Plants with seedheads for the winter garden

Some plants have intricate seed heads which provide a profile and refuge to insects in a winter garden. Seed heads can be beguiling, but care must be taken not to allow seed heads that deliver hundreds of seed free reign. Remove most teasels, poppies, aquilegias, foxgloves and aconitums (the latter two while wearing gloves) as routine, unless it’s a wilder place. You can enjoy acanthus seedheads in winter, because these rarely produce viable seeds in Britain. Their handsome brown oval seedpods are covered with a bract and the whole spire is wonderfully architectural. A. spinosus is the most architectural, a tall plant that should produce six or seven flowering spikes.

Phlomis heads are also useful in winter and their cavities, just like the bracts of acanthus, provide shelter for hibernating insects. P. russeliana (known as Turkish sage) bears whorls of yellow flowers on square woody stems and these fade with great grace, although this plant needs space to spread. Verbenas also fade well including the willowy purple V. bonariensis and the pink candelabra of V. hastata. Some self-seeding will occur, but it will not threaten.

Finally some plants, such as hydrangeas and sedums have strong enough flat heads to persist through winter. The golden rule is, if it flops, cut it back.