Structural Integrity – It’s there in black and white

I like to leave seed heads on the plants in the borders as long as I can, partly for the wildlife and partly because I find the bare bones fascinating.


Since it turned cold and windy though, we’ve had to tidy up the borders a bit more, because stalks were beginning to collapse and some of the dried flowers have gone from interesting to darn right messy or even horizontal (e.g. some of those wonderful verbascum towers). Even though most of the stuff I’ve been cutting down has been bound for the weed bund, I’ve been retrieving any strong and interesting material for indoor arrangements. And there has been a surprising amount of it.

So I thought that it would be worth reviewing what has made it to the end of January and since I’ve been enjoying the structural forms it seemed to make sense to take the photos in black and white.  (Though undoubtedly the flow of muted colours adds considerably to the full border display).

Monarda is still going strong, no loss of structural integrity at all, so I am starting with it’s Alice in Wonderland-like stacked pincushions:


Pale purple Bergamot seedheads stand tall

Other plants still standing tall are: Ammi visnaga (interestingly much stronger stems than A. major), Teasel, Miscanthus sinensis and hollyhock.

Then there are slightly more bedraggled examples, but fading in curious ways: Gladiola ‘Black star’ (mostly upright), Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ (nearly black seedheads being stripped away), Echinacea purpurea (mostly down to pointy hats now) and Echinops ritro (with its interesting central ‘stitchwork’)

Followed by a few that are light-weight and fallen or just about hanging on: Nigella damascena, tomatillo (on the ground skeletonising in drifts), Asphodeline lutea (just beginning to erode) and Eryngium

And finally, a couple better picked earlier: Allium christophii with seeds (but there are still a few standing in the borders in protected areas) and Bells of Ireland (Molucella laevis) which has lost quite a few bells and spikes to the weather.

So those are the things I’ve recently collected from the borders, but there are other seedheads I’ve kept, like poppies, grasses, honesty, artichoke and safflower. Those last few are tending towards dried flowers … which is a completely different game and one that I hope to explore this coming year.


About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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39 Responses to Structural Integrity – It’s there in black and white

  1. You’re right, it’s fascinating to look at the intricate forms plants. Such a wealth of beauty…just waiting for us to examine and appreciate.

  2. I love the black and white images. I am going to resist cutting back herbaceous plants this year since I have most of the ones you show. In my desire to get things done last Autumn I cut them all back and have nothing to look at now except bare earth.

    • Thanks Sue. Every year my colleagues and I debate when to cut things back and we’ve finally agreed that, while the stems stand tall and there are seedheads of interest, things stay in the border. It does mean that you have to check the state of the plants continuously though, but then again that is no real hardship.

  3. Gorgeous black and white compositions. If you haven’t already check out natures programming for these structures. Google Fibonacci and The Golden Mean.

  4. Tina says:

    The black and white photos are gorgeous! Like you, I leave my dormant plants for as long as possible–for seeds, for cover and for perches for the birds. Kudos!

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    Gorgeous B&W study, Allison – so under-appreciated is the winter beauty of plants.

  6. FlowerAlley says:

    Sooooooo lovely. Thank you.

  7. cavershamjj says:

    Awesome photos, the B&W does work very well for the seed heads. I have many of the same plants, either in the garden or as seeds to be sown. I hope I can achieve similarly picturesque results…

  8. Phlomis68-Volpinablu-Antonella says:

    I love seedsheads! So fascinating!

  9. Dina says:

    Beautiful photos, they look stunning in B&W.

  10. Gillian says:

    I’m with you re leaving seed heads as long as possible. I love the way they bleach and fade throughout autumn and winter and I love your black and white pictures too Allison!

  11. Your images are beguiling, what a great idea to showcase the beguiling beauty of winter’s spent seed heads in black and white. I always think it’s a shame when borders are cleared too soon.

  12. Val says:

    They are all so beautiful. Nature is a wonderful thing – all the seasons have something of interest to the eye and mind.

  13. Chloris says:

    I love the way you have done them in black and white, it really brings out all the wonderful shapes and forms.

  14. Julie says:

    Really inspiring post Allison, I love your analysis and creative photos, so much beautiful light, showing each seed head off to its best. Well done! This must have been an absorbing post to write and produce.

    • Thanks Julie. it was very interesting to really look at what happens as the seeds fall away. The seedhead shapes are wonderful, but it is the way that they hold together that has been fascinating.

  15. Brian Skeys says:

    They are some beautiful photographs. In my experience when I have left seeds heads they tend to get laid flat by heavy rain. I now cut all mine down by the end of November except for the grasses, this also avoideds treading on emerging bulbs!

  16. croftgarden says:

    Inspired use of monochrome images.

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