Alison Jane Harley

- botanical and floral artist -

so seedy …

So(w) seedy …

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

A few sketches

I’ve always harvested the seeds from herbs such as chives, coriander etc and got 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 – seedheads can be both beautiful and fascinating. They become almost animated in the way they part with their seeds.

Some sway in the wind, heads nodding while the 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.

Bladder Senna pod sketches and in flower

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

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.

Oleander seed pods

Roses? The beautiful rose-hips fall and dry and 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.

So fascinating … and I could go on.

So really this is what I’ve been doing all summer. It starts 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 becomes a mission to collect every last seed from every last seedhead.

Antirrhinums sketch and seeds

Perhaps I need to get out more.

Oh, just one other thing: If you have been foraging for bladder senna pods to illustrate, and suffer from hayfever or have a cold, it would be prudent not to wrap your precious pod in a tissue and stick it in your bag. I did just that. A little later I pulled a tissue out to deal with a hayfever sneeze and felt, as well as heard, what I imagined was a sharp potshot in my sinus region. I was momentarily traumatised until I realised what had happened. Not my finest hour. My Bladder (Senna) had …popped.

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