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Saving Garden Favorites

Planning for the Seed Harvest

My summer flowers are blooming their last. Most of my neighbors have rushed out to cut down the fading perennials and rip up the wilting annuals. Some are sticking fall mums into the holes, while others are putting the garden to bed for the season. Me? My garden is filled with echinacea and black-eyed susans going to seed, formerly pretty petunias and wilting snap dragons. While it may not be conductive to the pristine look my neighbors are striving for, it suits me.

Each of those dying plants holds a promise of new life next summer. I've deadheaded and thinned until only the best plants made the final cut, the privilege of dying naturally and peacefully at season's end instead of falling prey to my spade and shears. Each of those seeds hopefully contains the best qualities of their parents. And next spring, those seeds will find their way into little peat pots so they, too, can have their season to shine.


Saving seeds is easy with most annual flowers. Simply allow the flowers to wilt naturally and the seed head to swell. Once it dries on the plant, break it off and pull it open. The small seeds spill out into a waiting bowl, where you can dry them further for a week or two to ensure best storage.


Some seeds, like impatiens, while spread to the four directions before you have a chance to harvest them. I slip the toe of a stocking over each wilting flower and secure it with paperclip. The stocking catches the seeds when they spill out so they aren't lost.


Store your saved seeds in sealed glass jars. A cool pantry or dark room is good, the refrigerator is better. Most seeds remain viable for at least a year, and most will sprout even four years down the road.