Putting your plant beds to 'bed'

Good old Fall, my favorite season. This is a time when, with a little effort, you can execute plans that will enhance your winter landscape and create a spring that will be memorable.

After the mums have faded, kale & cabbage are an element you can add to the seasonal color pallet. These offer color to a bleak landscape and will tolerate freezing weather before they disappear into much in February. Once the K & C are blobs, one can place evergreen boughs in high impact areas for some "greenery."

Flush cutting or cutting back of grasses and perennials should be done with discretion as some plants can be left in place. Ornamental grasses can be shaped and left in clusters, remembering though that mice do like to nest in the clumps. Sedums and Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susans) can be left as the birds do like to pick at poor Susan's seeds. Corn shocks with Broom corn inserts make an attractive display and will draw birds. Lavender, Perovskia (Russian Sage), Salvia, Helleboros, and Japanese Painted Ferns can all be left in place with a little tweaking. Mariann finds it safer to leave the first year perennial mums standing in place for best over wintering.

Soil prep, done after you have planted your seasonal color, finished your pruning, ripped your annuals, and clear-cut other seasonal plantings, is often a good idea for overwintering and ease in spring work. Depending on your available time in the spring, one can re-edge and top-dress beds with one inch of mulch or mushroom soil in the fall.

Bulbs are one of my favorite Fall activities. There is something about spending all that money and labor and then having to sit around the fireplace, looking out the window and wondering how they will look after the snow melts. Remember you will get 4-5 years from tulips and 6-7 years from daffodils before they go "south." Plant them in drifts of hundreds or in pockets of dozens. There are fewer things that look sadder than a onesy-twosey bulb display. Mariann told me something that I did not know: plant the flat side of tulip bulbs toward the edge of your planting pit as that is the face from which the large leaf will appear. Daffodils are too independent, so this does not work with them.

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