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Coastal Blackheads - Species And Uses In Garden Design

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In the design of water bodies, linear leaves surprise no one. But, thanks to their unusual inflorescences, blackheads, even with the most standard shaped leaves, stand out always and everywhere. The dazzling bright green color and prickly ball-like copulas bring modern accents to coastal design. Although by nature blackheads remain one of the most aggressive and wild plants (referring to their rapid spreading), their appearance meets the demands of modern design and its trends. Growing rapidly, blackheads create stunningly beautiful thickets and easily change growth patterns.

Coastal blackheads - species and uses in garden design
Coastal blackheads. © MarAn132


  • Description of garden blackheads
  • A variety of blackhead species
  • Backheads in garden design
  • Growing conditions for blackheads
  • Planting blackheads
  • Care of blackheads in the garden
  • Propagation of blackheads

Description of garden blackheads

For blackheads, whose name directly points to the plant's main pride - luxurious balls of prickly cores - it is quite fair to use two names. The more formal "blackhead" is used as often as the folk name "blackhead". Belonging to the family Typhaceae is easy to guess by the appearance of the plant.

In nature blackheads occur in swamps, marshes, on the shorelines of rivers and other large bodies of water. They are coastal herbaceous perennials that, even in garden culture, do not lose their wild disposition, remaining the same aggressive and hardy plants.

Cultures that are used in the design of water bodies, it is difficult to name both as bright and aggressive plant.

Eggheads (Sparganium) quickly grow and expand their territory, turning into beautiful thickets in a strikingly short time. The tendency for these plants to sprawl is both a disadvantage and an advantage, which impose its own use in landscape design, but does not detract from the beauty of blackheads.

The creeping roots provide the plant with a quick spread and are easily misleading. Blackheads have two types of roots - thin filamentous roots, located in the water column and absorbing all necessary micronutrients, and strong main roots that hold the plant in the silt. The two types of roots make blackheads both shallow and coastal plants.

The blackheads have two types of shoots - erect and floating, tall or up to 80 cm long. Plants easily adapt to the peculiarities of the place and change the form of growth. The leaves of blackheads are very beautiful, looking typical of coastal thickets, but still different from other plants. Cuneate-lanceolate, flat, the leaves resemble reeds, irises or cattails, but next to these plants are very different from them by their richer color and less rigid.

Despite the rather imposing appearance, the greens of blackheads are not as robust and strong, constantly reacting to gusts of wind and quite delicate in texture. Inside the leaves are cavities filled with air. Like shoots, the plant can develop sessile and recumbent leaves. The leaves are often longer than the shoots, and can reach one to 2 m in length with a maximum width of 3 cm. The middle vein on the leaves may be both faintly expressed or very distinct in the curvature of the leaf blades.

This is the period of flowering and fruiting of blackheads

The flowering period of blackheads covers the whole summer and lasts from June until August. Inflorescence-heads of blackheads look very showy. Each flowering stem bears from 6 to 12 flower-heads "strung" like beads at a sufficient distance.

The small, plain flowers of blackheads are unremarkable, creating a feeling of lace. It is easy to distinguish male and female staminate and pestiferous inflorescences, thanks to which cross-pollination takes place. They are situated in the upper and lower parts of the inflorescences, respectively, looking fluffy thanks to three sepals and finely dissected stamens.

The inflorescences of blackheads seem openwork, but the brightest show begins only after the pale flowers disappear, the upper part of inflorescences begins to dry up and unusual spherical cobs - complex copulas up to 2.5 cm in diameter - begin to develop from the female inflorescences.

The fruits of blackheads resemble hedgehogs, curled up in tight balls in anticipation of danger. They are prickly balls, in fact they are assembled in heads of knuckles, the flesh of which provides lightness thanks to the spongy structure.

The bright lettuce color of "hedgehogs" matches the leaves perfectly, but gradually changes to bronze-brown. Once the fruits are ripe, they move at the beck and call of the wind across the pond and float on the surface like floats. Lightweight globules ensure that blackheads are easy to spread, because they will sprout anywhere they are anchored in the silt.

Fruits float for a long time on the surface of the water in the fall, gradually gaining water and sinking. Even if the design of a waterbody needs to control the spread of self-seeding, it is almost impossible to contain the spread of blackheads.

Coastal blackheads - species and uses in garden design
Blooming blackheads. © Distant Hill Gardens

Diversity of blackheadhead species

Despite their "typical" and easily recognizable appearance, blackheads boast considerable species diversity. Of the two dozen natural species of blackheads in landscape design actively use 5 plants. The right choice of species allows you to find blackheads for a variety of tasks - from giants for large ponds to more modest blackheads in small ornamental ponds.

The most popular of the blackhead species is Egghead straight ( Sparganium erectum) -a powerful perennial with straight branched stems and creeping strong rhizome, reaching a height of at least half a meter, and in favorable conditions sometimes growing to a meter and a half height.

The triangular, lanceolate-meshed, narrow, iris-like leaves encircle the shoots, creating beautiful tussocks or masses. Inflorescence heads look bright and showy, almost geometrically composed of large pistillate and small staminate inflorescences, arranged one above another. The smaller blackhead used to be regarded as a separate species - small blackhead ( Sparganium neglectum ), but today it is fairly reclassified as form of direct blackhead (Sparganium erectum subsp. neglectum). It is a compact and more "docile" blackhead, which does not grow as quickly and aggressively. The shoots are not straight but slanting. The leaves are partially floating on the surface and flatter than the "basic" straight blackhead. The plant can be grown in normal and floating forms.

When grown as an herbaceous landscape plant, it is limited to a maximum height of 25 cm, and in floating form it extends to a length of nearly a meter. The small blackthorn blooms as early as May. Unlike other species, it produces single male inflorescences.

Sparganium hyperboreum northern (Sparganium hyperboreum) is a hardy and very beautiful perennial that has both erect and floating shoots that are much shorter than the narrow, bright, convexly thickened leaves with rounded tips. The simple and short inflorescences look quite original.

Echelobate narrow-leaved (Sparganium angustifolium) - a handsome species that can grow as a ground perennial, but is used mainly as an aquatic plant with floating leaves. The stems are long, almost a meter long, perfectly matched with narrow and flat floating leaves up to 1 m long. The unbranched inflorescences with yellowish-brown coleae are somewhat different from the usual blackheads.

Egghead simple, or floating (Sparganium emersum) - a plant that can grow both as a coastal perennial and as a floating plant. The maximum length of shoots is up to 120 cm, it is reached only in deep bodies of water when it transitions to a floating form. When growing in depths of up to 10 cm, it develops as a compact, dense turfy perennial with stems up to half a meter high.

Leaves are long, triangular, bright. Inflorescences consist of an equal number of male and female heads, the fruits are strikingly bright, changing color to copper-brown as they mature.

Swimming Headwort (Sparganium natans) - a watery perennial with shoots to 80 cm long, changing shape depending on planting depth. The linear leaves with translucent texture are most often curved, floating even in the terrestrial form. The shortened inflorescences are quite spectacular, as are the small greenish balls of fruit.

Coastal blackheads - species and uses in garden design
Egghead straight (Sparganium erectum). © Charlotte Clarke Geier
Coastal blackheads - species and uses in garden design
Heatherhead of the north (Sparganium hyperboreum). © Bjorn Hjaltason
Coastal blackheads - species and uses in garden design
Sparganium angustifolium. © Hans Hillewaert

Headstones in garden design

Headstones are representatives of aquatic garden plants. They are used in the landscaping of water bodies and in swamp beds, in the design of wet areas or as natural filters in the ecodesign, remaining a plant with a very narrow specialization. But it is very difficult to name competitors equal to blackheads among aquatic crops.

Eggheads are traditionally advertised as crops for wetlands, coastal areas and wetbeds. But in the ponds they can be placed both on the banks and in shallow water. Blackheads are planted both in the soil and in containers, limiting their possible spread.

The minimum immersion depth for blackheads is 8 cm, the optimal depth is 10-20 cm, the maximum is 50 cm. The depth of planting determines the form of growth - terrestrial or aquatic. It is a plant for creating the main mass of thickets and spectacular lush landscaping, introducing textural diversity into shorelines and playing with color.

Eggheads straight and other large blackheads require great care in their use: The roots of the plants are so powerful that they can pose a great danger for decorative, film-framed ponds. The small form of blackheads and floating blackheads are suitable for decorating even small ponds.

Jackheads are used in decoration:

  • large natural ponds;
  • dry beds;
  • streams;
  • baths;
  • in medium ponds with a concrete, plastic base or without a frame base;
  • in the design of small ponds with permanent control;
  • in portable ponds;
  • in drainage plantings.

One of the most important functions of the blackhead is shoreline enhancement. Thanks to its powerful rhizome, this plant can be used to keep the banks of natural water bodies from eroding, creating a natural barrier. It is partly this ability that is exploited when filter plantings are used in areas with problematic drainage.

Any plant capable of growing in the selected depth is suitable as a partner for the blackhead. It is aggressive but does not suppress other crops. The blackheads cooperate best with the larger plants of the shallow and coastal zone with sturdy shoots and thick foliage able to protect the plant from draughts and winds.

Coastal blackheads - species and uses in garden design
Egethelnik blooms straight. © Javier Pelayo

Growing conditions for blackheads

Despite their unpretentiousness, blackheads have many requirements for growing conditions. These plants are grown in low flow or standing water, they are not very fond of the constant fluctuation of the immersion level. In addition to planting at a depth of 8-10 cm below water level, have to take care of a few more important points:

  • Black-headed plants - light-loving crops, for which it is better to choose a bright place. They can withstand light, but not strong shading.
  • However hardy blackheads may be, they are more sensitive to soil fertility than it seems. If plants are planted in containers, a special nutritious substrate is used for them. When planting in soil, poor soil is also better partially replaced with substrate for growing aquatic plants.

Planting blackheads

Because of their plasticity and adaptability, blackheads allow you to choose the method of cultivation to your liking. Depending on the goals set and the overall landscaping strategy, there are two options for planting blackheads:

  1. Planning in containers. Medium-sized nets are filled with fertile soil, be sure to lay a drainage of pebbles on the bottom. The plant is carefully fixed in the soil, soak the soil with water and set on the desired place in the pond.
  2. Planting in the silt or on the bottom. The plants are anchored in the soil with stones or pebbles, digging holes according to the size of the rhizome and taking care primarily of the stability of the plant until it fully adapts and starts growing.
Coastal blackheads - species and uses in garden design
Compact form of blackhead (Sparganium emersum). © photopoésie

Garden care for blackheads

This perennial can be grown without care at all. The plant does not need regular cleaning or other measures to maintain its ornamental value. The only thing that will determine the effort that will have to be made when growing blackheads is to figure out the limits of greater or lesser freedom for the plant (meaning its spread).

Factually, caring for the blackhead comes down to controlling its growth and spreading. When growing in containers, the plant requires separation when overgrowth occurs with a frequency of 3 to 5 years between these treatments.

When growing in soil, blackheads are best thinned or partially removed to reduce the area occupied by the plant. Dry shoots and inflorescences, as well as parts damaged during wintering, are removed in the spring, simply by clearing the turf of all dry and unnecessary material. It is advisable to remove self-seeding and new plants sprouting from seed around the perimeter of the garden annually if spread control is necessary.

If plants are grown as terrestrial rather than aquatic, blackheads may need additional protection or tying to protect their delicate leaves in high winds.

The classic garden pests and diseases of blackheads are unaffected. But these plants are adored by birds and other large pond-dwelling animals. The visit of waterfowl can significantly reduce both the vegetative mass and ornamental value of blackheads.

Backheads do not need protection for the winter, much less excavation from ponds. They are naturally well winter-hardy and even if they suffer from abnormal temperature fluctuations, they recover well afterwards.

Multiplication of blackheads

Get new seedlings of blackheads both vegetatively and from seeds. Thanks to their good germination, freshly harvested blackheads seeds harvested from dried fruits can be sown in any moist, muddy, "waterlogged" soil to a depth of 2 to 3 cm and re-grow young seedlings as potted aquatic crops, transferring them to the pond after the seedlings have reached optimum size. Leaves plants release only after a few months, initially growing roots. It is also possible to bury the fruits in the mud for a natural self-sowing process.

Thanks to their good growth, blackheads can be constantly divided or thinned out, using the extra plants to create new aquatic plantings. To obtain strong seedlings, it is advisable to divide blackheads older than 3 years.

Separation of blackheads is always carried out in the spring, after the vegetation around them has begun to wake up. The plant is separated by digging up the whole bush, carefully cutting it with a spade into large pieces and planting each of them separately.

Are there blackheads growing in your pond? Share your experience of growing it in the comments to the article!

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