Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Seeds

Merry Christmas everyone! I wracked my brain again this year for a gift that would be personal, home-made, easy to mail, and have as little negative impact on the environment as possible. For a while I thought, “no, not my seeds”, because I wanted to hoard them all for my own garden. But then I realized that my desire to keep them made them a more meaningful gift. May they grace your yard with many beautiful flowers!

As for the planting instructions. . . I still don’t have all that much experience with plants, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt.

These plants are all native to North America. In the wild, they produce seeds in the Autumn. Those seeds drop on the ground, and the ones that aren’t eaten by the wildlife wait until conditions are favorable, which is usually in the Spring after some good soaking rainfalls.

If you prefer, you can plant your seeds simply by scattering them on the ground and waiting for those favorable conditions. However, the wildlife may eat some of the seeds, and favorable conditions may not occur for a few years. Also, young plants may be killed off by drought or out-competed by established plants.

To get more reliable germination, start with a patch of ground about three feet by three feet in a sunny location that has been cleared of weeds, preferably during an above-freezing day the winter, so that the seeds will have a chance to freeze and thaw a few times. Sprinkle the seeds and then stir up the top layer of soil to mix them in a bit. When warm weather arrives, keep the patch watered so that it stays at least as wet as a wrung-out sponge.

Most of these flowers are native as far south as Texas, so they should do all right without the freeze-thaw cycle. But they might do best in a partially shaded location.
Once established, these plants shouldn’t require any watering or other maintenance from you. And if you leave the spent flowers in place, the plants will reseed themselves for you.

So, what’s in this seed mix?

Evening Primrose:

This biennial will form ground-hugging rosettes of leaves the first year, and bloom the second year after it is planted – though one of mine broke with tradition and gave me flowers on its first year. The flowers form on a stalk that is up to six feet high. Every evening it will open a few yellow flowers, which are spent by the following evening. As the flowers die, tough seed-pods take their place. The seeds in those pods are a favorite of goldfinches during the winter. I collected these seeds from a nearby vacant lot.

Blue Toadflax:

This isn’t flower that you would typically see in a garden, because the blooms are teeny tiny. The plant is an annual or biennial that grows close to the ground, and puts up a thin stalk topped with little purple blossoms. Where colonies of these grow, the effect looks like a purple haze over the grass. These seeds were collected from our front yard. I’ll have to post some photos of this one when I get home from Virginia.

Blackeyed Susan:

These are the standard yellow and black cone-flower seen in many gardens. Sorry, I don’t yet have a photo of these!

Common Milkweed:

This plant has an undeserved bad reputation, probably because some nitwit decided to give it the name of “weed”. When this annual flowers, it has a fascinating sphere of pink blooms. But even better is when monarch butterfly caterpillars make a home on it. I couldn’t collect seeds from the milkweed in our yard because the monarch caterpillars ate too much of the plants, so these seeds came from milkweed growing down the street.
By the way, if you have monarch caterpillars, you can feed them milkweed in a terrarium and watch them turn into butterflies.


These are a standard garden perennial with umbrella-shaped groups of leaves and spikes of purple flowers standing two feet high. When left to go to seed, they form colonies. The young plants that sprout around the feet of the established plants are easy to transplant. You probably won’t see any flowers until the second year, but once established they are showy and reliable.

Obedient Plant:

This flower is called “obedient” because when the flower stalk is bent, it will retain the bent shape. The plant itself is actually a bit unruly, but it’s worth it for the three-foot tall spikes of white flowers.

If you wish to collect seeds from your flowers, simply wait until the seed-pods are mostly brown and dry. Then cut off the entire stalk and place it in a paper bag. When the pods have dried completely, give the bag a shake to dislodge as many seeds as possible, and then collect the seeds from the bottom of the bag.


hero爺 said...

I expect good showing of your new macro lenses in the Spring!

Michelle said...

Absolutely! :)