PUTTING YOUR GARDEN TO BED
FOR THE WINTER
The fall foliage is still putting on a wonderful display, but before it gets too cold, I try to start putting my garden to bed for the winter.
PERENNIALS…Look for perennials that have gone dormant, and cut these back to about 3” in ht. Look for perennials with nice basal foliage, but the upper portions of the plant are unsightly. Cut these back to the height of the basal foliage. Some perennials you may want to leave in their dormant state so that the birds can enjoy their seeds, or you simply like the way they look against the snow. Rudbeckia sp. / Black-eyed Susan is a prime example. The black seed head is quite attractive in contrast to the white of snow. Some should definitely be left alone until spring due to growth that seems to take place during the winter – Buddleia sp. / Butterfly Bush and Perovskia / Russian Sage are in this category.
Did you have any perennials that either failed to reappear this past spring or appeared rather late? For me, this was Anemone japonica / Windflower, and Acanthus mollis / Bears Breeches ( the really large leafed variety). I don’t plan to do anything special for the Anemone japonica, but for my Acanthus mollis, I will try layering some pine branches over them in order to provide a bit more insulation. We may be in for another cold winter.
ORNAMENTAL GRASSES…As a rule, I like to keep all my ornamental grasses as is throughout the winter. I love them in their dormant state as they sway with the wind. If they have flopped and are lying prostrate on the ground, then I will go ahead and chop them off. Otherwise, they stay.
TREES and SHRUBS…Take a mental note of plants with long extending branches that could break under the weight of a wet snow. Some can be pruned a bit now, which should help. Do keep an eye on them. If we get a wet snow, you may need to brush the snow off at your earliest opportunity.
Narrow, columnar type plants such as Buxus semp. ‘Dee Runk’, Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ will benefit from being tied spiral fashion with twine. This will help guard against spreading.
Those of you with Hydrangea macrophylla / Bigleaf Hydrangea may have found that very few flowered if at all. In our area, these plants died back to the ground, and all of the lush growth is brand new this year (first year wood). Many of the Hydrangea mac. bloom on second year wood. Hopefully, next year you will enjoy lush flowers once again.
Newly planted Prunus laurocerasus / Cherry Laurel is very susceptible to leaf burn in Jan/Feb/Mar. Wrapping the sides in burlap usually does the trick. After the first winter, this is no longer necessary. Even this past year when mature specimens suffered greatly from leaf burn, new leaves pushed through forcing the damaged leaves to drop. Looking at the plants now, you’d never know they had problems in the spring.
WHEN TO STOP WATERING If you installed any new plants in the fall, do try to water at least 2x/wk for as long as you can. If you can continue through mid-December, that would be great. Unfortunately, most of us need to shut down our hose bibs for the winter so that the pipes don’t freeze and burst. Whenever that job needs to occur, that will be when your watering stops. Taking care of your pipes is more important than your plants.