Some seasons are easier on gardeners than others – like soft Spring and gentle Fall. Summer can be tough, especially if it comes in too hot and too fast, but it’s Winter that really throws a curve ball at the landscape. Of course, it all depends on where you live. If your idea of a cold day means wearing a cardigan, then you probably find some of what follows is a bit of an over-kill. But if you’re the local snow-ball-throwing champion, these suggestions will be really helpful…
Ho. Hum. Housekeeping. Of course you spent your Fall carefully trimming, weeding, sweeping and mulching all around the garden. But if you didn’t, guess what? Now’s your last chance to get it done and it’s a lot more pleasant to gather up branches and leaves now rather than after the thaw. Head out with your pruners, a pruning saw and a big bag. Pick a starting point and methodically work your way around the garden trimming any branches from trees or bushes that have overgrown paths and lawns. Then use your hedge clippers to shape anything that is starting to look odd, and keep in mind there’s not wrong or right to this as personal style dictates whether you love the loose natural look or a more tight trimmed approach. Pull the weeds, and then spread the mulch on thickly. Coarse wood chips are great weed suppressants as they smother most things trying to make their way upwards and then make it really tricky for seeds that blow in to take hold. Then whip around with the broom to sweep up anything that didn’t make it into the bag – and you’re done.
Tucking things in. This is easy, especially if you’ve done your housekeeping (see above). Simply mound up the mulch around the plants you know need some help through the coldest spells and you’re done. In some cases this will mean covering over plants that have been trimmed well back before-hand, like Tropicanna canna, dahlias, calla lilies and caladiums. This will definitely work if where you live is mild – Zone 8 or warmer. But if you live where winter really kicks in (Zones 4 -7), head out with a spade to dig them up and drop them into a cardboard box. Pack soil, peat or sawdust around to keep them from drying out, and store the box in a cool dark place like a basement till spring when you can plant them out again.
Tough roses for cold places. Sometimes weathering Winter is all about making the right plant choices. Roses are generally pretty tough and able to look after themselves, but there are some that do better than others in really cold areas, like Flower Carpet groundcover roses, ‘Arctic Flame’ and ‘Helen Hayes’ Hybrid teas and the popular climbers, ‘Wiliam Bafin’ and ‘John Cabot’. If you live in Zones 8 and warmer the trick is to prune them any time between November and January, before they start sending out new growth. Then mulch them for protection. But if you live in areas that get deep freezes, mulch them as they are and wait until early Spring to give them their yearly hair cut. If it’s been particularly dry, give your roses a good soaking before mulching so they’ll be well hydrated as they move into dormancy. Whether you trim them now or after winter, there’s no need to get too fussy about it. Use hedge clippers, chop them back by two thirds, clear away the trimmings then lay on the mulch.
Mark your treasures. This sounds funny, but by the time spring comes around, you may have forgotten what you’ve planted where, especially when it comes to perennials that have been trimmed back to ground level and covered with mulch. The easiest way is to pop in some labelled stakes when you’ve finished your early Winter garden housekeeping session. Just make sure your labels are weather proof so you can still read them come spring, but even if you can’t, you’ll know not to dig something up accidentally.
Wrap Up: Getting ready for winter . . .
- Trim, tidy, weed and sweep, i.e. do your garden housekeeping
- Tuck everything in with mulch for protection
- Pick plants that cope will in the cold
- Lift and store more tender plants
- Label treasures to avoid digging them up accidentally in Spring
For hi-res downloadable images in this story starter, just click each image above and you’ll get instant links to each image on Flickr. Need help? Contact Judie Brower at JBrower@TesselaarUSA.com