Winter Garden Preparation, Part Two: Buttoning Up Beds & Borders …

November 30th, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’ Tufts Play Against the Blazing, Sunlit Red of Cornus alba ‘Siberica’

November is always a busy month in my garden, and this year —with various weather and health set-backs— has been particularly challenging. If you regularly follow this journal, you’ve probably noticed that my entries have been a bit less-frequent. I’ve been feeling a bit under-the-weather lately, and although on the mend, I’m still struggling to keep up with end-of-season chores. Fortunately, Mother Nature has been a bit kinder of late, and New England is experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures –just what I need to play catch-up.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been cutting back unsightly perennials (with hand-shears or string-trimmer in larger beds), edging the long border where it meets the lawn (learn more about edging by clicking here) putting in the last of the bulbs, wrapping delicate trees to protect them from rodents (click here for post), gathering boughs, berries and branches for holiday decorating, and stacking wood. This is a big garden and there’s always something to do …

I take a great deal of pleasure in the subtle beauty of winter’s tawny tones and textures, so I prefer to leave much of my garden standing throughout the coming season

However, some parts of the garden are “put to bed”. Perennials in the long border here were cut back for bulb planting, and the lawn was mown one final time before edging and mulching with compost

Gathering leaves and garden debris for compost (Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’)

Many gardeners like to “put the garden to bed” by cutting back all perennials after a few hard frosts, raking up the debris and mulching borders with chopped leaves, bark or evergreen boughs. Such tidiness has an undeniable appeal —particularly in formal landscapes— but there are as many ways to garden as there are gardeners. Some choose a more naturalistic approach to maintenance, leaving everything in the landscape standing ‘as-is’ throughout the winter, opting instead for a big clean up in early spring. Gardens filled with cold-hardy perennials and low-maintenance shrubs can easily survive and thrive without extra attention, and in these cases, fall clean-up is a matter of personal preference. In my years as a professional gardener, I tended high-maintenance, low-maintenance, formal and naturalistic gardens as well as everything in between.

I prefer to leave ornamental grass standing throughout the winter, however this year’s early snowstorm knocked back a few specimens. No matter, they look just as beautiful displayed in urns, scattered about my studio

Here at home, my personal approach to winter preparations is somewhere in the middle. I’ve planted mostly native and cold-hardy plants with season-spanning interest in my garden, so I leave the vast majority of my perennials standing throughout the winter months. Texture plays an important role in my garden designs, and I love watching frost, snow and ice crystals sparkling on remnant seed pods, tufts and tassels. In addition, many of the wildflowers in my garden —including Rudbeckia, Echinacea and Coreopsis— provide food for over-wintering birds, so I avoid cutting them back for this reason as well. But there are some plants — like hosta— that look best cut all the way back. An extra blanket of protection is useful to prevent frost-heaving of recently planted perennials, and though I’ve never been a big fan of heavy bark mulch in my perennial borders, I do apply a thick layer of well-rotted compost and chopped leaves to my garden every fall. And of course there are certain parts of my landscape —particularly the Secret Garden, which contains a number of delicate trees and marginally hardy plants— that require quite a bit more pre-winter prep. In those spaces, tree trunks are wrapped with wire cylinders, and tender plants are mulched with compost and evergreen boughs for a long winter’s nap …

The front entry garden remains as-is throughout the winter months

Situated at the edge of a stonewall, this Japanese maple is a prime target for gnawing rodents living next door. Every fall, I carefully wrap the trunks of vulnerable trees and shrubs in wire mesh cylinders. I made mine from leftover metal lath (used in construction of my studio), but fine chicken wire also works well. The base of the cylinder is slightly wider than the top, and the height should be at least 2′. Read more about how to create tree protectors in my previous post —click here.

Winter is a long season here in Vermont, and I look forward to spotting tiny birds visiting my frosty garden. I leave many perennials standing, both for their textural beauty, and importance to wildlife

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Leaving So Soon? I Wouldn’t Hear of It! Winter’s Latest, Icy Message…

March 7th, 2011 § 5 comments § permalink

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ (Red Leaf Japanese Maple) After the Storm

With chilly fingers firmly gripping my hilltop, Winter made it clear last night that she’s nowhere near ready to go. And the entire forest —every last evergreen needle and bare twig— humbly bowed beneath the weight of her message.

Oh Springtime, where are you now… Can you hear us? Will you ever find the Green Mountains, encased in Winter’s icicle kingdom? When will you throw open the door, bringing your sweet warmth to our frozen woodland palace?

Ucinia egmontiana (Orange Hook Sedge) Remnants, Coated in Ice

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ Still Looks Lovely at the Icy End of Winter

Like Frozen Coral, the Red Twigs of Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ are All Aglow Beneath a Clear, Thick Glaze After Last Night’s Ice Storm

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Article and photographs are ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent. Thank you for respecting the creative work of others.

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Sparkles, Drifts, Patterns & Shadows: The Beauty of a Frosty Winter’s Morn…

December 30th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Frosty Holiday Decorations

Oh, the shimmering, glimmering glamour of a frost-covered garden! After days of howling wind, I awoke to a still hush and brilliant sunrise. I simply had to rush outside to greet the glistening morn. Of course, there was no time to change into snow boots and jacket. Oh no. So I grabbed my camera and ran, bundled up in my fluffy robe and fuzzy slippers, to enjoy the first light of day. If it was cold, I never noticed. Such is the power of beauty. Even in winter, the garden beckons her faithful servant with a seductive call. And even in the quiet season, she never disappoints…

Sparkles, Drifts and Shadows (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’, Juniperus sargentii and Rudbeckia hirta shadows)

The Frost Covered Fire Sculpture Awaits New Year’s Eve Celebrations

Rudbeckia and Solidago Dance in Sparkling Snow

Frost-Coated Furniture on the Stone Terrace

And Color? Oh Yes. The Garden Still Sings in Red, Green and Gold (Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ and Kalmia latifolia)

Golden Miscanthus sinensis Shines Against the Violet-Grey Mountains, Bare Tree Branches and Cerulean Blue Sky

The Delightfully Shiny, Bright-Red Fruit of Viburnum setigerum

Rudbeckia Hirta Seed Heads Soak Up the Sun

Two Paths Diverge – Dramatically

A Wind-Blown Patch of Bare Textured, Lawn

And Piles of Sensual, Sparkling Snow

The Tippy Tops of Hosta Seem to Rise from Winter Slumber to Greet the Shimmering Morn…

Winter Borders Gleam, Greeting the Wandering Gardener

A Beautiful Way to Begin the Day…

With Sparkles and Shadows on Snow Drifts

Article and Photographs are copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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