A little clipping back and deadheading seem to be in order. BUT, WAIT! Before you clip those faded flowers from your annuals and perennials it's important to note that these seed heads provide an essential diet for the birds that winter in our Florida yards.
Pictured above - Zinnia
I know . . . I hear you . . . you don't like having a messy looking garden. Neither do I, but I think it's possible to tidy up the garden and still leave plenty of seed heads around for our feathered friends.
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta (left) and Bee Balm Monarda punctata (below).
My suggestion would be to plant non-seeding plants around those that go to seed. By the end of our summer, the plants have all grown together, and they will help conceal the dried seed heads. Plus, the merged and tangled plants will provide extra cover for birds.
Last year, I enjoyed watching a number of birds zooming in and out of my front "island bed" feasting on native Bee Balm Monarda punctata, Stoke's Aster Stokesia laevis, Coneflower Echinacea purpurea, Salvia Salvia spp., Indian blanket flower Gaillardia pulchella, Black- and green-eyed Susan's Rudbeckia hirta, Pentas Pentas lanceolata and Thryallis Galphimia glauca.
Other perennials that provide seeds are Gaura Gaura spp., Russian Sage Perovskia atriplicifolia, Cosmos Cosmos bipinnatus, and Mexican sunflower Tithonia rotundifolia.
The tiny Goldfinches that winter here in Florida scooped up the tiny seeds, in the old crape myrtle blooms in my garden, once they dried and opened. So, if you like to trim the seed heads off your crape myrtles be sure to leave that job until spring. And, don't forget to hold off on trimming ornamental grasses back until spring as they provide seeds, as well.
The same little birds were also busy picking seeds out of the cracks in the road.
Some folks, including me, like to provide extra food for the birds by having feeders in the garden. It's not necessary if you plant the right plants, and leave the seed heads on, but if you enjoy feeding the birds . . . go right ahead . . . they certainly won't mind! And, should some of the millet sprout beneath the feeder . . . leave it for the birds.
Recently, I finally got around to picking up some old boards that had been lying in the back of a garden bed for a year or more. When I lifted the last one, out jumped three frightened toads. I quickly put the boards back down, and decided they would be more useful staying there than putting them in the trash for pickup.
A couple other good practices is to leave leaf litter in your garden beds, and create a stack of cut up small branches in the back of the bed behind your plants. Many small creatures and insects will call these wood stacks home, and they will also be a source of food for birds.
It's wonderful to know that we don't need to be so tidy in the garden. It certainly eliminates some work for us, and it will provide a more welcome environment for local wildlife.
Which of your plants have you seen birds feeding on during the winter months?