THE SLEEPING GARDEN
As we prepared for this winter, we are careful to make sure that our homes are in order. The furnace air filter is checked, our fireplaces have been cleaned and inspected (hopefully), we’ve dug those extra blankets from the linen closet, etc. But what about the outside? Sure, we clean up our beds and make sure that there is a nice layer of mulch tucked around the feet of our shallow rooted plants. We also ensure that our irrigation systems are winterized and drained and garden hoses and containers are stored.
For a change I will recommend something not to do. Don’t be quick to cut back seed heads and those wonderful umbrels (umbrella-like skeletons that remain on the ends of plant stalks) from flowers long gone. Not only do these plants add some structure and interest to a winter garden but many often provide food for several species of birds.
Famed plantsman, Piet Oudolf was once quoted as saying “let your winter garden die gracefully”. Of course, he was speaking of the perennial layer so “die” may not be the exact word he used since these plants just go into a hibernating dormant mode before they bounce back in the spring. If you’re a neat-freak like I, it may be tough to resist the urge to cut back and there are some species that just can’t stand up to some heavy frost and winter rain. If you’re planting some new varieties, do a bit of research (which now means Google) and seek out those that are more structurally solid than the weak and flimsy. Through some good planning and selection, you should be able to add some wonderful, “four season” varieties to your collection.
There isn’t anything quite like seeing a layer of morning silvery frost clinging to the stems and stalks of garden foliage to get you excited about what is to come. So let your pruning shears and clippers also have a rest until they’re really needed.