Collecting and drying flower seeds

Except for those seeds that are collected and sown "green", such as snowdrops and anemones, the majority of herbaceous plants are collected, dried and extracted, and stored.

Their seeds should be collected as they become ripe and before they are dispersed.

This requires careful observation. If they are enclosed in some form of fruit, the job becomes much easier, because the seed is actually completed before the fruit matures to a stage of dispersal. The only problem then is to separate the seeds from the fruit. In most cases this involves drying, either in the sun, in a dry atmosphere or in an airing cupboard.

If fruits are collected individually, they should be broken open and then spread on tissue paper in a shallow box or tray and left to dry. If whole flower heads are collected, bunch a few stems together and hang them up to dry with their heads enclosed in a brown paper bag that is lightly tied round the stems. As they dry, occasionally shake the bag so the seeds drop into it. With small flower heads leave the neck of the brown paper bag open. Place them in a warm (21°C/70°F) environment.

After drying, break up the seed capsules to free all the seed and clean the seed lot; depending on its size it can be picked over, put through a sieve, or winnowed in a breeze.

Large fleshy seeds such as those from cyclamen, lilies and hellebores will not usually respond well to drying, and it is better to allow them to mature on the plant and collect them just before dispersal.

Spread fleshy capsules on paper in a tray or box. Leave to dry in the sun until the seeds can be extracted.

Bunch flower stems together before hanging them to dry with their heads enclosed in a brown paper bag.

Tie the neck of the bag and leave it in a dry, airy place. Shake occasionally so the seeds drop into it.

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