Fading Flowers

posted in: Photography | 12
Fading flowers and seed heads receive little attention or accolade. Though under the right conditions they can be seen as delicate little sculptures gracing the borders. Despite the frost, rain and wind that have sent myriads of leaves to the ground they are still the last stalwarts of the garden. Furthermore they have a quality that is really only unlocked when the late autumn sun exhales its warm breath over their fading petals. Where decay can be embraced as a thing of beauty and accepted as a natural progression in the course of nature. See my Beauty in Decay portfolio.


A plant is only worth growing if it looks good when it’s dead ~ Piet Oudolf


 Fading Flowers

rudbeckia fading flowers in November
Rudbeckia with glowing petals (taken with lensbaby optics)

There are the occasions when the bland, the beige and the translucent turn golden on a frosty November morning. Fading flowers take on a special beauty.

Hydrangea 'Phantom' fading flowers
the first glints of morning sunlight on Hydrangea  ‘Phantom’
Astrantia major fading flowers
Astrantia major with a silhouette of seeds casting their shadow over the thin papery like remains of petals.
Hydrangea 'Phantom' flower heads in late autumn
Hydrangea ‘Phantom’ fading flowers.  As one friend said – the flower that keeps on giving!


Subtle Beauty

Humulus lupus golden hops
Humulus lupus with its dry golden hops.
Sedum 'Rose Carpet' fading flowers
Sedum ‘Rose Carpet’ glowing despite having no flowers.

Where subtle beauty can be found in the smallest details.  Where texture, form and shape open up a whole new ‘micro’ dimension to the late autumn and winter gardenYou just need to look a little closer to see it!

Physocarpus diablo fading flowers
Physocarpus diablo seed heads shaped like little hexagons.

Especially when they have a frosted sugar-like coating.

Euonymus alatus 'Compactus' seed head
Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ seed head – never prolific and always few in number.



rudbeckia fading flowers
A friend called this a Rudbeckia entropy a few weeks ago illustrating orderly to disorderly.


Eryngium sea holly in November
Eryngium is always the first plant to feel the warm rays of the sun in my winter back garden. It should come with a health and safety warning – Beware of sharp edges!

I’m never quick to cut down stems in the autumn.  Consequently hibernating insects will appreciate a hollow flower stem to keep warm in.  While hungry birds feast on the seed heads. Especially on cold winter days.

Piet Oudolf may have just been saying in jest that a plant is only worth growing if it looks good when it’s dead.  But how many of us really appreciate the beauty of late autumn fading into winter?  Moreover how many of us even venture out any further than the bird feeders to see it?

What are your favourite seed heads or fading flowers in the garden?

You can view more of my  Perthshire Autumn images “The Spirit of Autumn” in the December issue of Fotodigital (click here to view online).


Follow Rosie Nixon:

Photography Tutor and Gardener

Rosie is a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at one of Scotland's only photography galleries - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh. If you'd like to receive the latest leavesnbloom blog posts by email click here.

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12 Responses

  1. Jan Bickerton

    I love to photograph seed heads much the same as you – Eryngium and Hydrangea, also Physalis when the cages are reduced to lacework by the frost, these are something I return to year after year. Also leaf skeletons are another treasure I can't ignore.

    Wonderful images and an interesting read as always Rosie.

  2. Andrea

    Hi Rosie, i can imagine their beauty is much likely appreciated when isolated in frames like what you did! They are all marvelous.

  3. A Garden of Threads

    Hi Rosie, Beautiful images. I agree the winter and fall garden are full of interest, if we only slow down and look. Have a wonderful week. Jen

  4. Carline Tellice

    Oh Rosie, your photos are sooooo magnificent! Love it very much! Like you, I like to take all these "dead flowers" and seeds… I have a picture of a Rudbeckia which look like yours (the first one) 🙂
    Thank you for this wonderful pictures! :-))

  5. Ellie

    Hi Rose, do you remember me? I've not been to your blog for such a long time. You have beautiful pictures here – just as I remember from before. Hope you are well! :))

  6. Anna

    Stunning images as always Rosie which capture the season in a nutshell. I've a soft spot for teasels at this time of year although not as fond of the seedlings that germinate in their thousands come spring 🙂

  7. Melanie J Watts

    Nature does beauty better than any human endeavour. I like to cut a bouquet of faded, dried flower and seed heads to display in an old galvanized watering can by my front door.

  8. Millymollymandy

    Beautiful images Rosie! I'm really pleased to see what the Physocarpus diabolo looks like now. I'm going to look out for one. 🙂