When we bought our first home, I was beside myself with excitement at the prospect of having my own yard to garden in rather than hauling pots of plants from one rental to another. I started collecting seeds from every avenue available to me; stores, roadsides, vacant yards (even those that weren’t vacant until I realized what devastation taking even a few seeds could cause a fellow gardener); anywhere I could find them. Then I discovered the world of online seed trading. The generosity of so many people willing to encourage a gardener in training only fed my growing obsession, not to mention that I discovered there where so many different kinds of plants out there I had never seen or heard of. I spent hours researching plants that others had to offer and searched everywhere I could to find something to offer in trade. I even bought seeds just so I could negotiate a trade for some seeds that were rare and unusual to this novice gardener. Living in hot, dry, Atlanta; many plants just don’t do well here, but that thought never even crossed my mind. I didn’t care if the plants were water hogs, invasive, poisonous, or weeds for that matter. And I didn’t care if they were practically impossible to germinate, if experienced gardeners told me the seeds were sterile, if they could take up to eight years to germinate, if they would take just as many more years to bloom, or if they may not be true due to open pollination. All I cared about was how pretty they were in the pictures I saw online and all the beauty I was confident would surround my home. I even imagined passers by stopping their cars to admire my yard.
October of that same year rolled around and I knew I needed to start getting organized for winter sowing, so I started going through all my seeds. They were organized into two major categories: annuals and perennials. The perennials would be sown first, so I focused on those. I used zip lock bags to organize them alphabetically. I had one bag for each letter of the alphabet; well make two bags for a several letters. I quickly realized that each and every pack of seeds was so precious to me that I couldn’t set any of them aside to grow later. I knew there was only one solution. I started with the bag labeled “A” and started writing out plant tags; then on to B, then C, the D and so on. Soon I thought my fingers would surely fall of and decided to sow what I had tags prepared for and move on to the others after I finished. A mountain of containers later I was eager to see them grow in the coming months, but exhausted and tired of smelling dirt. After a much needed break, I started plugging away again.
My first year growing from seed produced over 500 plants for my half acre lot. This didn’t even begin to put a dent in the number of seed varieties I had collected all year and I could hardly wait to start more of my stash the following year. I finally had the beautiful gardens I had always wanted and tried (with absolutely no luck mind you) to assure my fiancé that I was done collecting more seeds and would focus only on what I had already collected. Needless to say, that thought stayed in my head only until the next time I was out shopping. I spied a seed rack out of the corner of my eye and without blinking, was drawn to the rack as though I had floated across the room to it. I didn’t remember taking the steps to get there, or the steps to the register, or the steps to my car afterwards. The only thing I did remember was trying to hide my newest treasures inside my purse so my fiancé wouldn’t see them when I got home. I was able to slide them into my seed boxes without being noticed. I should have known that I couldn’t hide my secret treasures forever. I was busted after he overheard a phone conversation with a dear gardening friend when I ecstatically told her about my newest additions. As I rounded the corner, the look on his face said it all. There stood a man thinking to himself, “She has lost her mind and there is no hope!” He walked away frustrated and I, of course, continued to chat away about my latest score.
Three years later, I’ve learned a lot of things about gardening. For one thing, I know I can’t afford the water bill to keep many of the water hogs I felt I so desperately needed. I also know that I’m too impatient to wait years for blooms, much less germination and there are a lot that are easier to buy as a plant that trying to germinate their seeds. There’s also a ton of flowers that are a pure nightmare and have taken over so many spaces in my gardens that I rip them up in huge chucks every year trying to finally rid myself of them. I won’t even share those with others for fear that I’ll add one more plant to the list of Georgia invasive plants like Kudzu and Wisteria are now. One of the lessons I’ve learned that I love most is about seeds coming true to the parent plant. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. And I truly love that. I’ve enjoyed some of the most beautiful plants I’ve ever had that didn’t come true to the parent. I’ve even had some that I love more that I would have if they’d been true. Another lesson I’ve learned about gardening is that I don’t have enough space to plant every plant I would like to have. I came to the conclusion that I owed it to other gardens in the world to share seeds with people who would be able to water them, to wait for blooms and germination, to keep them under control, and would have room for them.
And so, last night as I sat on the bed with mounds of seeds spread around me, I was looking forward to finally being ready to sort through my seeds and “spread the love” with those that wanted to grow them. I first started with a tray of seeds that I had never taken the time to file away with the rest of my stash. Eying each one carefully, even having to take the time to look up a few as I had forgotten what type of plant they were, I started four piles. One for those I didn’t want to grow, one for those I wanted to grow but had enough of to share, one for those I wanted to grow but had a small amount of, and finally one for all the seeds I’ve collected from my own yard and planned to donate to the local park or share with others.
Suddenly, I had an epiphany. I had gone through about 50 packs that were shared with me by others and had only set aside two, yes two packs that I was willing to part with. I even had hundreds of seeds collected from my own garden that I was torn about parting with even though I still have the parent plant growing in my yard. That’s when it hit me like a freight train. I am a seed hoarder. Frustrated with my selfishness and greed, I put all the seeds away and started writing this blog. I still have hundreds of different types of seeds and I know that I’ll never be able to sow all of them. I’ve come to the realization that I may not ever get rid of all these seeds and it deeply saddens me to know that they might not ever achieve what they are intended for. I guess my fiancé and his sister are right. I need a 12 step program to overcome my seed addiction. I’m just having a hard time finding that program. I’d be happy to start one myself, but I think I’d do more harm than good to those coming to me for help. Thus, I digress. I wonder if I can find any new seeds from my online friends. I haven’t visited them in a while………