Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Morning at Applewood Seed Company …

Trial Garden
How often can we awake and wander outdoors with our coffee or water in hand to watch expanses of blooming flowers and happy bees, butterflies and beetles cruising through delightful trial plots in need of pollination?  Such was the case in late June when the Native Masters group, metro area Master Gardeners and interested others attended a tour and educational session at Applewood Wholesale Seed Company in Arvada.  What a bit of heaven to have tucked away in our own urban corridors!!

Our tour was mostly led by Diane Wilson, but we were also treated to a historical review of the company and the work they do by Gene Milstein, president of the Applewood Seed Company.  They are among a handful of true national seed companies left in the country.  My impression was they’ve succeeded to maintain their interests by forming partnerships and growing clients among state & private sectors. Did you know the State of Florida uses Applewood as a seed resource since their moist climate and high level of predators makes it difficult to grow & maintain their own seed and planting programs?  Ironic from the high desert dry air of Colorado to the heat and humidity of Florida! Applewood expanded their market into wildflower seed in the late 80’s and now boasts seeds in garden flowers, native grasses and herbs as well.  I was interested to learn that the biggest threats to wildflower populations currently is water and weeds!  Another factoid I picked up was 80% of all plants require animal/insect pollination while 33% of our crops rely on open pollination for success.  Together, that’s bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, bats and more needed for this job!

Applewood receives their seeds from growers around the state and region, as well as special seed collecting ventures for certain varieties of Rocky Mountain native plant species.  Once the seeds are received at the Arvada offices, they are cleaned, sorted and tested for purity in their lab.  Every seed sample tested is kept for 3 years.  The seeds may go to field trials for new species or directly to the warehouse for mixing and shipping to clients.  An 8 month inventory of seeds and seed mixtures is kept in the warehouse.

But where would these seeds go without the help of our pollinators – bees to be specific.  The last part of our tour was a presentation on the 940+ bee species (basically 5 family types) that call Colorado their home!!  If you’ve heard about colony collapse in honey bees, pay attention because it really does impact our food supplies for open pollination crops.  You can also go online to / to check out insects in your yard.  This was a great summer morning activity and if your garden club or group is interested in a tour, call Applewood Seed Company @303-431-7333 or check online at and they will be most hospitable!

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