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Make a 'last ditch' effort as winter approaches

As winter approaches, the garden is given a "last hurrah," a phrase made popular from the title of Edwin O'Connor's 1956 novel, or we make a "last ditch effort" to get something in the ground. "Last ditch" of course being the final "ditch" or trench in the last line of defense.

You can still squeeze in the occasional bulb. A few crocuses in the lawn now and perhaps even try writing out a spring greeting in bulbs. It's corny, but it works.

Besides bulb planting, fall is also a great time put in some last minute perennials.

Everything from lilies and peonies to lavender and rudbeckia can be planted now. Fall planting suits grapes and berries as well as Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spectabilis), Astilbe, Tree Peonies, Chrysanthemums, Peonies, Shasta daisy and Aquilegia, Phlox, Lavender and Rudbeckia all do well planted late in the year.

It will be best if you can get six weeks before the first hard freeze but many of these hardy plants will simply settle in for the winter with very little growth and then burst forth early next year.

By contrast, perennials planted in the spring not only have to get over transplant shock but need to grow a new root system and if not properly "hardened off" from life in a greenhouse, may not even survive.

You may even be able to pick up some late season bargains at nurseries and garden supply stores.

After you've planted the perennials, be sure to water them. Depending upon the weather you may want to lightly water newly-planted perennials if you don't get at least some rain every week before winter.

Cover with a thick mulch and wait until spring. In early spring gently rake the mulch away from the perennials as they sprout.

Most perennials do best in full sun or partial shade, but some, such as Astilbe and ferns, can grow in woodsy areas of deep shade.

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