Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
This year my goal is to put the garden to bed earlier than usual so I can get to my indoor projects. It seems as if I am ahead but… that remains to be seen. Using a gas-powered trimmer, I cut down most of the perennials. Well, truth be told, it was too heavy for me to use on the entire garden, so I brought out the electric trimmer as well – much easier to manage. The trimmers shorten the time it takes to cut each plant by hand, although I do go back and clip the woody stems shorter since the stems can split when using the gas or electric powered trimmers; I cut them 6 inches above the ground and hand trim later. For years I foolishly cut down the garden with my Felco pruners, until I realized how labor intensive putting the garden to bed was without an electric or gas powered trimmer. I rushed out and bought both!
The sedum, rudbeckia, echinops and solidago remain in the garden for the birds to feast on during the winter. After attending several garden lectures this past winter, I learned what an important food source solidago is for birds returning in the spring. In previous years I cut all the perennials back except the sedum; they were left to add texture to the winter garden. They look wonderful when white with snow.
Every year I collect seed to use the following season. Can’t tell you how my times seeds have fallen out of my pockets, as I take off my gardening garb or carry my clothes to the laundry room. Sometime I even find seeds in the dryer. Amazing they managed to stay in my pocket through the wash, rinse and spin cycles. Occasionally I find them scattered on a counter and wonder what plant they were harvested from! Hence, the note to you and to self: “LABEL all collected seed otherwise you might not be able to identify it at a later time.”
Fall garden chores:
1. Collect any seed you want to save for next year before cutting down perennials. Remember to label the seeds and date the package.
2. Leave perennials that can feed the birds in the fall, winter and spring, such as sedums, rudbeckia, echinops, solidago and berry bushes.
3. Consider using an electric or gas powered hedge trimmer to reduce the time it takes to cut down the perennials.
4. Perennials with woody stems cut to six inches, then with hand pruners finish cutting them to the ground to keep the stalks from splitting.
5. Compost the plant material that is healthy. Discard bug infested material in the trash bin.
6. Soak in a hot bath at the end of the day after hauling away plant material to the compost area.
Don’t know what to do with your Artemisia ludoviciana, (Silver wormwood)? Cut it down and make a wreath. Use green floral wire to wrap three to four stems of artemisia together. Place them on top off each other, slightly offset from the previous grouping in order to form a circle. Once you have the circle size you desire, begin to tuck additional single stems into the wreath form. This will soften the appearance, add fulness and look more natural. If you have hydrangeas in your yard, stick them into your wreath. Add a bow and you are ready to hang your creation. Berries, astilbe, and rose hips can also be used, it just depends on the look you are going for. I leave the wreath on the barn until it is time for winter decorations to be put up.
The base of this year’s wreath is the one I made last year and stored in our garage. Newly cut plants are wired to the existing wreath. Most of the labor occurs the first year, when making the original frame.
Be creative with your garden cuttings by reusing the plant material to keep the season going longer. When putting your garden to bed for the winter, think whether or not the perennials you are clipping can be used in your wreath. If not, add them to your compost pile.
From the kitchen I have a view of the back garden, it is planted with drifts and individual perennials. The garden is quite a distance from the house and needs strong colors to be noticed. In late summer, it blooms for weeks on end because Perovskia atriplicifolia is one of the main perennials that carries the garden through until frost. Asters, Sanguisorba and many others lend their support.
Before you cut down your garden, decide which plants should be saved to use in decorating your window boxes, flowerpots, or any area you want to have a fall festive feel.
For the window boxes I use Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Astilbes, pods from Belamcanda, Hakoneckloa leaves, Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ flowers, Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’, Hosta pods, Anemone japonica stems, Rudbeckia ‘Goldstrum’, Hydrangea invincible spirit, and Cornus sericea ‘Farrow’ ARCTIC FIRE.
Magical! And just think, all from the garden.