Seeds in a Co-Starring Role

We’ve had a few cool nights in the mid-30s in central Illinois in early October, and many of the summer annuals and perennials have begun their slide into dormancy. Although autumn is famous for the color of the changing leaves, another part of the garden plays a beautiful co-star to the foliage: seedheads.

Many perennial seedheads, like this Echinacea, will be a source of food for birds throughout the fall and winter. In this photo, you can see where a bird — perhaps a goldfinch — has plucked a few of the seeds away already.

One of my favorite seedheads are those of Rudbeckia, many that stay upright all winter, often collecting tiny caps of snow. Here, a stinkbug takes perch on a Rudbeckia seedhead near sunset.

Other seedheads, like those on Clematis ‘Rouge Cardinal’, are purely decorative accents to the autumn garden.

While technically more of a seed pod or cluster, the bright orange berries of Lonicera (Honeysuckle) were a pleasant surprise in the back corner of my garden this evening. I’m not sure I remember these fruits in the past. Perhaps I’m just looking at my garden a lot more closely this year.

While many people clear the non-woody members of their landscapes to the ground each fall, many of my herbaceous plants play the co-star in both my autumn and winter garden. Not only do they provide beautiful colors and textures, but many are valuable food sources for wildlife in my garden.

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