A Year of Seed Production
After a cross is made there is a four to six week wait until the seeds ripen. We leave seed on the plant inside the plastic house until the pods are at least yellow (we may sometimes leave them until the pods dry completely but there can be a high risk of loss in doing that) and the seed is black. The next step is to individually pick the pods from the flower spikes, collect them in carefully marked paper bags and hang them the dry on string lines in the packing shed. This takes a further couple of weeks or so according to the weather. I've tried all sorts of methods to speed the picking process but quicker methods all leave more debris that has to be cleaned out later.
Once dry the seed is cleaned of husks (up at the packing shed) and then delivered to the cleaning department for sieving and tweezer work. This is tedious stuff and hard on the eyes and neck if you aren't careful to take plenty of breaks . It is however very necessary as any impurities, foreign matter etc will mean we are unable to meet tight phytosanitary requirements for export.
Clean dry seed is then counted into packets, labelled and stored in the fridge. You should see our fridge! All batches of seed are germination tested. This is very necessary, not only to ensure that our customers receive good seed, but also to keep track of variety traits so that improvements can be made. One of the aims of our breeding programme is to select varieties that have better keeping qualities and we are hopeful of identifying better drying and storage methods also.
Here is a collection of photographs featured in the past showing the yearly cycle of delphinium seed production. You can click on the photographs below to see a larger version.