Before I Sow My Seeds of Love

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Last week I was honored to be included in a post over at danger garden entitled “The other kind of gardener…” because it was about we seed collectors. I only know a handful of others like me but I know there are more of us out there somewhere because somebody keeps buying my seeds, and additionally, I keep trading with them too. Funny we are kind of a quiet contingent. I have no idea what any of these people even look like—other than my gardening buddy down the street.

What’s even more entertaining is that Loree’s blog entry actually gave me a break from my seed sorting activities. The irony was made even better by her title. She had no idea the concept of the Other was my theoretical speciality back when I was working with art history during my old academic days. Seeing myself as the other gardener brought me so much pleasure I cannot tell you how much I laughed about it all weekend.

Thank you Loree for helping me to see the light at the end of my seed packet.

These are the origami envelopes I make for the seeds I sell. For the seeds I keep I simply put them in glassine bags inside of coin envelopes. For larger seeds, I often use vintage glass canning jars.

From Seeds to Seeds: Seed Harvesting and Happiness

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Happiness is not something I usually discuss publicly but today I am brimming with it. Sure, the world is currently a bit crazy—and I acknowledge and care about that—but right here at my house, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. I joke not, seriously, and I mean this both figuratively and literally.
For me, seed collecting currently feels like opening tiny gifts wrapped in crinkly sun-dried seed pod papers. Funny that after that is done, I wrap them up in cute little origami envelopes and store them until they are sold in my online store! As many of you know, Christmas shopping often begins early and as usual, I am seeing sales from early shoppers. When I hear that folks are buying seeds for someone for Christmas though it makes me so happy. These are gifts that will give back in return if properly cared for by a gardener—sometimes for years!
Milton’s Garden Menagerie (located on Etsy.com) has been a wonderful experience for a chronically ill woman who was terribly confused about how to take that next step in her life. At first I wasn’t really sure what I was doing with it and I doubted myself a great deal, but now that it has been almost 2 years and as it nears a viable business status, I think I can say I did it mostly—for the love of seeds! Saying that loud and proud makes me happy today too.
Each time I collect seeds it’s exciting no matter where I am. When I collect seeds from plants I’ve grown from seed it is even more exciting. This year, for the first time, my gardening friend down the street is letting me harvest from her garden too. Since she is 100% natural in her garden I have no problem collecting her seeds—especially when they are from plants I have sold to her at some point.
Here are plants I’ve grown from seed that I am collecting seeds from this year for my Milton’s Garden Menagerie harvest:
Tube Clematis, Clematis heracleifolia.
Variegated Honesty, Lunaria annua ‘Variegata’.
Heirloom White Single Hollyhock, Alcea rosea. 
Cardinalflower, Lobelia cardinalis.
Great Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica.
White Rose Campion, Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’ or Silene coronaria ‘Alba’. 
Maximilian’s Sunflower, Helianthus maximilianii.
Sticky Monkey Flower, Mimulus cardinalis.
Bottlebrush Grass, Elymus hystrix.
Then there are the plants I did not grow, but from which I am able to harvest seeds from this year.
Sticky Phacelia, Phacelia viscida.
Smoke Tree, Cotinus coggygria.
Blue Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena.
Tall Alumroot, Heuchera chlorantha.
Lewis Flax, Linum lewisii.
Pale Corydalis, Corydalis sempervirens.
Adding to all the hectic seed collecting there are the other things too. On my most recent trip to the Seattle area I came home with this gem. It, along with many others, will be planted in the coming weeks.
Blechnum chilense.

The fern is native to China and can grow up to 6′ tall in some places. It is evergreen in my climate so I am very curious to see what it will do. It spreads by underground runners and I’ve read that it can be invasive but no word on this yet in my area. I guess I will have to see what happens and in the meantime I’ll enjoy it as much as I can while it is still docile and not a screeching teen.

And during my copious amounts of free time I will begin working with my many Douglas fir cones. I need to make some new wreaths and holiday decorations because if I continue only using wine corks, someone is seriously going to think we have a drinking problem in our home.

More happy news to come in the following week so stay tuned!

A Welcome Guest in my Seedy Garden

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These are my babies—this year. I am rather proud of them, but I am not always the best mother to my seedlings. With so much going on, and with more kids coming through than ever, it is difficult to keep track of them all. I just hope that many of these can survive their time with me. I really mean to be a good plant mom, but sometimes, it’s so hard when you have so many. Ugh!
The grassy looking seedlings right above this caption are Freesia alba. I cannot wait for these guys to pull through and bloom for me.
My single Espelette Pepper from last winter produced spice and plenty of fertile seeds!
Recently I discovered my secondary asthma has worsened and this frustrates me daily but I am feeling better. Gardening has kept me so happy during the last 6 or 7 years though so I am using it as my secondary medicine and even if the seedlings mean more work, they are so cheerful I just cannot help myself. They need me as I need them.
Seeds: The ORIGINAL Earthmovers. 

(ASTHMA NOTE: You need neither wheezing nor a cough to have asthma though they are the most frequently listed symptoms. You can have a version similar to mine, where slowly, over time, your lungs swell.)

Yes, I grow grass for our cats. Once you rip out the lawn you need to keep them from wandering over to the neighbors’ yards, right?
With my health improving, I am finding that things are returning to normal, but I am significantly more tired from all of the recent garden and house activity. I just hope that my lack of energy and feeling better don’t combine to hurt the plants.

Pregnant Hellebore bloom. I am waiting to harvest the seeds for my ETSY store. They seem to take forever. 

Tonight, after walking the garden circle around the house—just as I was about to enter back into the house by way of the side door—I noticed Mona the cat acting strangely. Staring down at a moving object walking quickly along the ground, she didn’t even notice me as I hurried over to watch with her. I was amazed to find this rather large ground beetle. Mona was surprised too to say the least!

Sometimes we have to wonder where these things come from, but then we need to accept that we don’t need to know everything, and we must let these thoughts go. With my New American Garden design, I am not surprised I am attracting wildlife. When things are left to be part wild, and part planned, and you have plants everywhere, it really becomes a different place. And that different place, well, it takes ALL kinds and I mean all kinds.

In my own life and garden, I will accept that I am not always in control of anything, and that I cannot always do my best in either, and when the unexpected guest or surprise appears, I will stand near these things, watch their multiplicity, and I will take a deep breath to remind me how happy I am to be alive.

I will be the reed of grass humbly dancing in the wind—rather than the mighty oak that cannot withstand the barrage, falling to pieces.

So dance little seedlings and show me that you won’t break in the wind! How else will you begin to thrive if you cannot dance in the wind?

TO BE CONTINUED…

Ah Swell, Seed Starting is Upon Us

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Our Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ is here with its annual flush of color and we have several Hellebores blooming too. This means that is time to get ready for our annual pilgrimage to Seattle in February for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. I am hoping this year my husband and I will have more fun than ever, but we just never know since my chronic illness—a mysterious malady—can make me miserable quite quickly.

As I sit and drink my special tea, the one I only drink when I need to feel the warm embrace of my Parisian friends and the happiness of what brought my husband and I together, I only do so as if to hold a warm security blanket. I say this because January has been a really difficult month of me, oh, and if you’d like to know the tea, its Mariage Frères “Pleine Lune.”

Despite the ongoing pain from continual swelling, and the fear of having a swollen neck that can make it difficult to swallow, and sometimes breathe, I have continued to keep my hands and my mind occupied with garden-like crafts. Sales of my online boutique shops have continued, and the kids have kept coming. What I have learned from being sick like this off and on now for 10 years is that you have to simply keep going. Doing this is so hard at times because on the other hand you must learn to let other things slide. For a Virgo perfectionist like me, this has been heartbreaking and it is my real daily struggle.

I’d wanted to have had these finished a few months ago, but they are finished now and I am really happy to have made them. This is the only complete accordion seed book so far, but I learned a great deal from making it. It looks really nice too and I am so pleased with it.

These origami boxes are for seed collections too. I made these while watching a 007 movie marathon a few weeks ago. I’d wanted to roll up seed tapes in them but when the seeds were applied to the paper strips, they were simply too big. Guess I need larger origami paper!

Lastly, these are large stakes I’ve painted with chalkboard paint. I am not sure if I would use them outside since the chalk comes off with water so easily, but nevertheless, they look really cute. I highly recommend making some of these if you have any kind of garden themed party this upcoming season. You can get the paint at craft stores in all kinds of crazy colors. Folks also plant planters with the stuff, and I have some I’ve been making too, but for some reason I am thinking that the pots will chip off. We’ll see and I’ll let you know.

So January has been a rough time, but I have completed some goals, despite having to neglect some others. Never giving in, and never giving up can really wear a person down and I am so concerned that this year my seed starting will end up like last year’s. Many of the seedlings didn’t make it because I was too wrapped up in being a new foster respite provider. This year I will really need to find the balance between my needs and those of the kids.

The last year has taught me much about empathy. I empathize too much with everyone and it is really draining. Some of us are just very empathetic and although it is a skill set, it must be used responsibly.

The kids in therapeutic foster care often have little empathy for others because of what they have experienced in their lives. This is a huge challenge for many of them. Some will learn to trust others enough again in the future to really open up and feel what others feel, but others will not. My job is to be a good role model, and not to over empathize with them. I need to teach them skills and help their confidence. This is how gardening fits into the big picture and this is truly my New Year’s Resolution.

With that, we begin the seed starting season: Gardening Skills 101.

If you would like to see the list of seeds I’m starting this year, please visit the tab that reads Seed Starting 2001 to the right of the HOME button above this post.