Growbag Blog

Sod it – where are those seeds?


Outside the garden is still being battered by the return of ‘the beast’ but the days are lengthening and we can all indulge ourselves in a bit of remedial therapy by getting some new plants on the go. 

Seeds of many northern hemisphere plants are best sown in autumn so the winter rain and cold can trigger a natural breaking of dormancy when longer days and warmth arrives, but annuals and plants from warmer climes should generally be sown in spring. 

Clearly not as forgetful as Laura – this squirrel remembered the whereabouts of every nut going by the size of him!

So in my case it’s time to track down all those packets of seeds I’ve been hoarding over the last 12 months. Apparently a squirrel forgets the whereabouts of about 40% of the nuts it buries for the winter and so it is with me and packets of seeds.

I will have acquired these seeds by various routes: some will have been purchased in a fit of enthusiasm at flower shows, some will have come free with a garden magazine (the ones stuck to the front of Gardens Illustrated are always worth growing), some will have been given to me by kind friends and family (possibly Louise, have you seen her stunning ‘Great Plant this month’ –  Cardamine quinquefolia), some I will have collected myself – stored in leaky paper bags with some illegible name scrawled on the front – and some obscure and wildly ambitious seeds would have been ordered online back in the dark days of winter mainly to cheer myself up.

Trouble is, I will have put each little cache of seed packets in a different location, some in the kitchen drawer, some in the fridge (as recommended by the millennium seed bank) some in the tin marked ‘seeds’ and some in peculiar locations which will not be discovered till August but clearly marked ‘sow in March/April’.

I am also of an age when I will have largely forgotten which seeds I ordered or collected so this can be quite a surprise… either delight that I had remembered to collect some pods from my star legume ‘Lord Anson’s Pea’ last summer, or exasperation that I must at some point have actually thought that growing eight foot Cardiocrinums from seed was a good idea…

Image of Elaine

Hmm, a lot of what Laura says strikes an uncomfortable chord with me too – and probably lots of you!  For instance, hands up how many of you have been browsing the gardening mags in a newsagents and have been totally unable to resist the one with the free seeds though you had had no previous intention to grow, say, gigantic sunflowers; frankly loathe the colour, and have no suitable place to plant them out. Think Humpty-Dumpty tempted by the all-day buffet, or Caroline in Oddbins.

I’m possibly a bit more organised than Laura, though not much.  My shoe-boxes of alphabetically-stacked seed packets are full of daft things; as an illustration, I realise on rifling through them that I have a strange compulsion to acquire more and yet more weird varieties of digitalis (foxgloves) and calendula (marigolds – featured in our top photo) – will they ever get planted? Probably not, but still I dream and plan.

Sunflowers – do you really need them?

My usual policy each March is to sow my bread-and-butter annuals –Cosmos ‘Purity’, Sweetpeas, Tomatoes ‘Gardeners Delight’, Nicotiana sylvestris…..and then sow a few idiot-buys as well – just for the magic of it. You know that the packet will rabbit on about the fabulosity (Is that a word? Well, it should be) of the plant, and forget to mention that its seed needs to be soaked in yak’s milk 5 times a day and vernalised (kept in the fridge) for 45 years (can I refer you to the video where Laura pretended to be sowing seeds but just soaked us in water while wielding a blunt pencil).


Yes, I tried to look interested during Laura’s seed-sowing masterclass, but silently I dismissed her rustic approach of leaving them outdoors to suit themselves – this year, next year, sometime, never. No, no, I want action and I want it now. I minister to seeds in my two little turbo-charged propagators like Mother Theresa herself….. but for a very short time.

They get about 10 days to do their stuff before they’re deemed to be ‘bed blocking’ and out they go to take their chances in the under-resourced nursing home that is the greenhouse. It’s a tough transition. I could detect an audible gulp this week from my Astrantia Major ‘purple cloud’ seeds when they saw me read the back of their packet – ‘Provide heat, may take up to 80 days to germinate’ – I so don’t think so darlings.

Astrantia Major ‘ruby cloud’ – my seeds had better get a move on….

Anyway I’m setting my sisters a little challenge. A Growbag blog reader (David) suggested last year we try annual climber Maurandella antirrhiniflora (climbing snapdragon to you and me) or Lophospermum erubescens (climbing foxglove). Well I wrote to seed suppliers in France (no joke, I did and they were) and the seeds are on their way!  I’ll share them with E and L and we’ll see if it’s the athletic hare (me) or the gnarled old tortoises (E and L) who get over the line first – that’s if the poor old dears don’t lose them in a shoe box or down the back of the fridge first.

What is your greatest germination triumph? I bet there are some good stories out there…..

You might also be interested in a previous blog of ours on seed sowing.

NB Louise has published a beautifully produced book of her plant profiles – A Plant for Each Week of the Year. It costs £9.99 and is for sale in our online shop here.

More NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

12 replies on “Sod it – where are those seeds?”

That has certainly struck a chord with me! Full of good intentions during the year, I collect the seed heads from various plants around the garden, leave them to dry and by the time I get around to putting them neatly into brown envelopes they are often a pile of dried remains and I cannot for the life of me remember what they are. Only yesterday was I looking through the seed packets marked ??? And don’t get me onto perennials that I have split, potted up and kept over the winter ready to plant elsewhere or give away. What makes me think I’ll remember what they all are? Oh well, lots of surprises for me this year!

Hello Helen, yes it’s infuriating isn’t it, it seems like such a good idea to collect seeds from your own garden and divide plants, and at the time you feel sure it will be blindingly obvious what they are without having to faff around with labels – we’ve all been there ( well except maybe Caroline who prefers to buy new rather than recycle, she obviously has more disposable income than the rest of us). I would just sow and plant what you have collected and see what comes up, it will be a nice surprise when you finally recognise them! Best wishes Laura

Thank goodness for your blog winging in this morning, cheering my soul and directing me to think spring and the smell of warm soil. There’s little else that’s going to, since we awoke to see and feel that mini Beast from the East has arrived here in The Cotswolds – brrrr!
My Parkers bulbs are here and winking at me. I am afraid they will have to wait awhile – the Acidanthra until May. I love them but they do hang around rather along time in their brown paper bag and I well know that feeling of where on earth did I put them?
Have you grown Tagetes Cinnabar? From my point of view, terrific ‘people’ that burst into flame early and remain until the frosts. My collected seed only looks ‘quite’ good, so a lot of fingers crossed here.

Yes Jane,(Laura here), the weather is definitely playing tricks on us this spring! Let’s hope it pulls its socks up in time for Easter and we can get properly stuck into some gardening. I love Acidanthra too, they are a real late summer treat with a lovely scent as well, but I can’t keep the bulbs going and like you have to buy them from good old Parker’s each year. No I haven’t tried Tagetes Cinnabar, but I already like it just from it’s name and your description, maybe E or C have come across it (they’re probably not up yet….)

My seed of the moment is Asarina scandens, at first looking a bit flimsy and hopeless in a tangled clump, not even flowering in the first year. With faith it survived the winter, climbed to 5 feet the following summer and was covered in white, pink and purple tubular flowers for months. And the next year. So far it has survived the beast, this is London and it has the shelter of a patio soil pipe for support and to beautify. Seedlings from between the paving cracks have been potted and protected as well as seed saved for insurance and friends.
My luckiest seedling find was of my Pseudopanax ferox, that weirdly architectural tree, trending at Chelsea, but which after about 15 years turns into a branched round headed specimen. I’m hoping my 3 inch molly coddled baby is going to be gracing my beds before long. At least it can be centre piece in my pot collection for the time being.
Otherwise I struggle with seeds without a greenhouse and am trying to cut down on high maintenance gardening. But spring is calling, and like you, the seed envelopes are on the kitchen table.
Happy gardening!
Carol Klemera

Hi Carol, Elaine here, your Asarina sounds lovely! There’s no chance that Caroline would have the patience for something that doesn’t flower in the first year, but I really think I might try with some seeds of that. Well done with the Pseudopanax seedling – that is just the kind of extraordinary gardening triumph that keeps you coming back for more, isn’t it, even if it will be another 15 years before it’s big enough to look really impressive in a border!

Well Caroline might have a bit of a challenge coming then as I (Laura) have been doing a bit of research on Carols vine and it turns out to be very similar to the climber that was recommended to us by another reader, Dave and his Maurandella antirrhiniflora, which Csroline has just gone and ordered expensive seed for,from a nursery in Paris (apparently she had to pay for it in Euros) for a Growbag Trial this summer. Both plants are known by the common name of climbing snapdragon and are very similar in form and flower. If Carol reckons it needs a sheltered site in an urban heat island I have concerns for how Caroline is going to fare in this sisterly challenge in her windswept garden on the edge of the North Sea…… just saying.

I am so hopeless with seeds-full of good intentions.I fall into all of your bad habits-but with knobs on !

Irene don’t be too hasty. As the years go by you may well hear about ALL of the bad habits of the Growbags and you will have to be the judge of whether you’ve actually ever fallen THAT low!

Shut up (in an American accent) Carol! Although how often do we hear of rare plant searches being resolved by the T & M catalogue. A bit like revealing the Pol Roger came from Lidls. Keep this intel coming!

Unfortunately you have now got me going on seeds which I swore to eliminate. T+M don’t seem to have asarina now. So I spent many,many happy hours browsing on snowy Sunday. Simply seeds, excellent and new to me, got the veg order which arrived in 48 hours! Sooo tempting and good value. Oriental range particularly so. Chiltern seeds had only the purple asarina , but then spent hours drooling over every other description. Reminds me of my first Beth Chatto catalogue 30? odd years ago which became dog eared with love. Must be off to buy seed compost as recommended by Simply seeds for great success this year. Haha!

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