Photography, Wildlife Gardening

Seduced by Seed Heads

Around this time of year, as the glitter of the festive season begins to fade, the majority of my garden maintenance clients expect to look out on a neat and tidy garden, all set for the new growing season ahead: leaves cleared, last year’s flowers cut down and barely a fallen twig out of place. I have to confess that there is a certain satisfaction in digging up spent annuals and cutting down last season’s dessicated perennials – their collapsing, straggly stalks and rotting or crusty brown leaves, if left in situ, can easily give the impression that the garden is unkempt and uncared for.

Frosty flower heads

But as both a keen wildlife gardener and photographer I can also offer a different viewpoint. Seed heads provide a vital source of food for hungry birds, especially during a harsh winter, and hollow flower stalks make great hiding places for countless invertebrates. To add to the argument, all it takes is a touch of frost to add sparkle, structure and interest to the winter flower border; cut them down early and all you’re left with is bare soil until the first bulbs show their faces in early spring. For many flowering shrubs and hardy perennials the dried flower stalks and old seed heads provide protection for the new growth to come, so there’s also a gardening case to be made for going easy with the secateurs until absolutely necessary.

As is often the case, a compromise may be the answer. Tidy up those areas of the garden in full view by all means, but why not also leave the odd corner of the garden to see out the winter as nature intended? The new shoots and fresh growth of spring will be here soon enough, but just a few more weeks of ‘untidiness’ could make a huge difference to overwintering insects and birds, so helping to maintain the natural balance of wildlife in the garden. There are photo-opportunities in frosty weather too!

Dried teasels in a winter garden Dried foxglove seed heads in winter

Huechera in winter
Photo by Janet Turner

Dried flower heads of Lacecap Hydrangea Nigella seed head Winter seed heads of Hypericum

 

Gardens, Wildflowers, Wildlife Gardening

Wildflower Meadows at Ness Gardens

Wildflower meadows in the UK are increasingly under threat and today cover only a tiny fraction of the area they once did. So when, a few years ago, the curators of Ness Botanic Gardens on The Wirral had the opportunity to re-purpose a large expanse of rugged land running down from the main garden to the banks of the River Dee, it was an easy decision to turn the area over to wildflowers and the ‘Wilder-Ness‘ project was born.

Wildfowers at Ness Gardens

As a result of the project a number of new wildlife habitats have been created, enabling the introduction of a wide range of wildflower varieties that were once a common sight in our meadows, marshes and hedgerows. ┬áThe local wildlife has given the Wilder-Ness area a huge ‘thumbs up’ too, with a notable increase in recorded species; two new butterfly species to Ness have been spotted already this year.

You can keep up with the latest wildlife sightings by following the Wilder-Ness blog.

Wildflower meadow photograph by Michael Turner
Taking in the wild view…