Fall Cleanup Question

bev2009(6 IN)October 7, 2013

Hello everyone. I don't post here very often, but I enjoy all your pics! I am experiencing my yearly struggle with putting the garden to bed. I hate to pull out/cup off plants that are still greenish or annuals that are still slightly blooming. I want to hold on to the garden as long as I can. However, then suddenly fall has run into early winter and I don't want to go out because it is too cold or wet. It looks like we will be having a later frost, but that just means all of a sudden it will be very cold. When you have a cottage garden, there is a lot of debris to clean up. This year I was still cleaning gardens the second or third week in June and that is just too late. I had vowed to get it all done this fall, but am now vacillating. How to you judge when is the best time? How do you make decisions about what to cut back when?

Oh, and just for fun, a shot of my early morning misty "Monet" garden.

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Well part of my decision is how long I see my hummingbirds. Once they have left I don't feel guilty about replacing the flowers they used with things more suited to Fall. I always leave something for the late migrators though. So this past weekend all the old Lady in Red Salvia got pulled but I still have a lovely Pineapple sage that just started blooming. I also like to decorate with pumpkins and stuff so that means I needed to get rid of some of the tired annuals. I dec ided not to feel bad and just do it! Now I feel really good at how much prettier it looks with ornamental millet and mums and ornamental kale!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 5:40PM
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I forgot to add that your Monet garden looks beautiful!!! It's no wonder you want to keep it as long as you can!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 7:37AM
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Lovely âÂÂmisty "Monet" gardenâ pic, Bev!

My zone is shorter than yours so most of my garden has been deadheaded. I leave things that birds or bees, especially bees, like as they need the food. So there are several plants that don't look their best during early fall but the insect/bird foragers are more important to me. I still have Lamb's Ears blooms which have gone to seed and Autumn Joy is still blooming. Plants that start to look really 'ratty' get cut back or even weed-whacked to save time and work. This year because of our 2 month drought this happened in August and the plants rebounded with foliage once the rain came. Some even tried to rebloom but I cut off the blooms to keep the plants from expending unnecessary energy. New/young plants are not allowed to go to seed so they can build a good root system. This was a tough year for my plants because of the prolonged drought but everything seems to have survived and now looks healthy.

Every year is different depending on the weather and what's going on in my life. I don't think there is a right or wrong for this, all we can do is our best and gardening is not a perfect science. If I had a really small garden or full-time gardening staff I could always have a perfect garden, but otherwise not possible for me.

Whatever I haven't cleaned up in fall gets done as soon as the snow has melted, usually end of March or early April.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 6:46PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

Thanks, ladies.

Joann, I haven't seed a hummer in awhile, but I still have canna, balfour impatiens, and other flowers if any strays happen along.

Luckygal, I had a pineapple sage for three years, but I never got to see it blooming. Just about the time the flowers were developing, we got a frost. So I was going to more it into full sun this year, but it didn't come back. I was very disappointed, as technically it shouldn't have been a perennial here anyway.

I've decided to start cutting back the areas that I can't see from my dining room window. The monet view is directly out the window, so that will remain. Right under the window is a huge chocolate penstemon covered in blooms. It has never been this big and the lack of frost has really given it a chance to shine.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 8:59AM
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1st of all, your garden is spectacular!!! I wish mine looked like yours.

I myself, never do know when to do annuals clean up.
Especially my sunflowers.
Right now they look creepy, lol , the birds are loving them! I usually leave 90% of the clean up til Spring. YIKES!
I just have this "let nature have it's way" look. Right now...looks horrible lol.
Funny thing is, I'm a licensed so called "professional Nursery grower ". Ah, to each his own! Yep that's exactly what I tell my clients. Seriously, there is NO set rule.
Enjoy your gardens, they're yours!
:) Laura

This post was edited by auntyara on Sun, Oct 13, 13 at 21:12

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 9:08PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

My sunflowers looked terrible too, Laura. I did cut them down, but I throw most things into the compost pile, so the squirrels will get the seeds. BTW, in my post above, I meant chocolate Joe Pye Weed. I worked outside today and cleaned out most of the flowers around one side of the house. But I left some of the blooming alyssum.

I'm missing my flowers already, so here's a picture of some of the plants I cut back.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 11:39PM
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your eupherbia (sp) is so pretty. One of my favorite spring blooms. mine died all the way to the ground already. I think voles ate the roots. Hopefully they left enough for next years growth.
:) Laura

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 12:34PM
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I cleaned up this weekend. Normally I wait until Spring but decided to try and save me some work come April. My feeling was that the spent stalks and foliage helped protect plants from heavy snows and freezing temps, plus I like the effect of snow on the garden in winter. So, we shall see what happens.

Mostly felt sad about tearing out the cosmos and marigolds that were still blooming along the picket fence, but they had become very tall and wild looking at the same time. I cut the heads off of the large sunflowers and stuck them on the pickets of the fence for the jays and cardinals - and the chipmunks I suspect. Should be time for those little buggers to tuck themselves into bed for the winter too!

Tables and chairs are put away for the winter, the tarp is on the glider in the garden, except for a small bistro set in the courtyard garden. We are suppose to have some nice days yet this week so I'm hoping to get one or two more tea-in-the-afternoons out there. Sun isn't quite as warm there now though.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 11:19AM
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I don't cut back things that are still blooming or seed heads that the birds are enjoying. I wait until we have a hard enough freeze (this year it was this week) and then do my cutting back as I have time. Usually we don't get snow that stays until some time early in the new year, so I just bundle up and enjoy spending time outside cleaning things up. I don't mind working when it's a bit cold.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 5:39PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

We have several frosts, one hard, don't know if you would call it a hard freeze. We have some decent days, but I have been working so much I haven't gotten out. I'm really enjoying the hosta's that are turning yellow. I love fall colors. I just bought a Garden Glow Dogwood and need to get it planted. It is a wonderful yellow/gold color and will really brighten up the shady spot I have planned for it.

Schoolhouse, I've read that when you cut some perennials in the fall, you allow water to get into the cut stalk and freeze the plant and kill it. If so, I imagine some plants are more prone to that kind of damage than others. I worried about that being a problem with the canna since they have such a large stem. Last year I left them at about 3', they had grown to about 10' (or higher). I still lost about half.

Luckygal, my non-gardening neighbor takes a weed-wacker with a round steel saw type blade and mows everything down with her kids in an afternoon. LOL I borrowed it once, but it had way too much power for my weak muscles.

Thanks, Laura. I've been working on the garden for seven years and I think I've finally learned enough to get it together.

Another picture just for fun.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 11:34PM
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Hi all - I don't post in this forum often (usually over in perennials) but I love popping in and seeing everyone's posts.
Bev - your photos are BEAUTIFUL. I'm jealous. Lets trade gardens (you wouldn't want to, trust me lol). Your monet garden is beautiful but what I LOVE is that euphorbia with the irises and that bright green hosta. I'm a sucker for lime/chartreuse.

I've been the same way this year... I cut back a few heliopsis that were looking a little rough (unfortunately this year aphids had a little buffet going on them until the lady bugs got their act together) but otherwise I'm waiting to cut anything back as long as I can. I'm jonesing for spring already!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 6:17AM
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bev2009(6 IN)

Thanks, David. I love the lime/chartreuse, too. I quickly looked through my pics and found this golden agastache you might enjoy. Must admit, I had to look up what jonesing meant. Is it because I am too old that I've never heard of it, or too young? I'm going with the latter.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 10:16PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

Must admit I also like blue in my garden.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 10:19PM
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Just lovely, Bev. So inviting and neat. Lots of hard work but so worth it. lesley

    Bookmark   November 1, 2013 at 5:30PM
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I just leave everything. I don't know if birds eat seedheads on coneflowers or hollyhocks, but just in case, I don't deadhead anything after about the middle of September. I know they will eat phlox seeds, so those stay too. Everything else I just leave to die back, and slump to the ground, and bend and fall down under the snow. I feel that it provides some kind of shelter for all the birds who visit in the winter. Last winter, we pruned some branches from outr trees which got left in a big pile in the yard. The birds loved it! That brushpile was full of juncoes, finches, sparrows, nuthatches, etc all winter long! So that's the main reason I do minimal cleanup in the fall.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 9:50PM
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