Preparing the garden for its winter dormancy can save time and labour next spring
As the days get shorter and colder, there’s not much incentive to work in the garden. However, if you prepare your garden properly for winter, you’ll be happy you did when next spring arrives. “Some people forget about their gardens in the fall. But cleaning it will save you a lot of time in the spring,” says Stewart Leibovitch, a West Island horticulturist and garden consultant with Urban Eden. “This is also a good time to review how your garden looks and make changes by moving plants if you don’t like where they’re planted.”
The best place to start, he says, is pruning back perennials. “The exception to this is plants that have seed heads, such as echinacea,” Mr. Leibovitch says. “Seed heads provide food for birds throughout the winter. Any plants in the daisy family will have seed heads that you can leave.”
Tender plants and those that are marginally hardy, such as boxwood, should be wrapped in burlap or fleece. “Roses can be pruned down to the first crown,” he says. “And you can cover tender roses in Styrofoam covers. However, this has to be done late in the autumn in case of fluctuations in temperature. You don’t want to cook them under the Styrofoam. You could wait for the first freeze to do this.”
Fallen leaves that have been shredded in an impeller can provide valuable insulating mulch for perennial borders, he says. “However, do this if the leaves are dry. If they’re wet, they’ll cause rotting.”
Shrubs should be tied up with jute or poly twine to protect them from heavy snow and ice, Mr. Leibovitch says. “With a shrub such as a hydrangea macrophylla, you need to protect the buds, which will flower the following season. By contrast, a hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ can be cut down to the ground. And yews that are exposed to wind can get burnt by the cold, so I always cover them with burlap.”
The tidier the garden is when winter sets in, the easier it will be to reopen in the spring, he says.