By now you must have worked out that that I am a weapons grade anorak. I have a simmering need to know the name of a plant but can’t abide tags in the garden. My own shortcomings and indeed, obsession, behoves me to do a little memory work; a lot, if I want the Latin handy. Sometimes I try to use mnemonics to fix something in my head but lately I can’t recall the word that was supposed to help me to remember. I keep all of the tickets from anything I have ever purchased and store them in a very large plastic flower pot in the shed. The compilation teeters on the brink of perpetual collapse and is so huge, I would be embarrassed if I had a conscience.
Lilium orientalis ‘Sky High’
Lately there have been days which are too sunny and sweat provoking for guddling amongst the weeds, so I’m gathering seed. I put a screwed up piece of paper into each cache with the probable name of the plant and the date, since I won’t be able to remember the details at sowing time. Aquilegia, Acanthus and Papaver amongst others, I’m cutting off the spent stalks and upending them in bags to save their bounty for next year. Poisonous items such as Aconite or Digitalis are always clearly marked as such.
Nymphaea (water lily)
When the pods are dry, chaff is removed and bugs evicted. I store my booty in paper envelopes, named on the outside and including the labels made in the field in a belt and braces approach. Should the names differ, tempers may be lost and the last person to talk to me will be blamed. I scatter handfuls at the time of harvest both by accident and design. Nature has made the seeds ripe at this very moment, presumably ready to go in the soil right now. Generally I find that She knows what She is doing. These may be the ones that overwinter, germinate and thrive whereas the ones that I hoard, fiddle with and fuss over could fail to budge. If anything has to pass through the gut of a bird or other critter for activation, it’s on its own and out of luck. Identification of seedlings in the borders is just a game, best performed in private. Like trying to recall scientific names in front of an impromptu audience, humiliation should be sidestepped.
Hemerocallis (day lily)
The envelopes go in a large airtight biscuit tin with silica gel packets from all of my indiscretions in handbag shops. I have an extensive collection of both bags and packets, despite Attila’s protests that more of either is not necessary. The silica absorbs moisture, thus helping to hold off aging or germination until I’m good and ready. The tin is squirreled away with my craft supplies, where my husband will not find it without a diligent search and thus negating further criticism. Putting it in the pantry is asking for trouble; if the contents are not eaten despite warnings of toxicity, I face vulgar comments about my abilities as a cook. Notwithstanding all of my efforts, some seeds have a very short life in storage. Attempts to stockpile seeds for more than a few years have resulted in utter failure. Never mind, I’m sure that they could season a sandwich.