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Winter Survival


The mad rush of holidays are over for now. For those who hadn’t time to deadhead, mulch, rake leaves or tend the garden in other ways, or were just plain confused – (leave habitat or clean up?}. Whatever the reason you didn’t do your fall garden chores, it’s not too late!

Cheryl Whalen, head gardener at White Flower Farm, Litchfield, Connecticut, offers some quick tips:

“In general, I deadhead lavender and leave the woody stems. I have the best luck with Lavandula angustifolia – the true, or English, lavender,” she says. “Russian sage: I cut the top third. And I think about drainage.”

A Few Perennials:
Nepeta and coreopsis: cut back to the ground.
Geranium, centranthus and penstemon: leave more foliage.
Hellebore: leave leaves on for winter and cut the dead off in early spring.
Penstemon and digitalis: leave rosettes.

“The key a lot of the time is the right drainage and siting the plant where it’s going to like it,” Whalen says.

Mulch: There isn’t one answer.
“I don’t really do mulch for winter protection,” Whalen says. “But if a plant is not established, add mulch to prevent heaving. In spring, mulch should be living – as in plants.” Plants are the best mulch!

If the area is prone to voles and chipmunks, cut back as much as possible. Don’t apply mulch that would create a cushy environment for them.

Wood mulch sticks together, so make sure the soil is moist before putting it down. It can make a barrier for water to get in.

Peonies and bearded iris: do not mulch.

To avoid sheltering rodents near your home, don’t use leaves or have uncut grasses in foundation gardens. In fall, when cutting back grasses, Whalen has found mice nests in them.

“At my gardens at home, I blew lots of leaves off the garden but some came back. Shredded leaves are great. I leave them in the lawn and you can add them to the garden. I think people’s views are changing. I’m relaxing a little bit, being more aware of habitat. Leaf litter is a spot where insects and critters can live.”

** All photos by Cheryl Whalen
White Flower Farm: www.whiteflowerfarm.com

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