Alison Jane Harley

- botanical and floral artist -

Seeds from the garden

So(w) seedy …

Who would have thought that seeds could become so absorbing and time consuming.

I’ve always harvested the seeds from herbs such as chives, coriander etc and get a lot of pleasure throughout the process of collecting – sowing – harvesting – eating. But the seed collection reached epic proportions during 2020. First it was the aquilegia, then the poppies, followed by nigella, antirrhinums, wallflowers, sage … anything that set seed was targeted. It’s not just the seeds themselves – the seed-heads can be both beautiful and fascinating.

A few rose-hip sketches

When rose-hips fall and dry the seeds generally germinate where they land, which is close to the parent bush, or, they are eaten by birds and dispersed through their droppings far and wide.

Some rough sketches for colour matching – bladder senna

Some sway in the wind, heads nodding while their little offspring plop into the world. Others burst out as the seed pods literally pop and spit out their load. The popping, or exploding ones tend to be leguminous, like bladder senna and sweet peas, and their seeds can be scattered far and wide.

oleander seed pods

Others are dispersed by wind like the oleander or dandielions, and it is not difficult to see why they are very successful at self seeding – their seeds are so light and wispy that the slightest breeze carries them off on their travels.

antirrhinums sketch and seeds

The seedpods of flowers like poppies, antirrhinums and nigellas dry out and become brittle, then little openings appear and with the help of gravity or just a little wind to tip the heads, the seeds drop out.

So this is what I’ve been doing all summer. It started with good intentions – a little deadheading to tidy the garden or the need for a seed to complete a botanical illustration. In the end it became a mission to collect every last seed from every last seed-head.

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