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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Specifically, Seed Heads

Seedhead Header
Today's post could very well have been tacked onto last weeks post...but it was already so long, I decided it could be a follow-up of sorts. Even as a kid I was kind of fascinated by the gone-over remains of flowers...their spare, gothic beauty...and, of course, the fact that they contained next years crop. Growing up, my parents had a huge yard, and we were poor, so I planted almost everything from seed...which made gathering seeds each fall a big part of my gardening year. Luckily, I loved it...it never felt like work...especially when I realized that a single seed head contained as many seeds (if not more) than the packets I had bought that spring.


These days, I have a tiny garden and barely grow anything from seed (what would I do with all the extra plants)!?! However, I still love seed heads...and in winter they provide enormous interest in the garden.

Selinum seed head
This is the same plant as above...it's fascinating to watch seed heads deteriorate over the winter.

rudbeckia triloba seed head
Those of you who grow this Rudbeckia (R. triloba) know how important it is to leave the stems standing over winter...

Bent and broken
...not only is their warm, chocolate color beautiful, but you rely on them spreading seeds for future generations of plants. Rudbeckia triloba isn't exactly biennial, but it's definitely short-lived...and without new seedlings, it would soon disappear from my garden.

astrantia seed heads
Another plant with a propensity for re-seeding is the beloved Astrantia.

Astrantia
The remains you see aren't actually the flowers at all, but like Eryngiums and Euphorbias...these are the showy, papery bracts...don't you love how they catch the light!

Monarda Purple Rooster Seed Head
I love the seed heads of Monarda...they are so architectural...almost like a beehive with all those abutting cells.

Achnatherum calamagrostis winter
I adore this grass, Achnatherum calamagrostis...the feathery plumes at this time of year remind me a bit of a feather boa...maybe worn by Las Vegas showgirl in another life.

monarda seed headsv
These blobby Monarda 'Purple Rooster' seed heads reveal the best use of seed heads...dark silhouettes against a lighter background.

Allium seed heads
While quite a few Allium seed heads have deteriorated by now, those of Allium nigrum are especially durable.

schizachryium blue heaven
While a far cry from their fluffy autumnal show, these downy tufts on Schiazachyrium 'Blue Heaven' still catch the light nicely, don't you think?

schizachryium blaze
As do the curlicue blooms of Schizachryium 'Blaze'

echinacea seedhead
Of course, one of the best plants for dramatic winter seed heads is the invaluable Echinacea purpurea.

deschampsia scrim 2
They are even more striking when immersed in a frothy scrim of Deschampsia.

origanum seed heads 2
Again, I will probably pay for leaving these standing...but how could I cut down these Origanum seed heads...look at how they catch the light!


Veronicastrum have some of the best winter structure of any plant...sadly, mine are now flattened after a family of raccoons (seriously...FIVE raccoons) rampaged through the garden a few weeks ago.

vernonia seed heads
Vernonia seed heads always take me by surprise...not only are they delightfully fluffy...but they have a slight mauve tint to them!


I know I've shown pics very similar to this before...but I can't help myself...this has been, perhaps, my favorite winter vignette this year. Agastache 'Purple Haze'...my hat's off to you.

Eutrochium seedheads
I'll never cease to be amazed at how such a large, swarthy plant as Eutrochium is reduced to such delicate beauty after a few months of winter.

agastache and deschampsia
After 'Puprle Haze', Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' has just about the best winter structure of any of the Agastaches. It's stiff, rigid framework is a wonderful contrast to the ephemeral Deschampsia.


They are also a dymanic partner with the strong, but gently-arching lines of Muhlenbergia rigens.

Agastache Golden Jubilee Seed head
Such a versatile plant!

Monarda seedhead
The diminutive Monarda bradburiana might be my new go-to plant for edging where I need it. Tough, beautiful and long-lasting.

Panicum Northwind Seed Heads
Another plant whose taken on a much more diaphanous appearance during winter is Panicum 'Northwind'...which has become one of my favorite plants over this past year.

seed head sculpture
Guiltily...this isn't really a seed head at all...it's a metal sculpture.

vertical echinacea and Deschampsia
So what do you think...have I convinced you about the beauty of seed heads? If not, there's also the fact that they are a valuable food source for birds! What's your go-to plant for fabulous seed heads???

46 comments:

  1. I think one of my favorite seedheads is Echinacea purpurea. But this year I cut them off already, I am saving all the seeds for my new front garden. I'm going to need all the help I can get to fill up those beds. I'll leave them for the birds in future years. I love Allium seedheads too. You have such wonderful light quality in your garden, it makes your seedheads glow. Here everything is just dismal.

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  2. Hi Scott,
    Lovely! Seedheads are a must for anyone wishing to photograph their garden in winter... I love playing with the depth of field in winter and even better when there's some frost on the seedheads/grasses.

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  3. AbsoAbsolutely…it's nice when my laziness can actually be beneficial for once…now if only I could make dirty dishes look picturesque ;-)

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  4. I totally agree, Alison…and that's a good reason to cut them back…you are putting them to good use! If you would like, I can save these seed heads when I cut them down in the next few weeks…just let me know and I'll bring them to the Garden Show :-)

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  5. Absolutely, Liz…it's so much fun trying to get a really dramatic shot…and sometimes its only when I'm looking at them on my computer that I really find something interesting :-)

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  6. So you don't grow anything from seed? Crazy! Surely you have plenty of volunteers though... Rudbeckia triloba itself could take over your garden, and you've got dozens of easy seeders there it seems. At some point are you going to let things get a little more "natural" and grow where they appear, or will you always be a "every plant in its place" gardener? :)

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  7. Hahaha...that's a good point, Alan. I guess I should say I don't PERSONALLY plant seeds in my garden...the plants do it for me! Yeah...I have a ton of plants that reseed (Astrantia, Agastache, Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Persicaria, Verbena....the list goes on). I'm actually pretty lax about it and let things grow wherever they will. Whole sections of the garden have changed over the years due to me just letting things take their course (with a guiding hand, at times)!

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  8. Scott, I would love to have some of your seedheads! Thanks so much!

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  9. Baptisia australis has really nice seed pods, and I really like Agastache, Sea Oats, and Joe Pye weed.

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  10. I've always found seed heads fascinating, but your photos really do them justice. The shot of the Vernonia is magic. One year I captured some shots of seed heads with hoar frost on them--that's an incredible phenomenon, too. And the light shining through at an oblique angle makes everything seem other-wordly.

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  11. I was completely fooled by those metal sculpture seed heads, pondering what produced such magnificent specimens before you fessed up.

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  12. My Purple Haze seed heads don't look as beautiful as yours probably because the whole thing fell over. I've been so impressed with M (Tim) rigens--it's just as gorgeous now as it was when it was green.

    Could you make cat poop seem beautiful next? I'm finding a lot of it in my yard and I need to embrace it.

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  13. Very beautiful and educational post! I totally share your passion for winter interest and seed heads. Winter garden can be just as interesting as Summer garden! My plantings are still very young and the overall look might be modest, however I have some good performing individuals as well. I'm especially excited about echinaceas, rudbeckias and Allium sphaerocephalon, which have given me some of the best seed heads so far. For the future, I try to introduce some more grasses and from your posts I'm totally fallen for Agastaches. I need to have some! If you go through some of my garden post, you will definitely find some seed heads! (www.tistoupaevaraamat.blogspot.com)
    Cheers from snowy Estonia!

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  14. Thanks so much for this post. I'm planning a new garden and want to include more plants with nice winter seed heads. Getting to see such a wide variety all in one place, with their botanical names, is a huge help. After reading your post, my favorites are the two Monardas and the Vernonia. I'm going to check out some of the suggestions in the other comments too.

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  15. Ahhh, yes, Baptisia has gorgeous pods...I'm hoping mine actually forms them this year!

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  16. OMG...hoar frost is like my holy grail...I keep hoping we'll get one...but they are so rare around here, sadly :-(

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  17. Hahahahaha...I know...someone in my last post mentioned them and I felt a bit guilty for not pointing out they were a sculpture!

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  18. Oh no! Some of my 'Purple Haze' toppled over as well...luckily, this clump stayed upright...and yes, M. rigens is wonderful right now...especially when the wind whips the stems around. I will have to ask Maurice at Joy Creek if I should cut it back to the ground this year...as it hasn't remained evergreen this time. If only I could make cat poop beautiful...we have so much around here...I could make a fortune!

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  19. Thank you, Tistou! I know what you mean...it's hard being patient during that first year or two, waiting for your garden to fill in. Still...it's worth it in the end, right! I hope you do add lots of grasses...post pictures to your blog (which I'm going to follow now)!

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  20. Yay! I'm so glad you're loving winter seed heads too...they are beautiful AND good for wildlife!

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  21. I'm particularly fond of the bluestem, but for an altogether different reason than my love of plants. Seeing those amazing seed spikes for me is a herald of fall which in turn reminds me of oh so many amazing hunting trips with my buddies and gives me hope and excitement thinking of the future out with my boys teaching them and enjoying watching them grow. While I love the plant in general this in particular moves it towards the tops of my favorites list of ornamental grass options for winter interest!!

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  22. I was convinced by picture 2 Scott - I'm far too organised for my own good and most of my plants get the chop! These pictures are superb - each and every one of them.

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  23. This post has certainly convinced me to seek out Deschampsia and 'Northwind'. More and more grasses are finding their way into my garden under your influence...and a few of your generous contributions. You already know my favorite seed head: Phlomus russeliana.

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  24. I don't tidy up in Fall either for the reasons you show - the wildlife,garden interest and the photos. Being in a climate with snow, all the seed heads make a nice showing.

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  25. Ahhhh…yes, indeed, Tony…I think I feel some nostalgia toward them as well…and you can never underestimate the power of nostalgia in a garden…why else would so many of us grow Lilacs if not for the childhood memories they evoke :-)

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  26. Glad I could convince you, Angie!

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  27. Glad I could introduce you to some fabulous grasses, Ricki…and with your ample space, you can really do them justice! I adore Phlomis…unfortunately, my soil seems to kill them :-(

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  28. So glad to find another seed head kindred spirit, Donna…and yes, snow makes them even better!

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  29. Thank you, Scott, you are very kind! And inspiring!

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  30. Beautiful pictures! I also love Rudbeckia triloba as there are few showy flowers that do well in the shade. I noticed that its seeds seem to be the favorite food of the American goldfinch. In my old garden, which had rich soil, it grew like a week and I gave up a whole bed to it. In my present garden, it appears here and there, often in unexpected places.

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  31. I have to finally post a comment about how much I enjoy every last detail about your site....having to admit I'm affected by your choice in colors and plants since they are the plants and colors that appeal most to me also. Where many prefer the bright colors of flowers, I prefer the grasses and the Winter shades of brown. These latest photos are just exquisite.

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  32. Oh Scott, your magical camera skills make everything look beautiful! I admire in other gardens the seed heads of Dipsacus (Teasel.) My favorite is the seed pods of Asclepias (milkweed) The pods swell magically and when they split open, the arrangement of the seeds thrills me. Even after the seeds take flight on their silken parachutes, the empty and dried pods remain. Almost forgot about phlomis which look like little pom pom topiaries.

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  33. Oh yes, Alain…finches LOVE those seeds, don't they! I adore Rudbeckia triloba…and you're right, it's much happier in shade than most other Rudbeckias…it's pretty darn easy to please!

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  34. II'm so glad you commented…I agree, I'm a fan of subtle, rich colors…not so much the bright ones so popular at the moment :-)

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  35. Oh yes, Peter…there is something wonderful about Teasels, isn't there! I adore milkweed pods…every stage of their development is amazing!

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  36. I might add that I enjoy your posts so much that I'd like to see you do one every day.....I look forward to them....can you work in the time to do one every day?....chuckles.....

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  37. Your photos are magical, Scott! I used to feel guilty about not "cleaning up" the garden in the fall, but then I discovered that seedheads have their own beauty. My favorite is still the echinaceas--they look like soldiers in fur hats when the snow fall.

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  38. Very lovely, especially with some sunlight in some shots. We've been lacking in clear skies lately around here. The only drawback with seedheads is pulling all the extra baby plants in the spring. That's the advantage of having a 'tiny' garden - you can keep up with it!

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  39. Donna@Gardens Eye ViewJanuary 28, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    My favorite part of my winter garden and the birds favorite too!!

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  40. Hahahaha...oh...I wish I had the time :-)

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  41. Haha...exactly...great mind ;-)

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  42. Oh yes...it's so true...I probably indulge in a few things that those with larger gardens would not have the time for!

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  43. Hahaha...that's the perfect description for them, Rose...love it!

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  44. I love seed heads too. My favorite one is Sunset Mallow. My blog is brand new, my rooftop garden is only a few years old, and you can see the seed pod here....http://nycrooftopgardener.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2013-01-01T00:00:00-05:00&updated-max=2014-01-01T00:00:00-05:00&max-results=7 I think it's pretty cool.

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