germinating citrus

Selective Seed Saving – For Now and Later

Yellow flower Indian Summer Rudbeckia

What we all hope for from our sprouted seed is a beautiful flower or vegetable. Copyright image by Frank Nyikos, all rights reserved.

Everyone expects to grow beautiful flowers and fresh yummy vegetables. Some grow in elaborate landscapes while others prefer a more casual garden. Whichever personal method you practice, being able to grow your cherished plants year after year means you will eventually discover the joy from collecting, saving, storing and stratifying your own seed.

There are many reasons to become a Seed Saver. Some have emotional reasons that include growing plants your family enjoyed growing. Other gardeners will desire to be frugal. After all, collected seed usually only requires your time and very little materials which you probably already have on hand. Some will like producing their own strains that experimental gardeners find challenging. No matter the reason, seed saving is a simple process anyone can do. The oldest commercial seed company is less than 200 hundred years old. Our ancestors routinely saved and swapped seed. You can too.

Where Do You Start?

Tag flowers

Tag with something large and bright enough those flowers you want so you can find the plant or flower at harvest time. Copyright image by Frank Nyikos, all rights reserved.

It’s always best to start at the beginning. Locate a plant type for which you wish to save seed. Next locate a particular plant, a few of the best should be your goal. This may seem to be a no-brainer, but there is considerable logic to support this simple fact.

If you were a vegetable farmer, your interest is in providing the best vegetables possible for sale. You would weed out or eat the inferior examples to provide ample room for the best plants to sell. Chances are you will sell the very best. You will keep examples that come close to the very best for seed.

Some annuals allow you to save the very best plants while cutting select flowers for sale or enjoyment at the same time. In this case you will want to tag particular plants you find produce exceptional flowers. You may be tempted to use something that doesn’t draw too much attention such as white cotton string or wire bread bag ties. The problem with these is that they become invisible quickly. Use something brightly colored and a bit larger. White paper tags with attached thread strings work well. The little square of white helps identify the plant when it is time to harvest the seed. A brightly colored slip tie plastic plant label is even better.

Seed Ripening

Unattractive ripening seed heads

Only save as many seed heads as you need. Sometimes a large collection of ripening seed heads can be unattractive. Copyright image by Frank Nyikos, all rights reserved.

Letting a plant have the time for the seed to ripen may be a concern. Some gardeners can’t stand plants once the flower has faded. They just have to deadhead. Seed savers must leave spent flowers in place. The length of time for mature seed can be as short as a few weeks to most of the summer. This can present a visual situation.

Often only a few maturing flowers will be needed depending on how many plants one wishes to grow next season. Considerably more seed is produced (usually) in just a few flowers than most need for next season. You won’t have to keep that whole patch of maturing plants with spent bloom. Keep more the first few seasons until you learn just how much is enough.

When to Harvest

Belamcanda seed head

These are Belamcanda seed heads ripening mid summer. These aren’t ready until the pods turn brown. Copyright image by Frank Nyikos, all rights reserved.

Seed pod split Cleome

Cleome seed pods split open when the seed is ripe. Copyright image by Frank Nyikos, all rights reserved.










Learning when to harvest is an experience that has to be developed. Each plant seems to have its own time table and method of letting the gardener know when the seed is ready. Lettuce will let you know, because little fluffy parachutes pop out to disperse the seed. Daylily pods will turn brown and split open. You need to act quickly when you see this. The seed will fall and scatter from daylily pods when they split open. Bean pods will turn brown and hard. Tomato seed is ready when you desire to have one with your salad for dinner. Cucumbers get large, turn yellow and are often mooshy when you have to open them for their seed.

There just isn’t any one way to learn when your seed will be ready to harvest. Some will be obvious. Some will have societies devoted to the genus like daylilies, hostas, daffodils and many other popularly grown plants. Their web sites can help.

Watch wildlife. Some of the compound flowers, like Rudbeckia, Echinacia and more have birds that like to feed on ripe seed. When you discover them feeding, act quickly or they will eat all your seed. Hopefully you will be conscientious and keep extra to ripen for them.

Drying and Storing

Lettuce seed heads drying

Lettuce seed heads drying in a large paper bag waiting to be separated prior to storage. Copyright image by Frank Nyikos, all rights reserved.

Once you have collected your seed you may have to process them for storage. Many are still not dry completely. Their moisture content is too high. A high moisture content encourages mold and decay. Perhaps this will help you to understand why farmers wait well into fall before harvesting their corn on a bright clear dry day. The economic cost of air drying their harvest is quite expensive. Harvesting when the crop is at peak moisture content reduces additional cost.

Store your collected stems with seed pods in large paper bags for several weeks until you have a chance to separate the seed from the old plant material. Winnowing may be necessary. A slight breeze, a quick puff of breath or a slow speed fan will help with this. Finding a mesh strainer that has the right size holes means saving even more time with this process.

Some plants allow you to collect seed without much extra plant material. It is easy to collect seed such as Cleome or Canna or 4 O’Clock. You will still need to have these dry in open containers several weeks.

Stratifying Your Seed

Flower lavender Cleome

“Ghost” Cleome flower created after years of selective seed saving. The pale lavender flowers offer a new look to an old flower. Copyright image by Frank Nyikos, all rights reserved.

Your next concern will be where to store your seed to encourage them to sprout. Natural weather patterns frequently include a cold season or a dry season. Some seed must be compromised before germination can proceed. This will prove to be your greatest challenge. Fortunately our modern society has quick and easy access to information on the internet. Knowing the native habitat for a plant will help immensely.

There is a faster way to test for cold storage. Simply take and portion out your seed. You will need to portion at least in half, though more portions will let you experiment with varying times in cold storage. Some seed need to experience a period of cold before they will sprout. Your refrigerator will be sufficient to provide the necessary conditions.

Not all seed need a cold period. Most vegetable and many common annual flowers don’t need a cold period. They do need to be kept dry, however. Storing in the house where you live works well. Basements, crawl spaces and most garage locations are often too damp. Seed is designed to absorb moisture. Too much moisture encourages spoilage, or even germination.


Testing at least half your collected seed at room temperature and half after a long period of cold storage will let you know which method is most effective for maximum seed germination.

Some seed must be compromised to germinate. This means the seed coat must be opened to allow moisture inside. My favorite example is the Bird of Paradise. Seed from this tropical flower are small very shiny round balls with a brilliant orange Mohawk. The Mohawk allows the seed to float in water. As it washes along in the water, the bottom of the seed scrapes in gritty soil. Soon a small patch is scraped open, allowing water to reach the sleeping embryo.

The most difficult to germinate are those seed where a chemical unlocks the seed coat. Consider soaking in a hydrochloric acid solution those seeds frequently foraged by animals. Small fruit comes to mind. These fruit are first eaten by herbivores and then spend a long winter resting in a natural fertilizer until spring warmth and rain let the seed know it is time to grow. This can be quite challenging to copy, so most advanced gardeners may discourage you trying this until you are quite skilled.

Benefits of Seed Saving

Within a few years of seed saving, you will be able to isolate and encourage particular qualities. Some people prefer a family Heirloom Tomato. A somewhat recent Bell Pepper was discovered and then mass produced from a variety grown by a woman that produced exceptionally large sweet fruit. By saving seed, you can soon have plants you like that may be unavailable through commercial companies.

There is a drawback to selective seed saving. If you want to encourage a particular plant aspect, you will have to limit growing others that could potentially cross-pollinate. Significant distance must be established between closely-related plants. So if you choose to grow and specialize in a particular type of Pepper, then you will want to only grow that one kind, unless there is considerable distance between them and another variety.

Spiky red flower Celosia

Another form Celosia can take is a “Spiky” version using selective seed saving. Copyright image by Frank Nyikos, all rights reserved.

Red flower Celosia

“Brain” Celosia flower is just one form Celosia can take. To avoid cross pollination with the “Spiky” version keep them well separated.Copyright image by Frank Nyikos, all rights reserved.

Seed Saving: Fun and Easy

Seed saving is a lot of fun. Identifying plants you want to grow next season is the first step. This is the most fun part. It is fun to watch and evaluate pretty flowers and tasty vegetables. Next is harvesting ripe seed. These often need to be cleaned and dried thoroughly. Storage until next season may include one or more ways to let seed know it is time to germinate. This is known as stratifying. It can include a period of cold storage or some physical compromise to the seed coat that lets the embryo know it is time to grow. Whatever the method, while seed saving may seem intimidating, it is really quite easy – and enjoyable. 

Shady sideyard with vertical gardens.

Growing a Living Wall: Create Vertical Gardens with Purpose

Grow a Living Wall Book Cover

Grow a Living Wall: Create Vertical Gardens with Purpose expands the role of growing plants upward. Copyright image courtesy of Cool Springs Press, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Shawna Coronado packed her new garden book with planting ideas for making wise use of the vertical space gardeners covet.

In Grow a Living Wall: Create Vertical Garden with Purpose, the Midwestern author forsakes the traditional espalier and common cotton thread strung top to bottom to explore techniques and tools available to us in the twenty-first century

Grow a Living Wall: Create Vertical Garden with Purpose is a good resource for a spectrum of gardener-types, no matter your experience growing plants. The book contains a myriad of hardscape designs that will work with a plethora of plant collections.

The countless ideas in this softcover book offer inspiration to grow plants that have flair for that up and out habit. The book is worthwhile to keep in easy reach of your garden shelf, whether you live in an urban concrete setting or wide-open rural canvas; for whether you want to grow plants as a feast to satisfy your stomach or to satisfy your eyes.

Placing Vertical Structures in Many Garden Styles

Shady sideyard with vertical gardens.

Vertical structures expand a shady sideyard upward with ferns and moss plants. Copyright image courtesy of Shawna Coronado, used with permission. All rights reserved.

In Grow a Living Wall, the chapter titles are an insightful journey into the varied types of gardens plant-lovers grow and the plants available to us for a vertical space.

The author’s plant choices seemed all too common, but you will be pleasantly surprised by the inventive structures and unexpected location ideas she throws at you page after page.

Herb plants are found mixing it up in a predictable vertical space on a patio in the Herbal Cocktail Garden.

The beloved culinary plants then take higher roads: into the Therapeutic Hanging Garden, in an Aromatherapy Garden planter for a door, for a wall planter called Insulate-a-Wall Garden used to save energy and reduce noise in a backyard, and, then, turns back into the Vitamin-Rich Culinary Garden for vegetables and herbs that is a traditional kitchen garden style arrangement of sorts that grows vertical.

The Hydroponic Pollinator Garden begins with a kit of frames and hydroponic inserts. Coronado suggests standard flowering annuals like alyssum, lantana, or verbena to attract pollinators. Small herbs appear again, too, for their easy-to-plug size that fit the kit’s predrilled holes.

Gardeners can transform the Urban Water-saving Garden system, suggested for vegetables and herbs, into a garden to attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds in Grow a Living Wall, too.

Shade Pallet Vertical Garden

Shade pallet instructions explain how to fill in the garden soil. Copyright image courtesy of Shawna Coronado, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Do-It-Yourself Project Make Living Wall Out of Growing Plants Up

Coronado includes many do-it-yourself projects along-side the long list of manufactured systems in writing about her vertical gardens. Each “How-to-Build” directions page has a “Tools Needed” cutout.

The full color photos accompany the directions and incorporate some images of the author demonstrating the steps, as well.

You will discover vertical gardens that one can make from fabric pockets, old bookcases, old wooden pallets, and a mason-jar project for planting aromatic herbs.

In Grow a Living Wall, the structural ideas to make a vertical garden will grab your attention first. The plants you choose to grow in the containers will put your personal mark and make your garden project all your own.

Shawna Coronado

Shawna Coronado is a garden writer and photographer. Copyright image courtesy of Shawna Coronado, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Illinois Garden Writer Shawna Coronado

Shawna Coronado shared with Decoded Plants: “One of my favorite practical living wall gardens in the United States can be found at the Atlanta Botanic Garden; it is an edible vertical wall filled with herbs and deliciousness. I love the project’s theme of ‘edible gardening’ and can imagine the herbs smell absolutely divine when you’re near the garden.”

Coronado has evolved from her native Chicago and the neighborhoods, where she interacted with fellow gardeners, into a well-traveled author and professional photographer.

She is now a spokesperson for green life-style living. That this Illinois gardener can speak with enthusiasm about a vertical wall at Atlanta Botanic Garden is testimony to her travels and knowledge of vertical gardening around the United States, though she always returns to her Midwest roots.

Coronado has been published in a collection of garden books that include Indiana Getting Started Garden Guide and Illinois Getting Started Garden Guide. Her garden has been featured beyond Grow a Living Wall, on PBS television and WGN TV News and her writings also published in Better Homes and Gardens and HGTV

Grow Living Walls with a New Garden Book

Vertical Garden

Vertical planter by Gronomics incorporates hosing for an irrigation system. Copyright image courtesy of Shawna Coronado, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Shawna Coronado authored Grow a Living Wall: Create Vertical Gardens with Purpose, which Cool Springs Press published in 2015. The press is an imprint of the Quarto Publishing Group.

Pages at the back of Grow a Living Wall offer resources to readers, as well. The Contributors and the Online Product Resources pages are a list of manufacturer names and websites for products used in the book.

The garden book covers man-made structures used in a variety of garden situations where you want to make use of vertical space. Though the list of plant names in the Index suggests a variety of choices, gardeners, especially newer growers, will benefit from using this resource alongside a plant book.

The Conversions page is an excellent tool for anyone building their own structures.
Sprinkled throughout this garden book is information on soil and compost, watering, and aspects of garden maintenance for portable gardening structure.

Vertical garden for balcony.

Free standing vertical garden system for a balcony outside or covered patio. Copyright image courtesy of Shawna Coronado, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Expand Your Garden by Growing Vertical

Gardeners have been growing gardens vertically as far back as the hanging gardens of Babylon. Vertical gardens made footprints we still see today in eons-old urban cities along bricked roads. The modest hardscape cutouts gave scant places for growing plants outside.

Today, whether gardeners use modern cutout gardens for plants growing up or for letting plants hang down, the key to growing the most plants in the same amount of ground is to take advantage of the above space, too.

Grow a Living Wall: Create Vertical Gardens with Purpose is a collection of modern techniques for assembling plants onto living walls that sit above the ground.

The ideas between the book’s covers will give you new ideas to infuse into your landscape no matter how modest or expansive your garden might already be.

The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden by Roy Diblik: A Book Review

The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden book is a good choice for perennial gardeners who live in the Midwest.  Copyright image courtesy of Timber Press, used with permission.

The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden book is a good choice for gardeners who live in the Midwest. Copyright image courtesy of Timber Press, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Midwest plantsman Rob Diblik offers help to grow a well-knitted garden in his new garden book, The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden. In this book, Diblik compiles color-keyed garden plans and perennial plants on descriptive pages – offering a well-written, informative read for the perennial gardener.

Diblik wrote The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden for people who love gardening, but want to learn about perennials that will amicably grow and rub elbows with each other in a Midwestern setting.

The author notes that it is in the “knowing” of what a gardener plants that caring for a garden over the long haul becomes easier to maintain.

Perennial plants are ornamental plants, which act as ground covers or grow tall in a landscape, that die back and return year after year. As much as you might want perennial plants to come with instructions that say, “low maintenance,” that tag-line frequently implies too much optimism, eventually translating to unacceptable amounts of bare spots and dead plants in a planting bed.

Diblik’s Version of Easy-Care Gardens

Early in his book, Roy Diblik covers the minutiae of growing conditions and chores gardeners face. The author tackles siting planting beds around both newly constructed homes and where gardeners are rejuvenating old landscapes; Diblik fully explains his well-practiced techniques.

Long-time gardeners are in for a thorough review, and new gardeners will find refreshing advice; no matter where you are on the spectrum of garden experience, the many nuggets of information will yield a higher return of enjoyment out of your gardens.

Allium and Echinacea

Allium ‘Summer Beauty’ and Echinacea ‘Pixie Meadowbrite’ bloom in the middle of the growing season. Copyright image courtesy of Jill Selinger, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Reminders range from watering perennials while still in their pots and breaking up lower roots just after un-potting, before planting in the ground; tried-and-true method of using newspaper and leaf compost to kill sod where you want a planting bed placed; and suppressing weeds and ridding the landscape of this unwanted vegetation.

The author calls attention to the Canada thistle, field bindweed, and quackgrass, and is a preview to the weeds in the care and maintenance chapter. He explains how they grow and how tackling weeds reduces garden chores.

Perennial Plants and Garden Plans

You will not find hardiness zones listed with each plant description as is traditionally done in other plant books. Diblik describes the perennials’ acceptable hardiness range as fitting into the northern half of the United States: covering northern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin, north into Minnesota, east into New York, west into Iowa and south into Missouri.

For gardeners who like the numbers – most of the plants are hardy into zones 4 and 5 with a smaller group in 3 and as far south as zones 8 and 9.

The plant pages cover the usual flower and foliage descriptions, their mature sizes, and bloom times. I found Diblik’s “First Date” an unexpected treat, which gives readers a percentage to measure against for mingling a two-plant combination.

Carex and Allium in Autumn

Colors from Carex flacca and Allium angulosum ‘Summer Beauty’ in autumn show a well-knitted garden. Copyright image courtesy of Roy Diblik, used with permission. All rights reserved.

The garden plans section start with layouts divided between sun and shade. Diblik made the grids to fit planting beds that measure 10 x 14 feet, but other gardeners can cut these in half for tinier gardens or double a whole plan for a larger landscape.

Of particular interest are the shade plants that are found in woodland gardens; the author lists nine Carex species and, among his garden grids, sedges that drift and mix in low light.

Diblik has said he prefers bulbs that are species and less hybridized; in the plant section is a wide range of Allium and a couple of Narcissus, but other early bulbs are part of the grid plans, too.

Plantsman Roy Diblik

Roy Diblik

Roy Diblik is a plantsman whose Northwind Perennial Farm is in Wisconsin. Copyright image courtesy of Samantha Carlson, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Roy Diblik is a plantsman and garden designer; he has studied plants most of his adult life, eventually leading him to being the inspiration behind Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago. In the beginning, Diblik was an outdoor education teacher in Chicago and moved on to grounds supervisor for St. Charles Park in Illinois.

Diblik is co-owner of Northwind Perennial Farm, a nursery in Burlington, Wisconsin, south and a little west of Milwaukee. The niche plant nursery entices plant lovers and students of horticulture, alike; where visitors can observe Diblik’s plant communities in person.

Diblik is the plantsman who discovered the switchgrass seedling, Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind.’ The ornamental grass provides interesting points during all seasons of the year including fall and winter; as Diblik advises, gardeners should not cut Northwind back until March.

The nine profiles of plant professionals at the end of The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden give readers a greater perspective on what drives Roy Diblik’s brand of gardening. The “folks,” as Diblik calls them, are the gurus of the garden world that he followed from afar or, sometimes both, worked hand-in-glove with over the years.

Christine Nye and the Shedd Aquarium Garden

Christine Nye and the gardens at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago are one of Roy Diblik’s profiles. Copyright image courtesy of Linda Oyama Bryan, used with  permission. All rights reserved.

Northern Gardeners Using Roy Diblik’s Perennial Book

The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden is a 240-page soft cover garden book; Timber Press published it in 2014.

The author has put into his book 62 grid-drawn plans, 72 individual plant profiles, and his garden-tested techniques for growing the landscapes. It teems with 140 color photos of plants and planting beds. The back-of-the-book index is a detailed tool for looking up information and the Recommended Reading page is thorough.

Though not specifically made as a research book with graph paper, the pages offer enough white space for gardeners to make notations among the plants and the plans.

Interested readers may locate The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden using ISBN: 978-1-60469-334-8.

The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden Book

Little Spire and Echinacea

Different stages of blooming Echinacea ‘Virgin’ and the dried seedheads mix with Perovskia atriplicolia ‘Little Spire.’ Copyright image courtesy of Roy Diblik, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Roy Diblik’s The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden may sound familiar to gardeners who follow the plantsman’s work. Small Perennial Gardens: The Know Maintenance Approach was his first go at publishing a book of his plant community combinations, however, in a much smaller format. The plant and garden images were watercolor drawings, and The American Nurseryman published it in 2008.

Now, The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden is out – with more ideas and images that depict Roy Diblik’s designs and philosophies in the garden. For gardeners who live in the northern half of the United States, and who are making landscape plans, Roy Diblik’s book is an excellent resource to use alongside when writing out garden ideas and plant lists.

Roy Diblik’s plant combinations grow into well-knitted perennial gardens that make inspired landscapes for strolling in and throughout your yard.

The Current State of Daylily Social Communication

Shirley's Pick

Shirley’s Pick is a vibrant daylily. Copyright image by Frank Nyikos, all rights reserved.

The E-Mail Robin for the American Hemerocallis Society celebrated its 20th anniversary August 2014. The Robin has been a social, educational and interactive phenomena since decades before Mark Zuckerberg was even born.

The Robin began as an exchange of letters through the postal system at about the same time the American Hemerocallis Society became an official organization in 1946.

It is hard to imagine that the social network involved long periods of time between writing and then responding. These old correspondences are a treasure trove of historical curiosities.

Electronic forums became a popular means to include many members in a mass email grouping. Writing and responding could now happen with the speed of downloading through a dial-up IPS.

In August of 1994, the society opened an email forum, which Tim Fehr moderated; he is still the moderator today. This Robin quickly became popular. It is still so popular that the society has 17 listed E Mail Robins on their website. One list is for Spider lovers, for example. There are lists for other special daylily forms.

Benefits of Joining a Forum

Tim recently responded to some questions from Decoded Plants about this valuable service:

“The biggest benefit is probably expertise and experience within the membership that can be tapped with good questions and while not everyone will agree on the best method, and indeed depending on location and conditions there may be multiple ‘best methods’ to consider and try, but knowing others have had success or failures trying something new or different is worthwhile and can’t have a price put on it.”

Orphans Picnic

Orphans Picnic offers an appealing option for gardeners. Copyright image by Frank Nyikos, all rights reserved.

A key component of this is, of course, members helping members grow their favorite flower.

Tim says that, “Ironically, the E-Mail Robin’s first membership was not gleaned from any AHS list but from the rec.gardens Newsgroup.”

The E Mail Robin may have begun with the humble beginnings of other plant loving forums but it was the organized American Hemerocallis Society that soon created their own species specific discussion group.

Members are passionate about their daylilies. They support and pay for services through annual dues so all can enjoy and share their expertise.

Why a Network is Important

There are over are over 60,000 recognized daylilies by the society. This is quite a huge number for a plant that gardeners have studied and improved upon for less than a hundred years.

The society lists 6 bulleted reasons for the popularity of growing daylilies. A wide range of colors and forms of the flowers as well as low maintenance from watering concerns as well as climate temperature are just a few of the more important reasons people grow this plant.

The other reasons begin with the relatively low level of pest or disease concerns. Most gardeners appreciate beauty without fuss. Soil types do not affect flower production to any great degree. And, through the impressive hybridizing programs of a legion of hybridizers, we can appreciate flowers nearly the whole season. Few other plants can boast these qualities.

Tim nostalgically comments about the E Mail Robin that, “It’s probably, to be frank, past its peak days . . .”  Not to fear, he recommends all the other social media sites that are popping up. Tim quickly points out, “. . . I’d also mention that AHS group, the Daylily Group, the Daylily Pictures Group and other Daylily Facebook groups that exist and one doesn’t need to be an AHS member to participate.”

When one searches for the American Hemerocallis Society, Facebook shows nearly 900 active members. This doesn’t count the other Facebook groups that specialize in daylilies.

The Ease of Posting Pictures

So, what makes these new social website groups so popular? Posting an image is by far the most important aspect of these sites. The E Mail Robin, like many other forums of the 1990s through early 2000s, couldn’t include images.

The data processing concerns of early computers as well as the required download times simply couldn’t allow for visual attachments. Many of these problems are no longer important today. Yet, many people dislike or have trouble opening attachments.

Using a social media website eliminates these problems. It is easy to upload images. Any who choose to access the site will see images automatically displayed without any effort by the viewer. These posts show up without accessing a member’s email account which many find desirable.

Aeromedi Lifestar

Aeromedi Lifestar boasts a striking color combination. Copyright image by Frank Nyikos, all rights reserved.

The E Mail Forum and the other social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest, to name just a few, are precisely the educational and interactive aspects the American Hemerocallis Society strives to encourage.

The relatively low amount of dues help support and pay for these services so that no one person is over burdened. There is always someone who is just beginning to hybridize.

Where better to turn to get started than a sub group of members already hybridizing. Or, what about those individuals that like double flowers? There are collectors in the group who have their own collections impatiently sitting in their comfortable chairs in front of a monitor just hoping someone will ask about a new cultivar to see. The first flower open for a northern garden is a moment of excitement to share with the world.

Today may be the perfect time to again thank Tim and others in the society for their patience, diplomacy and tenacity of spirit to promote these important venues.

Daylily Social Communication

Now is the perfect time to discover a beautiful carefree perennial. Relive last season’s flowers on you favorite society sponsored social media site while the snow is flying and the sky is gray. Remember that it is always important to treat one’s self to something new with a bit of this year’s tax return.

UNLV Students

DesertSol is Home at Springs Preserve Botanical Garden in Las Vegas

Landscape at Springs Preserve

DesertSol edged by mature plants of Joshua trees, feather reed grasses, and salvias and sages interwoven with agave. Copyright image courtesy of Springs Preserve, used with permission.

DesertSol rests in the middle of Springs Preserve, the botanical garden at the heart of Las Vegas’ beginnings and the city’s center.

The public garden at home in the Mojave Desert seemed a perfect location for the energy-efficient model home. Though, the permanent location was envisioned well in advance as the grounds were being prepared for, what was to be, DesertSol, awarded second place in the Overall competition in the 2013 Solar Decathlon.

Representatives from Springs Preserve were interested in the solar-powered home before the design competition was won,” said Dawn Barraclough of Public Relations at Springs Preserve.

60 students and instructors from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, created plans and built a solar home fit for desert life and then entered Desert Sol in the United States Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in 2013.

Chris Eirschele of Decoded Plants met with Dawn Barraclough of Public Relations at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas to tour DesertSol and talk about the project.

Nevada Desert Home Energy Solar Decathlon Winner

UNLV Students

UNLV Students win at the U.S. Solar Decathlon in 2013. Image by Eric Grigorian – U.S. Department of Energy.

I looked out the series of horizontal windows that faced DesertSol’s north-side garden. The tour took me through the 754 square foot of living space, down the hallway passing angled doorways. The bench I sat on complemented the rectangular kitchen table, which was comprised of two narrow planks bridged in the center by a decorative gully of rocks and succulents.

The outdoor landscape was planted with the native Joshua tree, agave, warm season grasses like Karl Foerster, and a collection of drought tolerant perennials and ground covers.

The UNLV team entered in the prestigious United States Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in 2013. The Solar Decathlon is a yearly competition of collegiate teams from around the world who are inspired to design, build, and operate solar powered houses that are affordable, highly energy efficient, and attractive.

Alexia Chen, Project Leader of the DesertSol Home, said of the team, “placed second for Overall Competition and was the only United States team that placed in the top three.”

Heather Holmstrom, Lead Logistics & Regulations of DesertSol Home project and UNLV student said, “It was a great opportunity for us as a desert school to show what we can do on our environment since solar energy is so important here.”

DesertSol at Springs Preserve has evolved into an indoor and outdoor exhibit that blends the environment of the Mojave Desert in Nevada with the interior needs of people living in an excessively dry climate. Called an ultra-efficient home for its angled window placement toward the gardens, including custom screens; and a multipurpose water system with low-flow plumbing fixtures, DesertSol was configured into a one bedroom one bathroom home.

Photo Voltaic Arrays

Photo voltaic arrays sit above parking lots soaking up solar energy for Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. Copyright image by Chris Eirschele, all rights reserved.

While we sat in DesertSol, Barraclough shared her ideas, “The Springs Preserve is the ideal setting for the final stop of the solar home’s journey. Commitment to education, community outreach, and sustainability unite the University of Nevada Las Vegas DesertSol team and Springs Preserve in a distinct and beautiful partnership.”

UNLV and Springs Preserve are frequent partners in bringing sustainable programs to the local community. In a joint venture around the holidays, the Springs Preserve sponsored a drop-off service for locale residents that was free of charge; the Christmas trees were mulched and that mulch is, in turn, used throughout the city to add organic cover on public landscapes.

Water Smart Landscaping with Native Plants

Shrub Brittlebush

Brittlebush, Encelia farinosa, is on DesertSol’s plant list. Copyright image by Chris Eirschele, all rights reserved.

The design philosophy of DesertSol makes use of native plants, termed “water smart” choices. Growing these plants around an energy efficient-styled model home is a visual lesson in sustainable living; the classic display explains the Springs Preserve mission.

Following the slightly inclined walkway around to the entrance and past the interior’s small windows, we caught glimmers of small plantings, all the while surrounded by large landscaped beds in adjoining gardens.

Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia), Mormon tea (Ephedra sp.), globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea), creosote bush (Larrea tridentate), firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), and purple sage (Salvia dorrii) are a sampling of native plants in the Mojave Desert that can be used in a residential landscape and are seen here at the botanical garden.

Creosote Bush Foliage and Bees

Flowers on creosote bush attract bees; the shrub is on the Water Smart Native Plants List for Mojave Desert Landscapes. Copyright image by Chris Eirschele, all rights reserved.

Springs Preserve First Gardens in the Mojave Desert

You will discover Springs Preserve Botanical Garden only if you venture out into the inner sections of Las Vegas away from the high-powered glitz of The Strip. Opened to the public in 2007, the 180 acres of urban desert garden has always been the fountainhead of local history and a life-saving source of water for anyone attempting to build a life in this part of the Mohave Desert.

Explorers passing through Nevada, and those who stayed, subsisted on the natural springs, small streams, and native plant life in the desert. Though some groups of people later left, but not before depleting much of the vegetation, the Las Vegas valley experienced an ever expanding growth of populations that demanded from the land increasing amounts of the desert’s natural resources to survive.

The Springs Preserve sits on the springs, below the gardens: A valuable natural resource that has been threatened many times in the last centuries. Now, Springs Preserve is designated an archaeological site and, in 1978, was listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

Front Door of DesertSol

Mediopicta and Green Giant century plants, and other agave, growing in the new front-door landscaping at DesertSol. Copyright image courtesy of Springs Preserve.

DesertSol Model of Green Living at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas

DesertSol is the result of work by students and professional gardeners who envisioned what is possible living in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Aaron Micallef, Education Programs Supervisor, added, “Desert Sol has added another visually appealing component to the Springs Preserve Botanical Garden that fits the Preserve’s mission of living sustainably in the desert. Along with the seasonal Butterfly Habitat, annually changing gardens and art, and the ever-changing nature of gardens in bloom, the solar home has added another component to the gardens to visit in Las Vegas.”

The botanical garden grounds are awash in museums, galleries, outdoor events, planting beds, walking trails, and a scenic wetlands habitat.

Viewing Stands

Viewing stands set up nearby DesertSol look out onto the wilder side of Springs Preserve. Copyright image by Chris Eirschele, all rights reserved.

Barraclough said, “The internationally awarded DesertSol is a multi-faceted educational example of environmentally conscious green living.”

Seeing examples of sustainable living in a desert landscape like this Mohave Desert setting helps visitors see what is possible in a garden, while still protecting the environment.