Although the phrase ‘going to seed’ suggests going into a decline, I’m usually happy to see seed heads in the garden. (Not all, mind you – weeds may not be so welcome!) For a garden photographer they are another opportunity to create an image. That’s especially welcome at a time of year when there are fewer flowers and plants to photograph.
Seed heads are, of course, very valuable for wildlife too. The seeds are a good source of food for birds in winter and, before that stage, the flowers are a great source of pollen for insects.
The seed heads here are bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’). In the top picture, there are still many of the tiny yellow flowers but you can also see the brownish/orange ridged shapes of the newly-formed seeds. I was attracted to it by the neat drops of melted frost encasing them. (This was a young plant that had flowered very late and got caught by the first of the frosts last year.)
In winter, the seed heads of fennel provide a very graceful shape for frost to decorate. The frost in the second photo was especially hard and covered the whole garden with its delicate filigree. The air was so cold that the frost had time to glitter in the sun for a little while before it melted. We haven’t had any frost yet this year, but I’ll be checking the fennel plants when it arrives! Hopefully it will last long enough for me to take some more sparkly photographs.
Autumn brings a restrained feel to my garden. There is nothing showy here at the moment and the remaining touches of colour are easy to miss. But if the sun shines, there might be a sudden brief glow as it brings the leaves alive like small flames.
Mostly this is a time of rain (needed after the summer’s drought) and winds that tear the remaining leaves from the trees. Not so nice for gardening, until a dry and mild day comes along. Then I can get some digging done in the loosened soil. (It gets so dried out in summer that digging then is very hard work. Adding more compost will help, but it will take a lot to make a difference.)
As the autumn colours begin to fade or get blown away, new winter colour is starting to arrive. Bright yellow flowers are ready to open on both a mahonia and winter jasmine. Near the jasmine, a viburnum bush has the dark red bells of a winter-flowering clematis to accompany its own pink buds. And, at last, I can see buds of hesperantha (see this post) which should open soon. So I will still have one or two things to photograph while the winter draws closer.
Often the leaves don’t change colour very much here in autumn. This year though, they were much more golden than usual.
Our autumns are usually mild, with rain and stiff breezes that carry away a lot of the leaves. This October, however, was much warmer and sunnier than usual during the day and the clear skies allowed the temperature to drop a lot at night. The result has been good displays of golden leaves in gardens and the countryside around us. (Happy timing for us, because a good friend had come to stay, so we were keen to show off the beauties of Suffolk.)
The leaves above belong to our smoke bush (Cotinus), which is the most reliable producer of autumn colour in the garden. It also provides me with leaves that are low enough down for me to be able to photograph them close up. A large Himalayan birch and a rowan tree have both coloured well, as has a wisteria. There are not many red leaves though. A cherry tree and a crab apple both produce some red but the leaves have already blown off. (And had to be fished out of the pond! Luckily that’s a job I find quite satisfying.)
Will I see a flower or two on my hesperanthas before winter comes? I must admit that it’s just a small hope by now, because I haven’t even noticed any buds. (But I’ve been busy elsewhere in the garden so I could have missed those.)
Hesperanthas flower a bit later in my garden than they’re said to – often October into November here. So if they flower they add a splash of colour before the frosts. Last year I had lots of red in a border and this white one in a pot. Nothing this year.
This year has been so extremely hot and dry that I think these plants have really suffered. I did try to keep them watered, but with so many plants gasping for more moisture, it was hard to keep up. These plants like moist or damp soils, so I may try relocating them to the bog garden that I’m building near the pond. Winter may be a problem there though. We do get long rainy spells at that time of year and I worry that the ‘bog’ area may get too waterlogged. I guess I will just have to try it and see. If it works, I may get some flowers like these next year… 🙂