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:
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.
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.
Yes, I love the bold geometries revealed as the details (seeds, petals etc) are gradually pealed back
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.
Gorgeous black and white compositions. If you haven’t already check out natures programming for these structures. Google Fibonacci and The Golden Mean.
Thanks and for the tip on Fibonacci etc. My favourite example is the Romanesco Broccoli.
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!
🙂 Thanks Tina. I do think that we are doing the right thing!
Gorgeous B&W study, Allison – so under-appreciated is the winter beauty of plants.
Thanks Eliza. They look tremendous covered in hoar frost or a sprinkling of snow too, but they don’t last as long then of course.
Sooooooo lovely. Thank you.
🙂 Thank you
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…
Thank you very much. Good luck with your seeds … I was thinking that I might try Scabious stellata and Nigella orientalis ‘Transformer’ this year
I love seedsheads! So fascinating!
They are wonderful. Incredibly ornate packaging for the seeds.
Beautiful photos, they look stunning in B&W.
Thanks. I think that it does bring out the detail of those wonderful shapes.
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!
Oh yes, I love the muting of their colours too. I’ve enjoyed seeing the unravelling of the seeds too. Who knew echinops was stitched together??
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.
Definitely. It is a hard choice sometimes when the display is public though. I walk a fine line and the head gardener occasionally has to intervene!
Lucky then that some stuff like sedums and chocolate foxgloves last well even if picked for drying in late winter.
Oh … I must give chocolate foxgloves a try!
They are all so beautiful. Nature is a wonderful thing – all the seasons have something of interest to the eye and mind.
Thank you. It is wonderful to discover each season’s secrets.
I love the way you have done them in black and white, it really brings out all the wonderful shapes and forms.
Thanks Liz. With all this dull weather and therefore little contrast, I think the B&W helped bring out the detail.
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.
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!
I take your point and quite frankly if the weather had been windier and wetter/snowier some of these wouldn’t have lasted.
Inspired use of monochrome images.
Thanks. Interestingly I tried pushing the contrast in the monochrome images and hated them.
If conventional monochrome doesn’t work try reducing the saturation. Sometimes if you push the contrast the edges can get too hard.
Do have a look at Per Lissel’s work (https://lisselphotography.wordpress.com/) its inspirational and technically impressive.
Thanks for these tips. Per lissel’s work is indeed very beautiful.