The sweet flowers of spring are truly just beneath the surface of this year’s withered leaves. They exist in so many forms. Bulbs will burst into color with the first warm days. Seeds of the violets, daisies and so many more will sprout into next year’s flowers. Swollen buds on the trees will open into life-giving green. Flowers will bedeck the forsythia, lilac and redbud. And the reliable shoots of the perennials will rise again. To help your beds be ready for these miracles, a little fall clean up is in order.
One of our most common questions this time of year is about cutting back perennials. As long as your plants have green foliage to undergo photosynthesis, nutrients are still being sent to the plant. Removing stems and leaves too early limits the amount of energy reserves the plant has going into winter. This energy fuels new growth in spring, so it is generally best to wait to remove top growth until it naturally dies back or until after a hard freeze. For marginally hardy plants, such as mums and lavender, it is better to leave old growth through the winter and remove it in spring. Stems can act as small windbreaks to accumulate snow and leaves, which insulate the crown of the plant.Another reason to leave top growth intact is the winter interest it provides. Many perennials, including cone flowers, heliopsis, astilbe, and most ornamental grasses, have relatively strong stems which provide interesting architecture, as well as seeds for wildlife.
Very hardy plants such as bee-balm, daylilies, hostas, and peonies are so durable that removing their foliage any time in the fall is no problem. Cleaning up and carefully discarding their leaves and stems can help reduce disease the following season. An additional layer of mulch can be used to help insulate all of your perennials from the freezing and thawing our harsh winters deliver.
As you clear out spent plants, it’s easy to see where you have space to add perennials and shrubs. While you’re digging, it’s hardly any extra work at all to plant spring-blooming bulbs like alliums, crocus, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips. Next spring you can enjoy these cheerful plants and know that you saved money in the process with our 35% discounts this week.