There's No Need to Make Your Garden Look Like the Arctic Tundra in the Fall
Ahh, it's November and the fall cleanups are occurring fast and furiously across Toronto and maybe in your town too. They're hard to ignore: the high-pitch whine from gas-powered leaf blowers deployed by landscape maintenance crews destroy any sense of autumn tranquility, at least until they quickly go off to their next address to inflict the same.
(Now, for the record, I do use an electric battery-operated cordless leaf blower which is handy blowing debris off hard surfaces. It's light, quiet and doesn't produce gas exhaust. Why I don't see any/more landscapers use them is a mystery to me.)
A "fall cleanup" to most homeowners involves, well, "cleaning" up the garden beds. I've discovered that the level of "cleanliness" of course depends on the client who may find leaving a few old perennial stalks and seed heads up for winter interest and a food source acceptable versus a residential or commercial property owner who wants everything cut right down in and all leaves blown out of the garden.
(And when I write "everything", it pains me to include majestic ornamental grasses which are in their glory now. Why landscapers and gardeners who should know better do this is another mystery to me.)
I'm probably preaching to the choir but if you, dear reader, are a new gardener and don't know what plants should be cut down for winter (actually, none but that's for another blog post), keep on reading...
I recently spent a few hours tidying up (notice, not "sanitizing") a client's front garden in the Birch Cliff neighbourhood in east Toronto. Here are some pictures of the garden as it enters November (I admit, it's not looking shabby at all!):
|Toronto Fall Cleanup Birch Cliff before|
|Toronto Fall Front Yard Cleanup Birch Cliff before|
|Birch Cliff Toronto Fall Cleanup before|
The plants are very common and I'm sure you're familiar with most of these perennials and shrubs: Sedum "Autumn Joy", Solomon's Seal, lavender, boxwood, hydrangea, and various ornamental grasses.
So, what to keep up and what to cut down?
|Toronto Fall Cleanup Birch Cliff after|
|Toronto Fall Front Yard Cleanup Birch Cliff after|
|Birch Cliff Toronto Fall Cleanup after|
You may be wondering "what did you do?" by comparing the "before" and "after" pictures and noticing not much of a difference. That's the point of this post: leaving those perennials which offer "winter interest" or some other functionality (especially the ornamental grasses) while cutting down those which don't (like the hostas and Solomon's Seal which have or are on the verge of collapsing.) I've left the lavender alone for the winter and will clip them lightly next spring. Next year's flower buds are present on the mophead hydrangeas so I'll leave them alone as well.
The wrong alternative is to cut everything except the boxwoods down to 6" or lower from the ground "in order to get a head start for next spring by really tidying up the garden."
Why the rush? Is it really a good idea to see "stubs" for the next 5 months until next May?
I guess one person's definition of a garden cleanup is to create a barren area. I'm glad my client here doesn't believe in such a philosophy.