25th January 2018

National Arboretum - 02-23-10 - Seed Herbarium (5)

The job I most look forward to in the darkest depths of winter is going through seed packets. I never throw anything out – I have a packet of candela di fuoco ‘long radishes’ that’s just turned 11 years out of date, but I’m going to sow-it-and-see. I know it won’t do anything, probably, but if nothing else this is an allegory to a lesson I learnt as a fumbling beginner: the sooner you find yourself a system, the better.

I’m currently using a cloth-covered divider file with a blue ribbon tie that I found for next to nothing in a charity shop (along with a hefty tome called The Story of Gardening: From The Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the Hanging Gardens of New York, which funnily enough, though the handwritten inscription on in the inside cover says it was a gift given in 1934 – it is the inspirational spark for a project I plan for the garden this year. Old is not the same thing as obsolete, thankfully!)  I designated a month to each pocket and each month is full of packets of seeds that need to be sown that month.

A dreary day in January is often brightened in short order by looking through indoor sowing options: fragrant dill; silvery grasses (the effervescent Agrostis Nebulosa which looks like a bursting firework captured mid-explosion); gorgeous night-scented stock (transporting you to those balmy summer nights); Lavender; the full purple-spectrum delphiniums, and of course, the ubiquitous Busy Lizzies. I’m not a fan of the Busy Lizzie, but as I mellow in age and find myself inexplicably forgiving Beagles and Spaniels of their former crimes of being ‘boring dogs’, I’ve also lost my disgust for some of the more… garish flowers of our suburban gardens. After all, Busy Lizzies look gag-worthy in some people’s hanging baskets, but did I mention it’s dark this January?

The Winter Workstation
by The Compulsive Gardener

The Winter Work Station
Your little box of paradise when you can’t be out in the real thing. Primroses always remind me of breaking my front tooth – but that’s a whole other story…


I could spend hours with my seed packets, the ones I’m most excited about have got to be in the pocket of May. May has the bee-wooing scatter collection! May has oriental vegetables like choy, and May has poppies and May has my flower dreamboat: the Nigellas.


Love-in-a-Mist – I swoon just writing its name. They call it an easy plant, a beginner’s favourite, old reliable, but there’re no words in any language that can cheapen the sublime perfection of this gorgeous wierdo. This cornflower re-imagined by Richard Dadd.

Ooh, that reminds me, Cornflowers….


I think I’ll make a note about collecting and storing your own seeds at the time, so I can take photos. I’ve never really done this in the garden before, because I’ve been happy to let whatever’s out there self-seed, and I get donated so many packets I can’t keep up with them, but I think I’ll try this year. I’m after abundance, on a budget of zero, after all! I have very big plans for the garden this year…

Next week I’ll share my homemade plastic-free sewing pots.

Until then, I’d love to know other gardeners’ winter jobs and rituals!