If you’re like me, you really want your landscaping to look good all the time and your fall landscape is no exception. Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take now to not only make the beds ready for the spring, but keep your yard to looking professionally manicured in the cooler months.
Cut Back Dead Growth
As soon as your Perennials turn brown and go dormant, we recommend you cut them back to the ground. We do this with all Hostas, Coralbells, Salvia, Astilbe, etc., but will sometimes leave ornamental grasses standing (depending on the variety). We have found that Feather Reed Grass looks rather nice over the winter; reminding us of winter wheat and is sturdy enough to withstand the colder temperatures and winter weather when other ornamental grasses would fall over.
Cutting back the perennials will remove much of the dead looking growth from your beds. This action alone will greatly improve their appearance. Technically, perennials may be cut back any time between the time they turn brown in the Fall and when they begin to regrow in the Spring, but doing it sooner rather than later will improve the Winter appearance of your landscape beds.
We strongly encourage trimming shrubs in the Fall. With most varieties, Autumn is the best time to reduce their size, without causing damage. Plants that flower on new growth such as Spirea and Potentilla can be trimmed in the Fall, while plants that flower on old growth such as Lilacs and certain varieties of Hydrangea should be trimmed right after they flower. Be careful not to trim Lilacs and some varieties of Hydrangeas this time of year unless you don’t mind losing spring flowers. If your Knockout Roses have flourished during the growing season, we suggest trimming them back to about two feet (24 inches) tall. In some instances we cut them back a little further, to eighteen inches tall, in March or April depending on the winter die back.
Fertilizing in conjunction with Fall cleanup could force new growth that could potentially be killed by cold temperatures. This is particularly important if you live in an area where early Winter warm ups are common.
Thin and Shape Trees in the Fall and Winter
Trimming and shaping is much easier when you can see what you are doing unhindered by leaves, vines or other visual obstructions on trees. Cleanup is also much faster when you don’t have to contend with all the leaves.
Rake and Remove All Leaves and Debris
Cleaning flower and shrubbery beds is best done after most of the leaves are down from the trees. We know it is difficult to wait, but with a little patience, waiting will ensure you don’t have to do it again. We like to clean all spouting prior to raking the beds, that way we are ready for the Spring rains. Also, any leaves that fall into the beds can be removed easily when cleaning the beds.
Finally, fluffing the mulch dramatically improves the beds appearance over the Winter months. We also take the extra step to rake a portion of loose mulch around the base of any plants that could be susceptible to Winter kill. The excess mulch helps to insulate the roots.
The above steps will make your landscape beds look much better over the Winter months and give you a running start in the Spring!