Seed left in the garden provides for birds, insects, and animals with nourishment throughout winter and special beauty for us.

Gardeners most often associate seeds with the next generation—the “fruits” of this year’s labor and the hope for next year’s plants. We carefully collect seed in the fall for winter storage and in early spring, as a ritual welcoming thoughts of warmer weather, begin to germinate seed in our basements, kitchen countertops, and windowsills. In spring it’s time to transplant seedlings to the garden to begin the cycle again.

Sometimes we forget to recognize the true regenerative force of the seed in the garden; that is, the regenerative ability seed left in the garden over winter provides for birds, insects, and animals as a source of food. Seed left on plants over the winter months provide a harvest cornucopia for the wildlife of the garden.

Not cutting down the garden in the fall is part of Lurie Garden’s management philosophy to both present the beauty of the garden in all four seasons and promote urban biodiversity year-round.

The traditional gardener may be inclined to spend the fall months cutting down plants that have passed their flowering prime, in an attempt to tidy-up the garden for the coming winter. We sometimes overcollect seeds from the garden in preparation for starting next year’s plants. But for birds, insects, and other animals this is important food source during the lean months of the Midwestern winter.

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The added bonus to leaving all or most seed-heads in the garden is the beauty of the winter garden—browns and tans juxtaposed against the whiteness of freshly fallen snow. It’s amazing the garden continues to nourish all our senses even into winter! People passing through the Lurie Garden during the fall and winter months often comment about the garden still being “up”. Not cutting down the garden in the fall is part of Lurie Garden’s management philosophy to both present the beauty of the garden in all four seasons and promote urban biodiversity year-round.

We can take home this example of ecological garden management by resisting the urge to cut down and remove debris from your fall garden, giving shelter and food to local wildlife. Of course we’re here all winter, so we’ll be sure to continue to post pictures on Facebook and Instagram as we see wildlife feasting or snow resting on our generous garden.