Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Seeds of Love

I got a little love note the other day.  Now that I’m an old married lady, sentimental sonnets are a thing of the past.  Love notes take on an altogether different form than they did in my younger, flirtatious days.  In fact, this one is from my Grandma, who celebrates her 91st birthday today (Happy Birthday Grandma!).  In a simple white envelope, she sent me a long-distance hug in the form of Hollyhock seeds.

Some people (myself included) tend to associate Fall with things like football, leaf-raking, apple picking and pumpkin carving.  For some reason, seed collecting hasn’t enjoyed commercial popularity.  I think I know why.  These are free plants, people!  Starting them yourself costs a fraction of buying them from nurseries.  Who’s going to pay Faith Hill to don gardening gloves and sing about Sunday Night seed- collecting?  Burpee and Jung certainly aren’t.     

Seeds are like genies in a bottle.  Huge potential packed into the protective shell of an itty-bitty suitcase.  Some, such as Walnut, are formidable fortresses, repelling attempts at germination until the environment has met their demanding requirements.  Others offer little protection, like Dandelion’s light and airy example, but are affixed with gossamer feathers to float them along on the slightest breeze.  This enables them to spread their reign to the farthest ends of the earth (or just the neighbor’s patch of Kentucky Blue).  Still yet, there are some like lettuce: so miniscule and numerous that counting them could result in eyestrain.  They bank on their sheer numbers and a bit of a seed coat to guarantee the success of the next generation.  Whatever the shape, encased within lies a spark of life, just waiting to erupt.  Now, I’ve had enough seed-starting failures to know that fanning that spark of life into the full blown flame of growth is a challenge.  But being a part of the magic of Creation is irresistible.

Here’s what you need to know 
to become a seed collecting afficiondo:  
Cosmos in flower.  

1.  Sleep in.  Harvesting in the afternoon cuts down on moisture.  Wet seed is difficult to release from the seed head, tends to clump together once it’s out, and will eventually rot if not properly dried.  So go ahead, hit the snooze button.  

2.  Go postal.  No expensive equipment necessary: just plain white envelopes.  Shake the seed head directly into the envelope, and label immediately.  I like to pre-label mine, as the envelopes can be a bit bumpy to write on once the seeds are inside.  Because even a small amount of moisture will destroy viable seeds over the storage season, it would be wise to lay them out to dry for a day or two in your humidity-challenged home.  Afterwards, seal them up in their envelopes for the winter. 

Cosmos Seed Head
3.  If seeds dressed up for Halloween, they’d be vampires.  They like to be stored in a dark, cool, dry location.  Coffins are not necessary, as refrigerators and garages are considerably more accessible and will do the job nicely.  Place the envelopes in an old cookie tin to keep out light and to guard against bugs and rodents.  I’m not suggesting you have a rodent issue in your refrigerator, but there may be a few stalking your garage.  There’s definitely a few squeakers in mine.  

4.  Get your diploma.  Research your seed and find out what it needs.  Most 'suitcases' are programmed to prevent germination until certain conditions have been met.  Some need to be scarified, or scratched up a bit, to help the seed coat wear down and absorb water (a light brush with sandpaper does nicely).  Others need to be stratified - layered in a cold, moist environment.  This helps break down the seed coat and can easily be accomplished with a few wet paper towels in the fridge.  Each seed has its own secret combination that must be unlocked.

This article is dedicated to my Grandma, 
Helen Giffin, on her 91st Birthday.

I do not remember a visit to Grandma's when there weren't violets on the table.  Much of the year, they were silk, but whenever possible, freshly picked.  I do not remember a summer that wasn't chock full of walnut-shelling, cherry-pitting, apple-saucing goodness.  I do not remember a phone call in which she did not worry about the strawberry growers in Florida, the corn harvest at home, or the pumpkin supply worldwide.  I do not remember a conversation that didn't contain either: "What's blooming?" or "What's cooking?".  She has been a farmwife for 72 years, and continues to invest her lifetime of experience in the family.  I love you Grandma.  Happy Birthday! 


Casa Mariposa said...

Wonderful post, as usual! :o) It's truly incredible that your grandma is still alive! In my family I only have three immediate (close) relatives older than 50. Life is good doesn't include life is long. Enjoy her every minute you can!!!

Lyn said...

Beautiful, funny and helpful post, Mollie. I love the photo of you and your Grandma.

Wife, Mother, Gardener said...

Hello, nice to meet you!

Thank you for your nice comment at WMG so that I ended up here. We seem to have quite a few things in common: 30's, three kids, garden design and nursery work. Though you are far my superior in education: I already had my Elem. teaching certificate before I knew that I wanted to live & breath gardens. But it has come in handy for being a homeschool mom anyway. :)

Looking forward to reading more about your garden work!

Julie in PA

Jennifer@threedogsinagarden said...

You have a great writing style. I love #3 on your tips list. Very witty and clever! I have been collecting seeds for the last few weeks which I hope to share with friends. Happy birthday to your grandma! My Mom is almost that age and still gardens.

Design to Grow said...

Thanks ladies! I wouldn't be who I am without her influence...think of who we will influence!

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