Seedhead heroes

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Three or four years ago there was a buzz on craft and design blogs about umbellifer flowers and seedheads. Cow parsley, fennel and Queen Anne’s lace had become a major design trend, at the centre of which were Angie Lewin’s exquisite contemporary nature-inspired prints and Lucienne Day’s nineteen fifties graphic textiles. The semi-circular shapes of umbellifers were inspiring woodcuts, fabrics and, of course, jewellery. It was very exciting to see this influence filter through to major fabric houses such as Sanderson.

Fast forward a few years and that striking upturned umbrella-like shape can be seen on the High Street. In the last few weeks both garden and meadow flowers have come to the end of their season and I have begun to see just how beautiful the seedheads are from other species.

A lychnis has gone to seed outside my dining room window. I have an urge to draw its graceful shapes whenever we sit down to lunch and I have begun to experiment with some new enamel designs based on these drawings. The shapes of the seedheads of astrantia, hawkbit, feverfew, knapweed, teasel, or even the tiny hop-flowered trefoil’s tiny seed clusters are just as inspiring.

Of course, seedheads are not just inspiration for design. There is a small flock of goldfinches that regularly visit the teasels in my garden at the moment to eat their seeds. There is an entire village of field voles in one of my flowerbeds. I grudgingly let them take some of our strawberry harvest in the summer but I also know that the few peapods we left on our plants are providing them with food as the days get colder.

Dried sedum mentioned in Flowerona’s post last week, will be gathered by birds for nesting material in February and March. Ladybirds have begun to gather in groups to hibernate. They choose places in where frost cannot reach and large poppy, fennel and Echinacea seedheads provide the perfect sheltered spots. It’s sad to think that some of the ladybirds may become  snacks for birds but the upside is that they may help those birds to survive the coldest weeks, boosting the population that lives on until next year.

I leave most seedheads in place in my garden over winter as I’m sure there are further wildlife benefits I’m not even aware of. Once I’ve cleared the annuals and leafy perennials they remain, like delicate sculpture, and are truly beautiful in a hoar frost. Seedheads are even passive garden designers though- as the seeds fall from them their positions in the garden now will determine where the drifts of poppies, cornflowers, feverfew and cow parsley will be next year.

As well as being beautiful design muses, seedheads are the unsung heroes of the garden.

Thanks for reading!