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Lupinus perennis (perennial lupine)


I learned some amazing things about lupine tonight, after I decided I wanted to harvest the seed pods and began by doing some preparatory reading, mainly in the book N got for me in Stockholm, Wisconsin on our family vacation last year. (Flowers: A Guide for Your Garden by Ippolito Pizzetti and Henry Cocker, published in 1975 by Abrams and, I believe, out of print, a two volume set with gorgeous color plates, slipcased, just a beautiful book! And super informative.)

So lupine spread really easily and in a way it’s completely unnecessary for me to save the seeds – in fact, I already have some volunteers popping up right now. However, I’m really into seed saving and starting: I love the whole process of watching a plant grow from a tiny seed into a complete plant, producing its own seeds containing the potential to become their own complete plants, so to me not saving seeds is starting to become an unthinkable thing to me if I’m able to. Everything a plant needs to sustain life is in one seed, which has always kind of blown my mind since I was first getting into biology in high school. As a gardener, it’s extremely satisfying to encourage plant growth to happen and to watch every stage of one complete life cycle, sometimes even enjoying delicious edible offerings as that cycle nears one stage of completion.

Lupine spreads easily, but it dislikes having its root system disturbed, since the plant sends down a long tap root and becomes quite happily situated right where it is, a rare perennial that resents being transplanted (and probably the reason why the lupine mom dug out of her garden to plant in ours died). For me, that’s one reason to try and start new plants by seed, since when it comes to flowers I’m quite lazy, spending most of my gardening energy with the fruits and veggies. I’d probably miss the crucial stage when the volunteer is ready to go and kill it, so while I’m sure I’ll be trying that eventually, it’s nice to know I might have the seeds as a backup. We have a lot of grass we’re not fond of, so I have lots of space I want to fill. Right now I have plans of putting some in the front where the peach tree was so I can just let them go crazy and still plant massive sunflowers amidst them in the summer; since they spread easily, I theoretically won’t mind if some of the lupines get irritated with the sunflowers and perform poorly. I’m also envisioning them along the ceder fence by the driveway.

I’m also excited to possibly try them as a green manure cover crop on the veggie plot – lupines belong to the pea family, meaning they make a GREAT soil improver!! My most favorite fact learned about lupines this evening. Legumes are one of the only family of plants that restore nutrients to the soil, namely nitrogen, and will therefore leave the soil in a better state than if nothing had grown there at all. Right now I’m leaving roughly an eighth of the veggie plot unplanted (except for some stray calendula I can’t bear to kill) in order to make sure the soil rests – my plan is to rotate that area each year and plant squash near it, which can trail along the unused area. But if I can plant that with lupine each year! Gorgeous!

One reason I read that gardeners choose not to save lupine seeds is that since the plants cross pollinate so freely the color of the children might not be true to the mother you took the seeds from, so if that matters, you’re better off taking cuttings. Since it doesn’t matter, to me, I’ll just start planting seeds in the fall, once I’ve had time to think about where I want them, since despite their apparent free, easy reputation, they are also very loyal to one garden area.

I started collecting seeds tonight, taking them all from the purple lupine.

purple lupine, 17 may 2012

purple lupine, 20 june 2012

It’s recommended to wait until the seed pods turn brown and then check – lupine seeds start out white and will darken with age, turning black or brown and hard when they’re ready for harvesting.

purple lupine, 20 june 2012

lupine pod and seeds

However if you wait too long, some seeds may drop – I found the driest pods I opened had the fewest seeds and that’s probably where some of the volunteers came from. I also clipped the stalks that weren’t totally ready to satisfy the scientific enquirer within me – some I harvested and will see if the green seeds get dark and hard, some I left in their pods and hung upside down to dry in the back door with some of the lavender. The rest I’ll plant in autumn, perhaps on the equinox since I harvested them on the solstice.


From → lupine, Seed Saving

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