Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Celebrate Native Plant Seed Heads

This is the time of year when folks begin cleaning up their landscapes, cutting down grasses and stems, applying mulch and even fertilizer -- all practices most of us don't need to do if we favor low maintenance gardening. And really, seeing someone cut down grasses is like putting a knife through my heart; all of that beauty, wildlife shelter, and food is wasted. In two months folks will be crying for mercy in the middle of winter, saying how there's nothing to look out on in their gardens. Why not? Leave those gardens up. Provide shelter for wildlife. Increase the snow-capturing qualities of the garden to insulate it and provide more moisture during the spring melt. Plus, lots of things are hibernating out there in hollow stems and under leaf litter -- bees, butterflies, beetles, et cetera.

I love fall. I love what it leaves (pun intended). I love the echo of life, the shadow of memory, the absence which is more profound, the negative space that gives the garden and the gardening year substance and definition. Give me detritus. Give me barren stalks and dried leaves backlit by warm winter sunlight. And most especially, give me the seed heads that, more and more as I get older, trump the blooms they came from.

Why would you cut this down? Swoon.
Wild Senna, Senna hebecarpa, in the foreground.
Giant Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum
Purple Prairie Clover, Dalea pupurea
Dwarf Blue Indigo, Baptisia australis var. minor
Ironweed, Vernonia fasciculata
Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum
Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca
Ozark Bluestar, Amsonia illustris
Tall Coreopsis, Coreopsis tripteris
Round-Headed Bush Clover, Lespedeza capitata
Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
Virginia Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum virginianum
Black-Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta
Stiff Goldenrod, Solidago rigida
Gimme seed heads
And don't forget about the fall color that many of our herbaceous perennials and grasses give us, which often rival shurb and leaf color. No, really, I'm serious.

Amsonia hubrichtii in its early stage, on the way to rusty orange
Swamp Milkweed, Asclepia incarnata
Little Bluestem
Liatris ligulistylis
Wild Senna
More than winter interest -- it's winter awesome.


Diana Studer said...

is the stiff goldenrod in your newly planted front garden (with the neighbour's Must Have Lawn)?

Benjamin Vogt said...

No, it's not, too tall and "weedy" looking (around here goldenrod is falsely blamed for hayfever allergies).

Corner Gardener Sue said...

I hope others are encouraged to leave their garden clean up to spring, like we do. Great photos!