Dried flowers Gardening Native plants Saving seed

Remembering Summer: Collecting Seed Pods for Indoor Arrangements

As autumn approaches, plants begin to fulfill their mission in life: to reproduce. Many plants do this by way of interesting seed pods.

Here in our northern gardens, columbines, poppies, iris and other flowering species form interesting packages for their seeds. By observing these plants in the garden as they become dry, and seeds mature inside, you will notice the pods opening (iris) or small holes forming near the top (poppies). These plants largely depend on wind and gravity to disperse their seed, ensuring the propagation of the species.

Collecting Iris setosa seed pods in the garden.
Keep an eye on unripe seed pods, like these of bristle-pointed iris (Iris setosa)., making sure you harvest only when they start to turn brown.

In colder climates, this maturation process happens rather quickly during the short summer months. This is an adaptation plants use for survival of the species in the colder north.

Harvest Both Seeds and Pods

Often gardeners like to collect the seed, but forget about the pods. Here’s how to enjoy both:

Colorful Paeonia anomala seed pod.
An anamalous peony (Paeonia anomala) seed pod will add beauty to the garden as it reaches maturity.

Keep an eye on your garden and watch for the pods, capsules or other seed-bearing structures to appear near the end of the season. Most pods that form after the flowers fade will be green. However, you have to wait for them to turn brown and begin to open before collecting the seeds and pods.

Warning! Seeds tend not to mature if the pod is harvested too early.

When the pods are dry, simply cut the stem low to the ground. You can shorten the stem later if desired. For example, to match the height of your vase or other container.

Holding the seed pod upside-down, slip it into a paper lunch bag* or a plastic storage bag. Now, shake it until all the seeds fall out.

*The advantage of a paper container is that it allows air circulation
so your seeds are unlikely to mold.

Collecting Himalayan blue poppy Seed Pods
Dried seed pods of Himalayan blue poppy (Mecanopsis baileyi).

When dry, remove dead leaves to improve the appearance of the dried stems. Place your stems upright in a vase or tub for further storing and drying if necessary. Now you have a nice reminder of a summer gardening season, as well as some seeds to sow.

Sometimes You Need to Deadhead

This collecting of seed pods is worthwhile in another way.

You may not want hundreds of seedlings in your garden. Deadheading (removing spent blooms or seed pods) will curtail the plants from multiplying in abundance.

In the case of the native woolly geranium (Geranium erianthum) for example, it’s best to remove the spring-loaded seeds after the flowers fade, unless you want a garden full of wild geraniums. These seeds are literally spring-loaded and launch away from the plant.

Western columbine (Aquilegia formosa) is another prolific seed dispenser. The seed pods remind me of a jester’s hat.

Add More Color

Copper-colored Iris setosa seed pods.
Spraying these bristle-pointed iris (Iris setosa) seed capsules with copper-colored paint gives them added interest.

You can spray-paint the dry stems and pods on a piece of newsprint. When dry, set them in a nice vase to enjoy during the winter months. Choose one of the metallic colors for a striking display: silver, bronze, copper or gold.

Sowing Wildflower Seeds

So, what to do with all those seeds you collected? You can sow them right into the garden in the fall, or into seed flats that will be left outside all winter.

By using seed flats or other containers, you are following Mother Nature’s method of seed dispersal, but you have control over where the plants will grow. Generally, seeds of native plants should be sown in the fall, as they may require stratification, or cold treatment, just as in nature. In the spring, simply transplant the seedlings from flats or containers to their desired location.

Outdoor Interest

A third option? You can let the seed pods stand in the garden for winter interest where they may be a source of food for some wildlife.

Books on dried flowers can be a source for learning to create professional-looking arrangements. However, I find the simple stems and seed pods interesting in their own way.

All photos supplied by Patrick Ryan

4 comments on “Remembering Summer: Collecting Seed Pods for Indoor Arrangements

  1. Pingback: Collecting and Sowing Wildflower Seeds - Laidback Gardener

  2. Such a fertilizer will likely not bear mineral numbers higher than 8 or 9. And use it in the spring or early summer, certainly not at the end of the summer or in the https://vidmate.bet/ fall.

  3. I love this time of year as the colours are golden but you notice more subtle details like seedpods. Coneflowers, Siberian iris, Asclepias, grasses and lots of different ornamental alliums look lovely over the winter. It’s also fun to collect seeds for Spring. Brings the gardening season full circle.

  4. I can not believe you did not name okra pods.

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