In Search of Seeds for the Garden
Growing Seeds of Hope
The gardener’s year is never at an end – before he has finished with one crop he is looking forward to the next. Cycles may be annual, biennial, or so long term, with trees for example, as to span generations.
Planning sets the imagination to work. When ordering seeds you will sometimes choose plants from a catalogue — trees, shrubs, hardy perennials,or whatever — which are wholly strange to you but sound exciting from the description or look good in an illustration. You may have no idea of where you’ll finally place them in your own garden. That, you think, can be worked out when the time arrives.
A certain amount of this kind of blind ordering of seed and raising of plants doesn’t matter at all. True, you may find yourself landed with more material than you have room for, but too much is better than too little. Some plans will inevitably go awry and you’ll then be thankful that there’s spare stock to fall back on.
Another part of your order will be seeds of whose final use and destination you have a very definite idea. Bedding out should be planned, but it doesn’t have to be. You can just plant out a hotch-potch of ingredients and be content with a riot of colour, but that isn’t clever and it’s messy. It is far more satisfactory to confine yourself to a combination of two or three species, and to grow enough of each for the scheme to look like a scheme and not like a rag bag.
So, at the same time as ordering seeds of annuals oryou think you would like to grow, you will be thinking about what will look well growing with what. Jot your thoughts down in a notebook, otherwise you may (if you’re like me) forget them again within seconds and a wonderful opportunity will have been lost.
A further use for your notebook throughout the year is for putting down the names, together with a thumb-nail description or sketch to jog your memory, of plants or combinations of plants which you have seen and admired in other gardens. Among the best quarries for these will be botanic gardens like Kew and Edinburgh, societies’ gardens like Wisley and nurseries where trial grounds are open to the public. The gardens of National Trust properties and private houses that are open to visitors from time to time may often seem to have the closest relevance to the kind of gardening you practise yourself.
Tracking down sources can be frustrating. You do not need to be adventurous when you first start gardening and one seed supplier or one local garden centre may serve your requirements well enough. But that won’t satisfy any experimental gardener for long.
The trade would always like us to write about and recommend the plants of which they already have abundant supplies but I, for one, would find this limited diet boring. So we write about some of the more uncommon varieties that we enjoy growing or eating. Back comes the question: where can they be found and it’s a question I cannot always answer, but there are ways of finding out, if you persist.
If you’re a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, of the Northern Horticultural Society, of the Alpine Garden Society or the Scottish Rock Garden Club, you can acquire some very unusual plants or — more particularly — seeds from them.
Of course, even a specialist nursery when suddenly inundated with requests for the same rare plant is soon going to run out of supplies, but amateurs need never feel beleaguered. There’ll always be help available if it is persistently sought. And we are, I think it is fair to say, a generous community and the dissemination of many rare plants and seeds is achieved by fair exchange between like-minded enthusiasts.