There are four big reasons why I leave flower stems and seedheads standing in my flower borders throughout the winter.
1) There is every chance that they will provide winter seed for birds
The most familiar example is of Goldfinches feeding on Teasel (above), but just as effective can be Verbena bonariensis, Chicory, lavenders, burdocks, Eryngiums and Rudbeckias.
2) The second reason is that the architecture of stems can provide protection to the ground below. Instead of being pounded by rains, the earth can be spared the worst of the pummelling, making it less compacted and easier hunting for Dunnocks, Blackbirds and the like. These starburst seedheads are of Gypsywort on the edge of my pond.
3) Then there is the chance that some insects are hibernating within the hollow stems. They might be adults, caterpillars or eggs, but they are all banking on the seedhead not being swept up by someone on a tidy streak. This photo is of one of my Alliums, where the heart of the starburst could easily harbour a tiny critter or two.
A really lucky hibernator might be snuggled away in the fur sausage that is the head of a bulrush (or, to be more accurate, reedmace) -- this next photo is Lesser Reedmace in my pond, which I find much easier to control than the whacking Great Bulrush. At some point this winter I expect to see my Blue Tits having a good old winkle through these.
4) And the final reason for leaving seedheads standing is a purely selfish one - I love the way they look. In a week like the one we've just had, with hoar frosts across many parts of the country, the seedheads become dusted as if with icing sugar, and as beautiful - in a very different way - to the flowers that preceded them.
So here are my Teasels this week, looking fantastic; add a Goldfinch and that really would be all the icing on the cake that anyone could want from their flower border.
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