The Magic of Seedheads in the Garden
When you let your garden go to seed, good things can happen.
Seedheads not only add beauty and function to your garden space, but they're great for encouraging wildlife and making new plants too.
Seedheads can last in the garden for as long as 9 months, adding structure and visual interest for the entire time. They come in a great variety of forms, sizes and textures and nothing looks quite so beautiful as an architectural twist of stems and seed sparkling with winter frost. They are an important component of seasonal interest and should really be appreciated for their own unique beauty, just as a beautiful flower or leaf pattern might be.
Plant seeds and debris are a key source of food and habitat for wildlife. In fact, seedheads provide resources for birds and beneficial insects through their leanest months of the year. So consider leaving stalks and seedheads intact until late winter. And if you must clear a section of the garden, leave the debris behind as mulch or in small bundles/piles in protected spots. This feeds the soil and allows beneficials access.
Seeds are also an integral part of a functional plant community. They help build strong colonies of plants and are needed to keep annual and biennial varieties coming back year after year. That's right, free plants! They also help plants to move through the space naturally creating drifts (which can be tamed by removing selected sprouts in early spring if control is necessary). And always be sure to check that plant species aren't considered invasive in your area before adding them.
And seriously, who wants to spend all their time 'cleaning' up the garden instead of enjoying it? A messy garden, one that is natural looking but not totally wild is not only a healthy one, but a low maintenance one. A few good horticultural practices throughout the seasons will make quick work of garden chores. I would suggest mulching to cut down on weeds and help retain soil moisture. Deadheading flowers selectively, in small sections once a month (to control and encourage new growth where needed). Additionally, chopping up debris and leaving on the soil surface or in small piles out of the way builds healthy soil and helps beneficials of all kinds. Disturbing or turning soil only when absolutely necessary protects soil micro-organisms and keeps invasive species out. In fact, this style of gardening only requires cutting back once a year (in late winter/early spring) when most perennials can be trimmed right to the ground and the debris mulched and left to break down into the soil just as new leaves emerge and the cycle begins again.
So don't miss a trick, include beautiful and functional seedheads in your garden. We've provided some examples of our favourites in a handy chart to help you get started.
-Sara-Jane & Alicia (photography/charts owned by simple leaf design)
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