….I shall be a happy woman!

I have spent far too many hours in the evening over the last couple of weeks sorting seeds.  This sounds like a nice restful relaxing occupation, well that’s what I thought when I volunteered to help out with the Alpine Garden Society seed distribution scheme this year.

I joined the Society back in the summer mainly because I was told it has a wonderful seed distribution scheme, one of the best apparently.  Looking at last year’s seed list there are over six thousands varieties on offer with over four hundred collected in the wild and donations sent in from members all over the world.  For a plant and seedaholic like me it was too good to miss out on.  To date I have enjoyed being a member, the journal is very good and the talks at the local club excellent, I have already learnt loads.

Having been made very welcome I felt I should give something back, after all you only get out of life what you put into it so when there was a call for people to volunteer to help sort seeds I put my name forward.  About two and half weeks ago a box arrived, shoe box sized and inside were the seeds for me to sort.  There around 60 packets of donated seeds which were to be divided into around 1030 packets (top photo)

I have to say I was impressed with the organisation.  I was assigned plants starting with ‘H’ from Hesperantha to Hypericum.  Against each variety there was a target number of packets of seeds to pack and there were clear instructions on how much seed to put in each packet.  Each packet had to be numbered and packed back into the box in a certain way.  In my naivety I had thought this would be a nice relaxing job to do whilst watching television in the evening.  I have a terrible habit of chewing my fingers when watching television so I like to have something to do, normally sewing.  However, I hadn’t taken into account how fiddly it would be.   Some of the seeds were tiny – particularly Hypericum and Heuchera so a real pain to pick up and in order to get through the work in time especially as I was too tied last week due to the graduation ceremonies and my deadline for returning the box was the 21st I had to get a move on so I have only really listened to the television.

On the plus side it has made me really appreciate the work involved in these schemes, all voluntary.   When the seeds are sent in by donors they are sorted into alphabetical order, the variety assigned a number, an assessment made of how many packets the seeds will fill and then boxes sent out to people like me.  I have  had seeds from these sorts of schemes before and I have talked to many other gardeners who have done the same.  There are some schemes I won’t use again due to the amount of weed that germinated and I have heard a lot of complaints about poor germination rates.  I would say that I have  bought seeds from small seed companies and had exactly the same problems and I suspect there is a sense that as the seed distribution schemes are such good value for money that people  conveniently forget how much work is required by volunteers and what a good deal it really is.  We are after all a nation of moaners.

The next stage is for the seed list to be sent out to members and the orders made up and sent out.   I have also volunteered to help with making up the orders – there was mention of cake and it is only in Pershore about 20 minutes drive from home – so why not.  It will be fascinating the see the other end of the operation plus I have been promised some extra packets of seeds.

So if you get seeds from a seed distribution scheme don’t be so quick to judge.  Remember that it is entirely run by volunteers and dependent on people like us sending in seeds in the first place.  From the seeds I sorted I think the AGS seed scheme is good, they seemed very clean and uniform so I doubt there is much weed seed in there.

If we want to be able to continue to access unusual and interesting plants then these are the schemes we should be supporting.