painted by an Impressionist master. Muscari is a petite blue flower similar to lilacs and daffodils, while narcissus paperwhites are a white alternative.
by JIM FAIRCLOTH, Winona County Master Gardener intern
If you are like I am, you are already starting to think about next year’s annual and perennial flower gardening projects and landscaping priorities. At the same time, as my current flowers start to die back or show their seasonal age, I feel nostalgic for the effort exerted in nurturing and then enjoying their beauty. Increasingly, I have thought about how to extend the heritage of my current plantings into the next year. Rather than buying packaged seeds, one can harvest seeds from selected plantings for next year’s garden. Doing so can be quite productive if you follow a few well-established rules, but remember to be patient with the process. You may even find the experimental nature of this process exciting and fulfilling. Now is a perfect time to get started.
A few preliminary things to keep in mind as you go through this process:
1. Consider starting modestly in your first year to keep from being overwhelmed.
2. If harvesting from open-pollinated plants, you can expect your future plants to be close replicants, versus hybrids, which may revert to a distant ancestor and have a different look and growth than your parent plant. You may find both a fun option.
3. It is best to work with fully mature seeds from your desired healthy plants. This will enhance your chances of achieving healthy results. Seeds from unhealthy parent plants or ones harvested and stored improperly will yield unsatisfactory results next year.
4. You will need scissors, paper bags for final storage, and containers for your seed head collection.
5. Have a cool/dry space to store the seeds for the next season or even beyond.
6. Consider buying silica gel packets to place in the storage containers to absorb any residual moisture from your seeds.
7. You might need to have videos or pictures of the seeds from the specific plants from which you are harvesting. I have sometimes been unsure exactly what the seeds look like because of chaff and other plant materials.
When to harvest
The timing for seed harvesting can vary, both for your annuals and perennials, depending on the maturity at the time of harvest. If the flowers are not dried out and fully mature on the stems when you collect the seed heads, you will need to initially store the seed heads for a longer period before removing the seeds for the winter. If the flower heads and stems are brown and dried, then you will remove the flower head from the stem. Also, keep in mind that some flowers may naturally drop their seeds before you can get to them. In this case, waiting
until they have reached full maturity may be risky. It might still be simpler if you start with harvesting seeds from mature/dried flowers still on the stem.
How to collect the seed
Preferably, you might consider marking healthy flowers as they are still growing for future harvesting. This way, you improve your odds of collecting healthy seeds. When ready, remove the flower heads, place them in a separate container, and take them to a convenient area to remove the seeds. Here you will certainly encounter different types of flower heads and seeds. As noted above, having a reference available to demonstrate the look of the seed can be
helpful. Some seeds like those from one of my favorites, hollyhocks, will fall right out of the seed head cleanly. With others, you will find chaff and debris that will need to be removed before further seed drying and storage.
Drying the seeds
If the seed heads are not fully dry, you will need to place them in a container for as much as three to four weeks before removing the seeds. When the seeds are ready for removing from the seed head, you will need a secure, flat surface for laying out your seeds for any further drying. This can be a paper plate, paper towel, or even a newspaper. Be sure to keep the different flower seeds separate while drying. Depending on seed maturity when harvested, you will want to allow for about two weeks for final drying before placing the seeds in a labeled envelope for the winter.
Final seed storage
Place the individual seed types in airtight containers like envelopes, paper bags, or plastic bags. Consider inserting absorbent material, like a silica gel packet to absorb any residual moisture. You will want to label each of your containers with the plant name, date stored, and any other pertinent information about the parent flower. You will want to place your containers in a cool, dry, pest-free, dark place for winter storage. If you anticipate a need to store for further years, consider placing in a refrigerator.
I wish you good luck using this fun way to engage with your flowers!