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Donating Seed

Thank you very much, all those who have donated seed in the past: we hope you will do so again in time for the next distribution. You may prefer to remind yourself about donating by reading the paragraphs at ‘How to donate, in a nutshell’. Please remember that the closing date for donations is 28 October.

If you have not donated seed in the past, or would like to refresh your memory, we hope that the following notes will encourage you to do so this year. Please help us build an even more impressive list of interesting seeds for our next seed list.

Why donate?

Apart from the obvious point that without donors there is no seed distribution, growing and collecting seed has its own rewards. It is a great way of really getting to know your plants because it encourages you to look carefully at them at all stages of their growth. As a bonus, seed donors are entitled to request 15 extra packets of seed with their order.

What should I donate?


Any seed from plants growing in your garden is welcome, however small the quantity. Please note that we will not list wild collected seed unless collected under licence or collected in the UK from the roadside or with the landowner’s permission. It is the collector’s responsibility to ensure that seed is obtained legally. However seed gathered from plants growing in your garden which were grown from seed originally collected in the wild is always welcome. For more details, look at our page on the Nagoya Protocol.

We want to achieve as wide a range of seeds in our list as possible so, as well as the old stalwarts, we are particularly interested in unusual species and varieties. A plant which seems commonplace to you may be highly desirable to someone else.

We are also interested in offering vegetable seed where they are of unusual vegetables or of heritage varieties or of seed adapted to a particular set of growing conditions.

Please remember that cultivars are unlikely to come true from seed. If you donate seed from cultivars they should be labelled as ex---, eg Abutilon vitifolium ex 'Album'.

Aquilegia seeds. We are concerned about the spread of Downy Mildew in Aquilegia. If you intend to send seed from Aquilegia plants please ensure that you do not have infected plants in your garden.
For details of symptoms see http://www.touchwoodplants.co.uk/aquilegia-downy-mildew.htm.

How exact must I be about names?

We prefer it if you can provide a complete botanical name, but if you think it is a good plant and can give us a description then we will include it. For example, a lady donated ‘Hollyhocks, no rust for five years’. It became ‘Alcea rosea ex rust resistant variety’ in the list. Hopefully it will spread its genes around!

How much seed would you like me to send?

As we aim to fill about 50 small glassine envelopes with each variety of seed there is no point in sending very large quantities. Unless the individual seeds are very big, about 2-3 fluid ounces (roughly 75 millilitres) is the maximum of each type that we need from each donor. However, no amount is too small. If we only have enough seed for one little glassine envelope then we will pack one envelope and at least one more person will have the opportunity to grow that plant.

Have you advice for a tidy gardener?

Some of you may like a tidy and floriferous garden, and so dead-head throughout the season. However, for many plants one seed head provides quite a lot of seed. Please try to leave one or two on in the less conspicuous parts of your borders.

Can you give advice for collecting seed?

Most of the seed we get is that which ripens in late summer and early autumn. Please keep it coming. But many plants ripen their seed much later or earlier than this. For example hydrangea seed is usually not ripe until the end of November, rhododendrons should be harvested early in the new year. Spring ephemerals scatter their seed well before the end of June. Please collect this seed. You can either send it to us directly or store it yourself until you send the rest of your seed (see ‘Storing the seed’ below).

Quite a lot of seeds are easy to collect. They are big enough to see and slow enough to catch. But there are some that are very small (eg astilbe) or too fast (eg geranium). In both cases a paper bag can help. For the minute seed, cut off the dry seed heads just before most of the capsules open and put them in a paper bag in a dry place. In a week or so the seed will be in the bottom of the bag. For the fast seed tie a small bag over the seed head before it ‘pops’ and trap the little devils.

How should I clean the seed?

Perhaps the thought of cleaning seed puts you off donating. It is not that difficult. For most plants with dry seed heads just remove the bits of dried flower ends and broken seed cases. Often gently blowing over the seed, or shaking it gently in an open bowl will help separate the rubbish. There is no need to get paranoid about it. If 90% is seed, it is fine.

A bit more care is needed to separate out the real seeds of plants with composite flower heads as they tend to include many infertile seeds or have dried bracts which can be confused with seed. This applies to eryngium, ligularia, aster, monarda and many other genera. Wet fruits such as pommes and berries also need some care. The fruit often contains germination inhibitors and must be removed by washing. A useful technique is to remove as much the pulp as possible and put the seed into a small bowl of water. Usually the seed will sink and any remaining pulp can be poured off and the seed collected and dried.

How should I store the seed?

The most important thing is make sure that the seed is dry before it is stored. You can then put it into a labelled, paper envelope, put it in an airtight container (if possible with a bag of silica gel, such as those often given when you buy electrical or leather goods) and keep it in the fridge. However, if you are not confident about your ability to store it, send it to us directly. We are happy to receive seed at any time of the year.

How would you like me to send the seed?

Any envelope that can be well sealed will do. If you have nothing suitable send your designated seed receiver (as set out below under 'How to donate, in a nutshell') a large letter stamp and he/she will send you some suitable envelopes

Most largish seed is well behaved and stays in the envelope; other seeds are escape artists (alliums and poppies among the worst). Please make sure seams are tight. If you use sticky tape, see it does not come into contact with the seed. The seed will stick to it and cannot be removed without damage.

Please make sure that you have the correct postage on the envelope. Last year we paid 10 fines for incorrect postage. Please do not use recorded delivery as we are rarely in the house when the postman calls and the seed returns to the depot and a few more days in less than ideal storage conditions.

Please provide your email address (or a phone number) when sending seed, so that we can contact you with any queries.

When would you like me to send the seed?

The closing date for donations is 28 October, but Sandra and Roy, Linda and Ray and Coral will be happy to receive seed as early as you can send it as this eases the pressure which builds as October progresses.

Where would you like me to send the seed?

To your designated seed receiver as set out below.

How to donate, in a nutshell

Collect, name, dry and clean your seed (in that order).

Put your seed into labelled packets. If you do not have suitable packets available, please see the note below.

Write out an alphabetical list of seed you are sending, making sure that the name on the list is the same as on the seed, and that your name, address (and your email address, if you have one) are on the list.

Send your packet of seed (however small) to one of these receivers:

If the initial letter of your surname is from A to F, send your seed to
Sandra and Roy Mellor, 4 Welsford Road, Norwich, Norfolk NR4 6QF

If the initial letter of your surname is from G to N, send your seed to
Linda Hall, Birchwood, Snow Street, Roydon, Diss, Norfolk, IP22 5SB

If the initial letter of your surname is from O to Z, send your seed to
Ray and Coral  Mitchell, 'Magpies', Fen street, Hopton, Nr Diss, IP22 2RF

Please check you have the right amount of postage on your package (Royal Mail charge a fine of £1 per incorrect item).

If you don’t have suitable packets

Your designated seed receiver (address above) can supply envelopes for donating seed. Send a note to say how many envelopes you need and enclose one “Large 2nd class” stamp per 20 envelopes. The envelopes are free of charge but they must be used only for sending seed to the HPS Seed Distribution scheme.

A final request from us

Please send the seed before the closing date (28 October). We cannot include late seed in the main list. If your seed arrives after 10 November we cannot even use it for a ‘Pot luck’ substitute and will have to store it for the next year.

Success of the Seed Distribution scheme

The success of the Seed Distribution scheme depends on members and non-members both giving and taking seed. Many have acquired brilliant plants through the Seed Distribution scheme that would otherwise have required searching far and wide at specialist nurseries. However, this would not have happened if someone had not donated the seed. Whether or not  you are a member, would you please look at your garden and the plants that you would like to share, and then consider collecting the seed and sending it for distribution.

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