Photos courtesy of Stacey Denton, Flora Farm & Design Studio, all rights reserved - see full gallery at bottom of post.
This first full week of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere – looking toward the month of October and its many harvest celebrations, we look to our seeds – the beginning and ending of the lives of the seed bearing plants who make our lives possible.
Stacey Denton, of Flora Farm & Design Studio in Williams, Oregon, is an organic flower farmer, bioregional seed grower, and homesteader based in the Klamath Siskiyou region of Southern Oregon. Trained in ecology, permaculture, organic farming, and seed growing and saving, Stacey makes her community-and-land-based life with her daughter Hannah, and with her parents nearby.
Stacey and I connected over the importance of bioregional seed growing, sourcing, knowing, and supporting, at the Slow Flowers Summit held at Filoli in the summer of 202, and she joins cultivating Place this week to share more about the literacy - and joy - of specifically bioregional seeds. Since Stacey and I connected last summer, she has several updates worth sharing:
"I’ve been making several videos about working with seed crops and posting them to my Instagram feed because I want to encourage more farmers and gardeners to think about saving seed. They’ve mostly been about seed readiness and harvesting seed, but I plan to share more about seed cleaning soon. Also, I taught Canadian and European farmers a bit about saving seeds from flower crops during a few online conferences this past winter, and I was struck by the interest from folks outside of the US. Basically, farmers in those countries experienced great shortages in seed availability during Covid, but somehow (even though I believe US farmers did as well) there wasn’t the same level of demand for that kind of educational experience at US farming conferences." She and I both find this really interesting.
"I certified my farm organic this May for the first time. I’ve always used organic practices but as I watch the local market become increasingly saturated with new flower farms (The Slow Flowers Movement is on fire!), I want to distinguish what I’m doing from other farmer florists who are using the catch words of “sustainable” or “natural” or “local” but still buying in chemically treated imported flowers to fill out the arrangements that they’re offering to retail clients." Pay attention here!
"Also, I am expanding my CSA this upcoming year by offering certified organic bouquet subscriptions from February-May to customers across the continental US via overnight shipping. Not all seed work, but I infuse my bouquet designs with all kinds of interesting seed pods, so I sneak the seeds in that way!"
"I teach some on-line floral design classes and folks can sign up for these on-demand classes on my website: https://www.weddingflora.com/shop-all?category=Classes
This is another place where I sneak in some seed appreciation by way of dried seed pods. I tell students, for example, that when they're ready to compost their dried flower wreaths, they can use the seeds in the wreath for planting."
"Lastly, I’ll have certified organic dahlia tubers available for pre-ordering starting Nov 15th, so that may be of interest to home gardeners or small-scale farmers. There are very few businesses that have organic dahlia tubers available for purchase in the US. "
You can follow Stacey and Flora Farm & Design Studio's organic growing work online at https://florafarmdesign.com/ and on Instagram: @florafarmdesign
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JOIN US again next week, when we think ahead to our native plant gardens in preparation for the fall planting window and the spring planning ahead in conversation once again with Uli Lorimer of the Native Plant Trust whose newest book, The Northeast Native Plant Primer, is rich with lessons for us all. Listen in!
Speaking of Plants...and Place:
and seed season, now is great time to harvest seed and save it to plant out next year or the next. While seed saving is an art and a science, and some plants require complex understanding and treatment, some seed saving is very straightforward – and it’s all worth trying. In many ways, the plants and seeds give you pretty clear instructions themselves – you just need to spend a little time paying attention and reading each flower and fruits seasonal signals.
Seeds appear on our annual and perennial seed bearing plants throughout the year depending on their bloom cycle. Walking around my own garden today, lavender, native buckwheats, scabiosa, delphinium and native deer grass and blue grama grass all have ripe seed on them. In the vegetable garden, I have beautiful lettuce, arugula, parsley, and dill seed heads – as well as dry beans almost ready to collect. I can see that my sweet pea not only set seed but at this point in the season their dried seed pods popped open and dispersed their seed all around quite some time ago – so I missed saving those this year....Such is life...
As Stacey Denton of Flora Farm & Design Studio shared with us, if you’re new to this, consider starting small by choosing just one or two kinds of seed from the plants in your garden to harvest and save. As I am sure someone recommended to me, I’d recommend to new seed savers that they start with those plants who form dry seed heads (so for example maybe don’t start with tomatoes or rose hips). Lettuce, allium, sunflowers, scabiosa and nasturtiums are great seeds to begin with – but there are plenty of others. Once you decide which seed you’d like to save, pay attention to if and when the seed is ready to harvest - I might have missed the timing on the sweet peas, But as I look around my garden, several plants are letting me know they’re ready because the dry seed heads are starting to shatter or disperse themselves – the little plumes on the lettuce seeds are being blown off by the wind, the native chocolate flower seed heads have shattered onto the ground below them, the allium seed pods are dry and have cracked open so that I can see the little jet black seeds peeking through.
Try to harvest seed that has not yet left the seed head, but is just about to leave – this way you avoid any excess bacteria or fungal friends or cues to germinate that might come from interacting with the soil or moisture. Collect on a dry day, in the afternoon after the sun has removed any morning dew. Then do your best to separate the seeds from the pods or chaff that held it. You can cut the dried seed heads into a paper bag and shake them around to separate the seed from its pod material, or you brush seed gently between your hands to get fluff and dried bits off. You can also screen the seed in a strainer of the right mesh size. The cleaner you can get your seed, the better the chances it will store well and remain viable longer. Once your seed is clean, dry it even further in the open air in a clean, warm, space our of direct sunlight for a few days. Once very dry, store it in an air tight lidded jar or a sealed envelope in a cool dry place – waiting to be planted next spring!
Once you start, you will have a hard time stopping – the magic of the many different shapes colors and sizes is hard to not be transported by. To learn more about seed savers and seed saving make sure to circle back to the many great Cultivating Place conversations with seed people from Rowen White, whose annual Seed Seva mentorship is transformative - for more: SEED SEVA MENTORSHIP REGISTRATION & INFORMATION, to Ira Wallace, True Love Seeds, Redwood seed, Fruition Seeds and more.
Also - make sure to check out Stacey Denton’s seed crop series posts on Instagram or follow other seed keepers to keep learning more. There are many great books on seed saving, a particular favorite of mine is The Seed Garden The Art and Practice of Seed Saving, edited by Lee Buttala and Shanyn Siegel for Seed Saver’s Exchange in 2015.
Questions, hopes, dreams, disappointments? Drop me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thinking out loud this week:
Now past of the new moon of this new season and we even got rain here last week. An unusual and incredibly welcome 2 inches helping to dampen our fire season and lift our plant spirits headed into fall. I spent last week in Central Ohio speaking to students, gardeners, and landscape architects at Miami University, for the Des Fleurs Garden Club of Oxford, and the City of Oxford and then as a keynote speaker for the MKSK Landscape Architecture’s annual design summit for the 12 regional offices in 8 states across the northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-West and even Southeast.
Every single interaction was expanding for me – and the diversity of plant work, plant approaches, planting purposes gave me renewed hope that it will be plant loving people at all levels that help us all to meet the challenges we face currently – from climate change to polarization and biodiversity loss. In a capstone senior class at Miami University, a student asked me: how do we know we are doing the right things? Pursuing the right things? Not making things worse?
And I had to think carefully about this as a whole class of bright caring humans listened to my answer. And finally I said, Listen Carefully. (remember our friend Lorene Edwards Forkner of Color in the Garden? and her motto: Look Closely with Great Heart?) Slow down and listen to what draws you, what lights you up, what you can hear in your heart grows the world around you better – listen and follow those directions. Our plants do this all the time don’t they – they adjust, and adapt, and put all of their resources into the next generation and thriving for exactly that.
Let’s listen to them.
And also - Are you saving seeds this year? Which ones? Any tips you want to share with others? And any seed saving resources or tips you’d like to share with others? If so, let me know and I will share them forward. You know how – send me an email: email@example.com or tag me or dm me on Instagram! @cultivating_place
Keep gardening – sometimes done best by listening care-full-y.
Full of Care - and heart - and joy......not asking much ;)
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