How to Collect Dahlia Seeds

Dahlia Alpen Cherub, collecting dahlia seeds

Its been a busy summer with lots of out-of-town company so things kind of got behind in the garden. To my surprise, I went to water my Dahlias and saw that the finished flowers had not only turned brown but had almost a papery feel. I am usually pretty good at deadheading Dahlias as I want them to keep producing flowers. I showed hubby the spent flower as I cut it off the plant to tidy it up. The petals had fallen apart in my hand. There was what looked like a seed inside the petal. I normally propagate my plants vegetatively by dividing tubers. This is the easiest way to increase your plants. The idea of growing Dahlias from  seed intrigued me. I needed a challenge.

how to collect dahlia seeds

I asked my friends on twitter if they could be grown from seed. My friend, Joseph Tychonievich, encouraged me to try growing from seed. He is the author of the book, ‘Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener’. I have read his book and it inspired me to think out of the box. If you look at the photo above, this is what the finished flower looked like when I brought it inside. Each petal is now papery thin and inside each one is a dark seed.

how to collect dahlia seeds

I pulled each petal off the main part of the flower and placed them on  some paper towel. Using something white to place seeds on just made it easier to see them.

How to collect dahlia seeds

I carefully went through each piece and here you can see how the seed is attached to the base of the petal.

How to collect dahlia seeds

Out of three blooms I have over sixty seeds which means I could have sixty new Dahlias next year. Will they look the same as the mother plant that I took the seeds from? They could be different. The seeds came from a Dahlia by the name of Alpen Cherub, a collarette type which the bees love. It’s a soft white but Dahlias can be cross pollinated by insects so it may be completely different next year. I had a dark purple coloured collarette Dahlia close by so maybe it will have some difference in the colour. I won’t know until next year.

how to collect dahlia seeds



This is all I had left after the seeds were picked off. I am excited to try this new growing method with my Dahlias. I may just get a new plant in the future, who knows?

Loving Delta’s Fine Foliage

I have to give a big shout out to the parks department of Delta today. All summer I have watched the containers and hanging baskets grow and bloom in the downtown core of Ladner. This year has been the best year ever!

loving Delta's fine foliage

Down Delta street, we have large containers filled with tropical looking foliage. Our hot summer has really helped these plants provide us an excellent show of colour. You see it’s not just about flowers. Foliage can really make things pop. The container above is certainly not my best photo with the glaring sun doing it no favours. I just had to show the Canna and their flowers. The use of Ipomoea, Coleus and Artemisia really makes this container. When planting a container you want to follow the thriller, filler and spiller method. Here the Canna is the thriller taking the show as the center focal point. The Coleus is the filler and the sweet potato vine or Ipomoea and Artemisia are the spillers.

loving Delta's fine foliage

Lantana adds vibrant colour to this container and the deep red veining in the Coleus marries the dark foliage of the Canna above.

loving Delta's fine foliage

All the plantings along Delta street are a bit different. Take time to check them out before fall arrives. I love the mix of foliage in this container. The use of dark-leaved fibrous begonias adds to the contrast with the leaves of sweet potato vine.

Loving Delta's fine foliage

The leaves of the begonias blend with the veining of the Coleus and the stems of the center plant. It’s all about the details which we sometimes overlook in our own plantings.

Loving Delta's fine foliage

When planning a container try to use a mix of foliage textures like this one. The large heart-shaped leaves of Colacasia are a dramatic contrast to the ones of Coleus nearby. All of these plants can be found at local garden centers. Some of them are considered pretty tender and will not survive our winters without bringing them inside a warm greenhouse or overwintering the tender roots in a cool garage. They are definitely worth growing just for the drama they add to the garden.


Cherokee Purple Tomato-A Chefs Favourite & How to Save Seeds

I was harvesting tomatoes this week and was surprised to see the difference between tomatoes growing outside and in my greenhouse. I grow about twenty different kinds of tomatoes and its a big seed collecting time for me. I need to select the best tomatoes for seed saving.

How to save cherokee purple tomato seeds

The Cherokee Purple tomato on the left was grown outside. It has the markings expected from harsh changes in outdoor conditions although its been the hottest and driest summer in a long time. The one on the left was grown in the ground with a mulch of wet newspaper and straw which meant watering was minimal. The Cherokee Purple tomato on the right was grown in a greenhouse, in a five gallon container and watered daily. Check out how smooth the skin is on the greenhouse tomato. Its kind of what most people look for in a tomato. I posted this photo on gardenchat the other night and someone asked me if the tomatoes tasted the same. It was time for a taste test.

How to save tomato seeds

Yes, the one grown outside had slightly better flavour but not by enough. It was a close choice. I was making a tomato pie last night and realized I should show you how the Cherokee purple tomato looks inside. Its dark rich red colour is amazing. As a seed saver I was worried I wouldn’t find any seeds. It was hard to see them. The flavour of this tomato is one that will have you growing it each year. Its warm richness, not too acidic flavour is prized by chefs. It is a meaty tomato and great for fresh slicing and for cooking.

How to save tomato seeds

So where were the seeds? This seed crazy person had to figure it out. I cut the tomato again and there they were. Its like this tomato has hidden back pockets. You have to carefully scoop out the sides just along the underside of the skin. Trust me its hiding a lot of seeds.

How to save tomato seeds

Lots of seeds are in the bottom of this jar along with the juice of the tomato. If you look closely at the seed you will see a jelly like substance around the seed. This is what you will be removing through the fermenting process.

how to save tomato seeds


I scoop the seeds into a clean mason jar and added a bit of water. I add just an inch, no more.

how to save tomato seeds

I cut a piece of parchment paper and write the name of the tomato and date on it and secure it on the jar using a jar ring. If you come over I will have jars of fermenting seeds lined up in the dining room where its darker. So why do I ferment my tomato seeds? It helps to remove the gelatinous coating from the seeds and will help to prevent any diseases from staying on the seed. I sure don’t need any fungal problems. Leave your seeds to ferment in the jars for about four to five days.

how to save tomato seeds


When you see mould starting to form on the surface of the water, its time to rinse them off. I know its pretty gross but I have seen worse.Take your seeds to the kitchen sink and remove the lid. Add some fresh water to your mouldy seed mixture. Let the seeds settle to the bottom of the jar. Slowly pour the water out of the jar over the sink being carefully to just let a bit out at a time. You want to see the mouldy stuff and any tomato pulp go into the sink, not your seeds. You may have to keep adding a bit of water and repeat the process several times. Each time the seeds get a bit cleaner. This is what you want.

how to save tomato seeds

Remember the label you used on the jar. Do not throw it away. Place it under or over your seeds once on a plate. Place your seeds on a ceramic or plastic plate. Do not use paper plates or paper towels or you will have a hard time trying to pry your seeds off the paper. If you have excess water from placing the seeds on the plate, you can gently dab with the corner of a piece of paper towel to soak some of the water up. Leave the seeds to dry on the plate for a few days. Once completely dry lift the seeds off and place into an envelope for storage. Be sure to mark the variety of the tomato and date packaged on the envelope. Store your seeds in a cool dry dark place. I like to store mine in a box in my garage where they are easy to find in the spring or when you are perusing all those seed catalogues in January.


The Black Garden at VanDusen Botanical Garden

Yesterday I had to give a short lecture at Vandusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver and as a treat afterwards I walked the garden to see what was in bloom. For those of you that haven’t been to the garden, it covers about 55 acres and was opened in 1975. Before that my mom remembers golfing on the property as it used to be the old Shaughnessy golf course.  That golf course moved their location and the property sat for many years until it was opened as a public garden.

Black garden plants you can grow

As I wandered the garden I came across the Black Garden. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What a special garden! As soon as I saw the black Colacasia, I knew I would like this garden. The large ebony leaves of Colacasia give this garden a tropical feel. Colacasia is only hardy in zones 8-10 so it would definitely need protection here. I would most likely treat this plant as an annual. Let’s take a look at the plants that were used in the Black Garden at VanDusen.

Black garden plants you can grow

One of the plants was bat flower but I am not sure if that’s the rose-coloured flower in back. I love that this garden labels its plants. I can take the names down and try to recreate my own black  garden at home. I know, it’s a dream, when would I have the time?

Black garden plants you can grow

Black Mondo grass was used throughout the garden and as edging along the pathway. I love this hardy perennial. Once established it does spread but it’s always welcome in my garden. It’s easy to divide in the spring to use in containers or other areas of the garden. I grows to about six inches high in my garden but at VanDusen it was a bit taller.

Black garden plants


Sweet potato vine or Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’ added that punch of chartreuse next to its sister in a dark, deep purple. These vines are annuals and will not overwinter in our climate. They are lovely in this garden used just behind the border of Mondo grass.

Black garden plants

You can see here the Colacasia is flanked by Heuchera ‘Obsidian’, Pelargonium ‘Persian Queen’, Coleus, and purple leaf Weigela or Weigela florida ‘Verweig 3′. Check out the red berries in the back adding to the overall colour scheme.

black garden plants

Bringing up the back of the chorus line of colour is Cimicifuga, probably ‘Brunette’ with its dark foliage. Its arching stems swaying in the breeze adding vertical interest to the garden. This is a large plant and it comes back every year. Use it at the back of the border in full sun to partial shade. The Cimicifuga is flanked by tall Cannas with red-orange flowers.

The black garden- VanDusen Botanicalgarden

Here is a full shot of one side of the garden. Its jam-packed with plants combining annuals, perennials and shrubs and trees. This is one area of VanDusen Botanical Garden that you don’t want to miss.


Morado del Rincon de Ademuz- A Tomato Worth Growing

Each year I grow different kinds of tomatoes from seed. Over time I am finding that I am becoming one picky tomato tester. Trust me, not all tomatoes are that great. Of course, we all have our personal preferences and most people will choose a cherry tomato for its ease of harvest and high productivity. I was given a challenge this summer. I was given some tomato seeds from a seed bank that were very low and need to be grown out. Growing for a seed bank means that I am saving seeds from my crop of  tomatoes and drying them and mailing them back to the seed bank. Last year was a great year with over 1000 seeds saved. You see I still get to eat the tomatoes, I just have to scoop the seeds out first. It’s a win, win situation.

Morado del rincon de ademuz

This year I have been testing out Morado del Rincon de Ademuz, a spanish tomato which has supposedly outstanding flavour. Above is the first tomato of its type off the vine. I have no idea why the first tomatoes look so odd but sometimes heirloom tomatoes have funky shapes. The problem with this tomato is that it has a very characteristic scar on its underside which has made it undesirable for the commercial market.

Morado del rincon de ademuz, a tomato worth growing

This is how it looks underneath but when I cut it open this didn’t affect the way I used it. I just cut around the scar.

morado del rincon de ademuz

This is one large tomato and it wasn’t easy growing it. I have some outside that have not ripened yet so I was glad to have a few in the greenhouse as well. I love the size of these tomatoes.

Heirloom tomatoes

Today I harvested a few more tomatoes from the greenhouse. Along with the Strawberry Orange there is Peace Vine and Snow White and the Morado del Rincon de Ademuz at the top.

Morado del rincon de ademuz

It’s another good-sized tomato and its a much nicer shape.

morado del rincon de ademuz

When you look at the scar on the bottom of this tomato, it’s not nearly as noticeable. I have to say that the flavour of this tomato is absolutely divine. Its thick and meaty and lovely in salads. Its seeds are hidden in secret side pockets but seeds are plentiful. If you grow this tomato you need a long summer unlike what we have here on the coast of BC. This was grown in a greenhouse. It does need lots of support as it can top seven feet easily.

What is your favourite tomato? Are you saving seeds from your best tomatoes?

Getting Ready for the First School Garden Class

September is here and my busy time has arrived. Along with lectures and garden classes I am trying to organize another session of school garden classes for a grade three class.  Now that the weather has cooled down a bit its time to get things ship shape. I hope to have the grade three class come to the garden at the end of this month.

Getting ready for the first school garden class

The pumpkins have really grown. I grew the Hayden pumpkins with the grade three class in June but I didn’t expect them to get so large. We use the pumpkins to make pumpkin soup in the fall. That way the children get a bit of a cooking lesson. I just hope we can lift these ones.

Getting ready for the first school garden class

Today I noticed that some of the peas had dropped from harvesting our crop in June and they have germinated. I found a yellowed pod of peas on the soil so I planted them. Why not? Our forecast looks promising so perhaps we will have a fall crop. Here our first frost is normally around the first week of November.

Getting ready for the first school garden class

What was really fun today was I had taken a few seeds to plant in one of the raised beds. While I was watering a woman and two children came by to play in the garden. Schools are out on strike here in BC so I ventured over to where they were sitting and I proceeded to start taking my plant markers and pens out for making labels. I looked at the children and asked them if they missed school. They said yes. I asked them if they would like to help me make the plant markers. Did they want to write the names of the plants on them? I explained that the students would be coming late in the month and I was planting now so something would be growing. I told them the food was for the food bank. I got a raised eyebrow from the nine-year old. I then thanked them for helping me with the labels and asked if they wanted to plant the seeds. They definitely did. It wasn’t something the younger child had done but the older child said he had planted some seeds at school once. The garden bed above is now full of spinach, corn salad, cilantro and mesclun.

getting ready for the first school garden class

Well, with the first task done, the children wanted to take some seeds and a pot of soil home. Luckily I was able to find a couple of one gallon pots and I had lots of soil. I showed them the strawberries and explained that if the runners on the strawberries didn’t find a new home soon, I may have to cut them off. That clinched it. Both children happily planted a strawberry runner and carried it home along with some seeds to plant at home. Its times like this that make me remember why I love to work with children. It made for a fun morning at the community garden and I made some new friends. Isn’t that what gardening is all about?

Day at the Farm-Visiting Westham Island Herb Farm

Westham island herb farm

Have you ever had a tour of Westham Island Herb farm? Check out the sign above and you will see that the farm will soon be 100 years old. This family farm is a wonderful place to buy your fresh fruits and vegetables. They also participate each September in whats called ‘A Day at the Farm’. This event is sponsored by the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust.  Let’s take a look at what you will see on September 6 during the event.

A day at the farm- bachelor buttons

When I was there a couple of weeks ago the flowers were in full bloom. The Centaurea or bachelor buttons did not disappoint. A row of blues, pinks and whites added a soft palette of colour.

A day at the farm- Sunflowers

In contrast, the sunflower bed was striking with the reddish coloured sunflowers towering over the yellow ones.

A day at the farm -marigold planting

There is colour everywhere at the farm. This sea of Marigolds and Zinnias could be used to replace a lawn any day.

A day at the farm- Zinnias

Zinnias dotted the area by a fence in every colour of the rainbow. Look how they were incorporated into the squash patch.

Westham island herb farm day

There is lots to see at the farm. Be sure to check out the pygmy goats. Aren’t they cute? You will see cows and donkeys as well.

westham island herb farm

The farm features lots of antique farm equipment on display. Have your photo taken out on the farm. Enjoy a day of hay wagon rides, milk a cow or learn how to churn butter. There will be lots of food vendors and fresh local produce for sale. One thing you don’t want to forget is to enter the homemade cookie contest. I know there are some amazing bakers out there.

Westham island herb farm - A day at the farm

Day at the Farm is on September 6,2014 from 10am-4pm at 4690 Westham Island Road in Ladner. It’s a fun agricultural event for the whole family.