Here’s How You Can Improve Your Own Garden Plants

Select Your Own Flowers and Vegetables To Save

Doug Green
Oct 22 · 4 min read

I wanted to make a few points about plant selection in your own garden. This is not only for a few advanced gardeners but rather, it’s for every gardener out there.

Better Perennials

I want you to imagine you have Aquilegia in your garden. This is a self-sowing sweetheart that … well, let’s just say it’s promiscuous and self-sows everywhere it can. And like all flowers, there are a few really good blooms that emerge from the seeds and a few duds

When I see a dud (a flower I don’t like) in my garden, I dig it up, weed it out immediately. I don’t allow it to set seed and give me even more duds. I only allow the plants I want to mature and set seed

And yes, I’ve watched garden visitors have mini panic attacks when they see me yank an offending plant. But it’s either a good plant I want in my garden or it’s gone.

Aquilegia bertolonii
Aquilegia bertolonii
Aquilegia bertolonii Image Doug Green

This small Aquilegia (Columbine) above is a perfect kind of plant for collecting and saving seed. They’ll cross breed quickly and easily and you’ll never know what colour or size you’ll get. (And yes, it does make it rather interesting if you’re trying to keep the plant and its offspring without any crossbreeding.)

Better Vegetables

This is true for all plants. Mayo (my better half and an heirloom seed expert) has been selecting some of the tomatoes we grow for earliness as well as the more traditional characteristics of the variety. Over a few years, we’ll have a somewhat earlier strain of these plants.

The nice part of this is we get to both save the seeds and eat the tomatoes.

Tomato ‘Yellow Mortgage Lifter’
Tomato ‘Yellow Mortgage Lifter’
Tomato ‘Yellow Mortgage Lifter’

The original ‘Mortgage Lifter’ tomato is a lovely red tomato. (Note, I haven’t checked any genetics on this plant — it was given to us under this name from a seed exchange.)

Better Flowers Too

Think of all the self-sowing plants you might have (hollyhocks, lupines, digitalis, etc) and then start doing the same thing.

  • Pick the colors you really like, allow those to set seed.
  • Dig out the others as soon as you decide you don’t like them. Or cut off the flower stalks as soon as the flowers start to fade/wither so they can’t set seed.
  • Over the years, more and more you’ll get the color of plant you really like.

Hybrid plants do produce seed but that seed will not ‘come true’ and give you another plant that resembles the mother plant.

You can save the seed but you’ll simply get different looking plants. Some might be better than the mother, but the odds are the majority will be lesser quality plants.

The news here is there’s little point in saving seed from those fancy plants you lust over in the garden centre. But if you’re like most gardeners, you’ll just have to try anyway.

In My Own Garden

maple seedling
maple seedling

The picture above is volunteer maple seedlings in one of my flower beds

It’s red before any of the other seedlings. I’m saving some of them as well because I want some more maples around the property but this one was given special treatment and planted into my micro-nursery bed.

But just because it’s red before the others doesn’t make it a great tree. It may not repeat this performance next year. It may be a really slow grower or .. well, it could have a lot of things wrong with it.

But for now, it turned red first, well before the others and this might make it special in the garden

And it’s the “mights” that gardeners get to dream on. 🙂

(Update on the seedling — it was eaten by voles in winter ’19. It was a nice try but… Sigh.)

Pick some of your own plants — you’ll never know what you’ll get unless you try.

Check out the other garden solutions on my Amazon ebook list here.(Note I get a small affiliate payment when you buy my ebooks or use links on this site.)

Doug Greens Garden

A practical organic gardening resource helping you have a better garden

Doug Green

Written by

Former nurseryman, now writer and curious about what’s over the next hill and how to get there in either my Triumph Spitfire or sailboat.

Doug Greens Garden

A practical organic gardening resource helping you have a better garden

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade