Pollinator Gardening Tip: Deadheading

Tufted titmouse Baeolophus bicolor ©Kim Smith 2014Tufted titmouse ~ Baeolophus bicolor

In my garden design practice, the topic of deadheading flowers comes up often, especially at this time of year. The habitat garden is designed for people and for pollinators and the objective is to find a balance between the two. Esthetically speaking, to some, a garden only looks its best when every plant is tidily trimmed and every spent flower blossom removed. But to a hungry bird on the wing, an expiring sunflower or cosmos is bird food. Some plants should be deadheaded and pruned however, the next time you get a jones to neaten a plant, take a moment to look at it from the perspective of a songbird.

Black-capped Chicakdee Poecile articapillus ©Kim Smith 2014Black-capped Chicakdee ~  Poecile articapillus

I like a bit of unruliness in the garden and don’t even deadhead cosmos any longer. They will continue to flower whether deadheaded or not. A few weeks ago while working with several of our wonderful HarborWalk volunteers, I was explaining what plants to deadhead and what plants not to deadhead, and why, when at the very moment that I was speaking those very words, three brilliant cadmium yellow goldfinches flew on the scene and began devouring the seed heads of a nearby coneflower!

American Goldfinch male Cosmos bipinatus ©Kim Smith 2014American Goldfinch Eating Cosmos Seeds

And too, a batch of Echinacea not only provides mid-winter sustenance to hungry birds, the seed heads sure look pretty silhouetted by new fallen snow.

Coneflowers in the snow ©Kim Smith 2012Gloucester HarborWalk

3 thoughts on “Pollinator Gardening Tip: Deadheading

  1. woodlandgnome

    I leave the seed heads, too; cutting most back in late winter. It is always fun to watch the birds come and go. I especially love the goldfinches eating seeds from the basil I let go to seed, and leave in place for them. Beautiful photos, WG

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      1. woodlandgnome

        We grow basil mainly for the bees and birds. We eat a little, but I treat it more as a perennial than an herb. B. Genovese is my “go to” for Pesto and sandwiches, though all are delicious 😉 Happy Thanksgiving, Kim 😉

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