Harvesting hellebores and searching for seed

My favourite time of the year has finally arrived as the Seed Team head out into the garden to start the seed collecting season

Even though there are seeds to be harvested through the winter, it’s about now that the season ramps up as spring flowering plants such as hellebores, snowdrops, daffodils, grape hyacinths (Muscari) and cyclamen start to shed their seed.

Helleborus seeds, perfect for increasing a collectionOur aim is to collect seeds just as they are at the point of dispersal (when the seeds are transported away from the plant), which means going out on a regular basis and monitoring how seed pods are progressing. For example, we collect several different species of hellebores, with Helleborus × hybridus the first to disperse its seeds. We look for the seed pods starting to split and change colour, and for the seed inside to be a glossy black colour (right). We have to be on the ball as the pretty, nodding flowers face downwards and if we’re too late all the seed is spilled onto the ground beneath.

We have some wonderful collections of hellebores growing at RHS Garden Wisley, in all different colours, including clumps of beautiful double cultivars in our winter borders on Seven Acres. We try to collect as much seed as we can from all around the garden so that people who buy our seeds will receive a wide range of colours, forms and cultivars.

The seed team hard at work at RHS Garden WisleyThe cool start to the season has meant we’re about two weeks behind with collecting, but we anticipate everything will catch up as soon as the weather warms up. This means we’re going to be extremely busy once the summer flowers begin to set seed.

This year we’ve created a small raised border to show some of the plants that can be grown from seed. It’s right next to the outside seating area by the Honest Sausage (the café at Hilltop), so we hope you’ll take time to have a look next time you’re at Wisley. You can read all about the RHS Seed Scheme as you’re sitting on the patio, sipping a cup of coffee and tucking into a slice of cake, or a sausage sandwich!

Helleborus × hybridus flower with open seed pods and ripe seeds. If you collect these now from your own garden and sow them fresh they should germinate next spring.

Members of the Seed Team are out and about in Wisley garden collecting from now so, if you see us on one of your visits, please stop and talk to us - we’d love to tell you about our work and about how you can apply for RHS seeds.

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