By Susan Stone
August gardens are usually past their peak…many flowers have already gone to seed. But there is a lot for you to still do. Don’t miss this golden this opportunity to start planning for next year! Gather! This is the gathering season! When the garden looks the saddest is usually when it gives the most. The beautiful salvia will have dropped enough seed heads by now to give you a second show in the fall, but for now grab a sharp pair of shears, envelopes or paper bags and take a walk.
Late in the day is best, after the sun has dried the garden. Successful gardens next year depends on the quality of seed you decide to gather this year. Look for colors that you particularly liked, flowers and vines that performed well and herbs that you’ll need this winter. Pods and large headed flowers like zinnias and purple cone flower dry well and are less likely to mold if you hang in bunches to dry. Drying herbs this way is pretty, but collects dust. So try a warm oven or a dehydrator for edibles. Make sure to mark your envelopes with the type of plant if you know it, if you don’t, describe it. You think you’ll remember what is what, but trust me…seeds all look alike after a while. The date is important. Seeds generally are only viable for two years. Store your seeds in a well-ventilated and dry environment.
Natural areas are great for gathering seeds not usually available in seed catalogues. Diversity creates a healthy garden, bringing different species of birds and butterflies to feed and roost. Keeping a few native species in your gardens will not only give your garden diversity, but they attract the predators away from hybrids and ornamentals. The big benefit is that they require very little care or water.
Some flowers make for beautiful fall arrangements, especially when dried. Hydrangeas are my favorite. Air drying is best for Hydrangeas. You can collect flower heads from August to October. I’ve tried to save the color by collecting them fresh and drying them in silica, but the color doesn’t hold. You can hang them in a bunch or if the stems are strong enough, just place them in a vase.