Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.

Making the most of my RHS Membership with a visit to the partner garden – The Sussex Prairie Garden

I remember seeing the Sussex Prairie Garden on Gardeners’ World in 2015 but had managed to forget it was on my ‘to visit list’. We had a spare afternoon when visiting family in Surrey so made the short trip to West Sussex.

This eight-acre garden focuses on prairie-style plants planted in large drifts through sweeping borders. The site is flat and it has wide grass paths for wheelchair accessible viewing. They have a cafe and terrace on site.

How to find the garden

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Where to find the garden

We took the A24 south from Horsham and onto the A272 where the brown tourist signs start. There’s free parking in a field adjacent to the site.

Useful information

Website: www.sussexprairies.co.uk

Entry Fee: Free for RHS members. £7 for adults with some concessions.

Opening Days and Times: Open 6 afternoons a week (closed Tuesday) 1pm -5pm

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Bendy straws of sanguisorba species

Main Features

  • Main garden with large borders
  • Cutting Garden
  • Tea Shop
  • Terrace
  • House Garden
  • Art Installations
  • Pigs!

Main Garden

The large open site at Sussex Prairie Garden is really impressive. We visited in the late afternoon in September which must be a peak for the garden. The sun was low and lit the borders beautifully. Most of the plants were in full display and the tapestry of colour and texture was a masterclass in prairie planting.

I like this style of planting due to its naturalistic feel and benefit to wildlife. It was popularised in the late 90s by Piet Oudolf and has since become mainstream.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.

Looking back towards the cafe terraceWhilst the borders are wide and generously planted, there are narrower bark paths traversing them so you can get right inside the planting. This makes you feel enclosed and part of the garden. A very neat trick as it’s easy to feel that some gardens are tableaux to be simply observed and not experienced.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Narrow bark paths take you into the wide borders

Garden Structure

Any loose style of planting can appear lacking without a good structure to contain it. I loved the structural elements of the garden for the formality they brought but also as great examples of planting and maintenance. These three Betula trees provide a steady rhythm to the scene and this tree was also repeated throughout the garden.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Betula trees planted for structure

The hedges could have been left as rectangular boxes but the heights varied as you went down the central axis. This made them function as backdrop, concealer and framer all at the same time.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Tapering hedges form structure in the garden
Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Ornamental grasses mimic the line of the hedges.

Key Plant Highlights

There’s always a few new plants to discover when visiting gardens. This time my eye was caught by Sidalca for the first time. This tall and airy plant provided contrast to some of the other, denser, specimens.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Sidalcia ‘My love’

I was amazed to find that this startlingly bright plant was herbaceous. I had assumed it was a semi-tender tree. Apparently, it’s native to America, as are so many of the prairie plants.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Phytolacca americana
American pokeweed

I have a similar Eryngium in my garden but this species has a more upright basal cluster and smaller, more numerous, flowering clusters.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Eryngium pandanifolium forming strong silhouettes

Another bright pink shock amongst the planting was this Meadowsweet relative.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Filipendula rubra, a pink relative of our native Meadowsweet.

I like Rudbeckia, not being one for the common aversion to yellow and orange in a garden, but I have become tired of reading about Goldsturm. My eyes almost glaze over when I see it listed as a recommended plant. Having seen it in this context and planted en masse I might have been converted. I’ve recently sown some Rudbeckia maxima for the garden but if I need a lower growing type it will have to be Goldsturm.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’

Art in the garden

Art installations in gardens don’t often catch my interest much, there are plants to be seen after all, and the garden hosts a variety of classes and exhibitions that were placed amongst the borders.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
The late sun lights the borders

 

I’ll be sure to make the trip to Sussex Prairie Garden again in the future, now I know where it is, but it would be good to see it at another time of year to assess how well the planting holds interest in other months.

Other Garden Visit Posts

RHS Wisley

Melbourne Botanic Garden

Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons

Gardens by the bay, Singapore

 

Blackberries

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The first nip in the air signals a change of season and the start of the blackberry harvest

The turning of the year as we travel through the seasons was a huge factor in pulling us back to the UK. The recent change in the weather, with its wonderful chilly bright mornings and nippy evenings, has warmed my heart. Whilst the other seasons have their appeal I can’t love them half as much as I love Autumn.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Blackberries

Autumn is our season. The most potent memories of the last ten years with my wife belong to this time of year. It is the season of our wedding, of our first kiss, and of our first meeting. It also marks the onset of a series of celebrations and birthdays stretching all the way to Christmas.

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Mollie our Golden Retriever enjoys a foray into the green lanes

I am not a summer child; the sight of me in shorts should be enough to banish any misunderstanding on that matter. Instead, I am happiest in warm jumpers, walking boots, and damp woodland. Days spent walking the dog under a tree canopy are my favourite. Also at this time of year comes the bounty of hedgerow harvests. Already this year I have Crabapple Vodka and Sloe Gin steeping in the larder, all collected from the hedgerows and trees around our village. The other important harvest of the season is blackberries.

This year I read Alys Fowler’s book on foraging and I’m making an effort to note the harvest when it presents itself. Already this year I have Crabapple Vodka and Sloe Gin steeping in the larder, all collected from the hedgerows and trees around our village. The other important harvest of the season is blackberries.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
A view over the Devon hills

Blackberries

I think the ritual of blackberry collecting, bound up as it is in the season, might be even better than the fresh berries themselves. I’m working my way through a jar of blackberry and apple jam made 3 years ago which I find infinitely more alluring than the fresh berries. September signals the start of hunting season for blackberries.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Not all the berries ripen at the same time

So, with my jumper on for the first time since moving home, we ascend a local hill to find the best berries. Jewel-like berries gleam from the yellowing hedgerow senescence. The bunches of berries carry both mature and immature fruits. The rule of foraging that states you only take a third of the crop you find (the other two-thirds being left for wild animals and someone else) reinforced by the plant itself.

The light prickling on skin reminds you that no harvest comes for free. This only intensifies the sensory experience. You feel like the proverbial child in the sweetshop picking only the choicest fruits between thumb and forefinger. The idea to bring surgical gloves comes to me as I notice the purple staining on my fingertips, as it does every year but is never remembered.

It’s not long before my cheeks are chilled and the light becomes thinner. It’s time to go home.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Blackberry harvest

Queens Park Botanic Gardens, Toowoomba

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 18

The botanic gardens in Toowoomba are a pleasant stop on a road trip

I’ve been traversing the East Coast of New South Wales, Australia, in a campervan with my wife and our dog. One of the many stops was to visit some relatives living in the West of Brisbane. We spent a day heading into the cooler hinterland where a higher altitude brings a relief from the humid conditions nearer sea-level. The higher, more inland, towns of Australia have a feel much more familiar to us Brits and show a wider range of street trees and historic buildings. Waiting for us there was the unexpected Toowoomba Botanic Garden.

Queens Park Gardens

To the East of the main town centre sits the Queens Park Gardens which contain the botanic gardens, playgrounds and cricket pitches.

The highlights were the mature trees and the fountains.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Vera Lacaze Memorial Fountains

These space-ship fountains looked great in the sun. What’s clever is that they’re all different sizes but that’s not so easy to see from the photo. The largest fountain is closest and they get smaller the further away they get. This clever trick of perspective makes them look like they’re stretching away into the distance. Such a clever design trick I’ll have to remember.

Botanical Gardens

The best thing about botanical gardens, apart from the free day out, is the opportunity to get close to some plants you wouldn’t have space for or may never have come across before.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Wollombi Pine (it lives behind a caged enclosure so I apologise for the interrupted view) 

The Wollombi Pine is an extremely interesting bit of botany of recent times. It was thought to be extinct and to only be found as fossilised samples but was rediscovered by chance in the 90s. Its natural location is a closely guarded secret to avoid people raiding the wild population for plants.  More work is being done to understand the genetics at play to inform research and conservation efforts. You’ve got ancient history, botany, science, conservation all unfolding in our lifetime – what could be better?

toowoomba botanical gardens
Grass Trees in a mixed border

The native grass trees are impressive with their soft fibre-optic-like foliage radiating out from the main stem. It can take 100 years to turn into the tree as it’s so slow growing. It adds an interesting addition to a mixed border.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Castanea sativa – Spanish Chestnut

This Chestnut was a strong impressive specimen just begging for a photo.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Hibiscus tiliaceus – Sea Hibiscus

I always find it funny seeing such large blooms on a tree. A very elegant specimen.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Hibiscus mutabilis – Confederate Rose

This tree looks like a white rose has been on steroids. I had never seen it before.

Other Botanical Garden Visits

Melbourne Botanical Garden

Singapore Botanical Garden

Phuket Botanic Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Bicton Botanical Garden, Devon, UK

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Garden Visit: Kew Gardens

Garden Visit Kew Gardens

A visit to Kew Gardens in November 2016

I have a few posts on the go detailing a trip I took to Thailand and Singapore over the festive season but this may get a little samey. Here are some images of my recent visit to Kew Gardens during my last trip back to the UK in November 2016. I have only previously seen the gardens in January so, although still a winter visit, it was good to see some variety.

How to get there

See www.kew.org for more details directions.

Entry price: £10 for adults with some concessions and membership options

Map showing the location of Kew Gardens
Map showing the location of Kew Gardens

The gardens are located in the west of Greater London. We drove there from nearby Surrey and parked along Kew Road which is free during the day on weekdays. There are some parking spaces available inside the gardens. There is the Kew Gardens underground station which is a short walk away and plenty of buses serving the area.

 

The Palmhouse

Kew Gardens, UK
Tropical planting in the world-famous glasshouse

 

The Temperate glasshouses was under some maintenance when we visited but there were plenty still open to enjoy. We watched an informative short film medley under the Princess of Wales Conservatory about the life-cycle of bees which feature a lot in the garden at the moment.

The Hive

The Hive at Kew Gardens
The Hive at Kew Gardens

The main installation present at our visit was The Hive. It was constructed in metal and linked with a living hive. You were supposed to watch the lights flickering in time with the activity in the real hive but this wasn’t working when we visited.

The Treetop Walkway

Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens
Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens

The newest part of the garden wasn’t there when I last visited and it was exceptionally exciting. You walk up the stairs onto the elevated walkway and stroll through the canopy of the trees. As the sun was setting it was a beautifully serene part of the day. There is a lift if you are physically unable to climb the stairs (or if you’re a lazy teenager apparently).

It’s nice to see such an old institution striving to introduce new elements of the garden. This one really adds to the already rich variety of displays and gardens.

Vegetable and Plant Family Gardens

I’m a bit of a organiser so I always enjoy a botanical garden with orderly displays. The plant family garden groups plants that are related to each other botanically into the same beds to enable comparisons and learning for the students. The vegetable garden is also a place where the students get to learn and it was looking pristine for the time of year. I’m so jealous of them!

Vegetable garden at Kew
Vegetable garden at Kew
Cosmos flowering in the vegetable garden at Kew
Cosmos flowering in the vegetable garden at Kew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally..

I got my first chance to see the broad border walk after getting a glimpse on a TV gardening program (I can’t remember which one at the moment but it’ll come to me – I’m too young for a senior moment!).

I new plant I had never seen before was lounging casually along a pergola near the toilets. Vitis doaniana is a lovely little climber with a very unusual metalic-teal coloured ‘grape’.

Vitis doaniana at Kew Gardens
Vitis doaniana at Kew Gardens

Garden Visit – Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

GARDEN VISIT Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

To celebrate the birthday of my lovely wife we decided to treat ourselves to a mini break whilst we were visiting the UK.

We chose Oxford and The Cotswolds, primarily due to the location of a few notable gardens and a long-term desire to spend the night at Raymond Blanc’s famous hotel.

How to get there

It’s an easy drive from London on the M40 and a 10 minute trip out of Oxford to get to the gardens. We were staying the night so were able to explore the gardens in the evening and first thing in the morning. The grand gates signal that you’ve arrived outside the hotel but you have to get very close to be able to read the golden signs clearly. I drove past this entrance twice!!

Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

The Highlights

For me the best parts of the garden were the potager / greenhouse area and the Old Orchard which has recently been redesigned by Chris Beardshaw with perennial underplanting.

 

List of Gardens

 

  • English Water Garden
  • Orchard
  • Old Orchard
  • Japanese Garden with Tea House
  • Polytunnels
  • Mushroom Valley
  • Herb Garden
  • Vegetable Garden / Potager

The Vegetable Garden

Walking around the quiet vegetable garden as the sun went down was a highlight of our recent visit back to the UK. We could smell the open fires burning and the air was crisp and cool. A perfect dry winter day. The paths are easy to traverse and the display of world-class productive gardening was impressive.

Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Winter Squashes seasoning in the greenhouse
Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Clay cloches / forcing jars lining the gravel path in the potager.

 

I spent a long time exploring the greenhouse shown below. I’ve taken the details to furnish my imaginary future garden. At this time of year they had a wide variety of chillies and peppers still producing in the sheltered environment. Also, as seen above, were the winter squashes seasoning.

 

Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Can anyone say greenhouse envy?

 

The Orchard

At the furthest point of the grounds, on the other side of the main car park, you’ll find the new orchard. This is a fantastic display of over 800 varieties of fruit. The gardener encouraged us to take an apple to try with no hesitation. They were beautiful.

Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons Garden Visit - Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

 

 

 

The Old Orchard

 

GARDEN VISIT Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
A view through the old orchard at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons underplanted with perennial beds designed by Chris Beardshaw.

 

The most popular twitter post I’ve ever had came from this image of Chris Beardshaw’s perennial planting design under the old Orchard. It is a magical area of the garden. I wish I could have spent more time sitting in there but it was dinner time and needs must.

 

How to visit the garden

 

One way to get access to the garden is to spend the night at the hotel. For those on a more sensible budget you can join one of the garden group tours which run regularly during the year. I haven’t done this tour but for Thirty Pounds and tea and biscuits included it would definitely be worth the money.

Autumn colours

autumn flowering cherry (prunus autumnalis)

Autumn Colours

Now you may be confused with the photo above given the title of this post. My ornamental cherry certainly is. It’s decided to start showing off its spring show a little prematurely and scupper my plans to show off the great autumn colours I have in my garden. It’s my favourite time of year and I’m starting to introduce more and more plants to celebrate it. The stars of the show are two Acer palmatum’s that I bought in the wonderful Cross Common Nursery in Cornwall. Due to moving house (over the period of 3 months this time last year), these trees were being kindly looked after by a friend so we missed the show. I’m really pleased to see it for the first time this year.

Acer palmatum
Acer palmatum
Autumn Colour acer palmatum
Autumn colour Acer palmatum

 

Best laid plans

I was planning on including an image of a new introduction to my garden, a fantastic Cercidiphyllum japonicum that I excitedly brought back from the equally wonderful Endsleigh Gardens Nursery this October. However, the leaves decided they’d race to the ground so I missed the show.

If my garden won’t behave and provide me with seasonal images to furnish this post then I’ll rely on my local woodland. We’ve had a perfect sunny autumnal day with golden sunlight and clear blue skies. The dogs love these woods and so do I.

Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum)
Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum)
Field maple showing the best yellow autumn colours
Field maple showing the best yellow autumn colours
Teasel
Teasel

 

And inspired by a recent post by Lottie Land Girl I’m finishing this with my feet.

My new blog image
My new blog image

Chinese Lanterns

www.mypottingbenchblog.com/chinese-lanterns

Chinese Lanterns

I’m really pleased with my Chinese Lanterns. This year I installed some new planters outside the front of the cottage. We decided on rustic animal feeders as they gave the most authentic look at a ridiculously cheap price. The standard planters for sale on the internet were all coming in at over £400 each! I managed to get my 2 feeding troughs for £70 at a local agricultural supply shop. I was looking for plants that could cope with hot and dry conditions at the southern-facing front of the house and saw an opportunity to grow these autumn classics.

 

Plant profile

Latin Name: Physalis alkekengi

Common Names: Chinese Lanterns, winter cherry 

Origin: South Eastern Europe and Asia 

Family: Solanaceae 

Grows: 40-60cm tall 

 

Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) in a large planter
Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) in a large planter
Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) seedheads. The berries become more obvious as the papery seedhead breaks down.
Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) seedheads. The berries become more obvious as the papery seedhead breaks down.
Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) seedhead close up. The fine lace webbing on show.
Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) seedhead close up. The fine lace webbing on show.

I’ve heard they can be invasive in an open garden but I’ve got them contained so that shouldn’t be a problem. However, I couldn’t resist the fruits hanging in their gorgeous lacy sacks. My propagating fingers started twitching. With the help of the fantastic Real Seeds website I’ve collected, fermented, rinsed and dried the seeds ready for sowing in spring.

How to collect and prepare the seeds

Extract the pulp from the fruits
Extract the pulp from the fruits
Extract the pulp from the fruits
You can see the seeds in the pulp 
Mix with cool clean water
Mix with cool clean water
Sieve the pulp and seed mixture
Sieve the pulp and seed mixture
Place on a flat surface to dry - separate the seeds as much as possible
Place on a flat surface to dry – separate the seeds as much as possible
Leave the plate out to dry before packaging up in some dry seed envelopes
Leave the plate out to dry before packaging up in some dry seed envelopes

I’ll do an update next spring. Only 3 of the seeds floated when being rinsed which suggests there are a good few viable ones in there.