Garden flowers can be visually attractive right through
For the most part my garden is made up of Phloxes,
coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, Russian sage and hydrangeas. What
do I do to "winterize" these flowers? Do I trim them all down?
Leave them alone?
You can leave the perennials standing for winter interest, then
cut the remains down in early spring, since new growth will come
from the roots, not the stems. You can enjoy the deep red brown of
black-eyed Susan and near black of purple coneflower plus the birds
that come to their seedheads.
Or you can cut them now. It's not too late. December is a
gardening month for me, since my own yard waits until I've put
client's beds to bed. It's wonderful to be out there. I choose
forty degree days without wind, wait until 10 a.m. and start in
four layers -- long johns, heavy shirt, hooded sweatshirt and
jacket. By noon I've peeled off one or two of those layers. It's a
good way to extend your own interest in the garden, dispel winter
blues and burn off holiday dining calories!
As for the shrubs: You can cut Russian sage anytime, but leave
the hydrangeas if they are oakleaf, blue or pink forms. Those must
keep this year's wood to make next year's flowers. If they're white
snowball or panicle hydrangeas, which bloom on new wood each year,
you can cut away now or in early spring as needed to shape them or
reduce their size.
I have planted 200 lilyturf plants from the curb inward
toward my home several feet. The city does salt the street. I
planned to cover the lilyturf with an abundance of shredded leaves.
Now I worry, do I completely cover the plants -- will that smother
them? Must I wait until after a hard frost to cover them with the
shredded leaves? Help. I am standing at the curb with a shredder, a
pile of leaves and gusto.
You can mulch them now, and you can cover them if it's with
something light and airy like leaves. It happens in the woods every
Or you can wait until the ground is frozen. Brrr.
To protect plants from salt, simply get the mulch in place
before salting begins. Then peel it off it next spring, removing
salt residue with it. Do it before spring rains begin, as they
would negate your efforts by washing salt into the soil.
I am responding to the question from A.H., 83 years old
and looking for help in the garden. I would be happy to help
I should also mention that I am 66 years old, bad knees
etc. But reading that note in your column made me think of myself
in 20 years. Plus I have a friend who's 74 and loves to garden -- a
great excuse for us getting together. It's hard to know what we can
do, but we'll certainly have some fun.
Aren't you sweet! I'll put you two in touch.
And isn't it the truth, that working with gardeners older than
ourselves, no matter what our age, makes us wonder about how (but
not "if"!) we'll keep gardening as our abilities change.
Five years ago I began a twenty year project in my own yard,
aimed to make it possible to keep enjoying it and taking care of it
all myself. Here are some of the things I'm doing:
Widening paths and making them more even and firm underfoot.
Changing slopes to wheelchair grade, which is also great for
Replacing high-maintenance perennials with short groundcovers
and shrubs that require little or no pruning.
Consolidating perennials in raised beds, in places most visible
from the house.
Creating more seats and places to perch.
Green thumbs up
to making notes now while the growing season is still fairly
fresh in your mind, about what colors, heights, forms and textures
your garden needs. Don't wait and let catalog pictures do your
thinking for you!
Green thumbs down
to the educational institute which denied tuition aid to its
horticulturist because landscape-related classes are in the same
field for which that person already has a degree. How can a school
miss the fact that education is lifelong, or that horticulture is
an evolving science?
Originally published 12/6/03