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Floral Notes: Putting the garden to bed

— Before long the snow will fly, and once again, the vow is made to finish garden chores before I need to wear ski hat and insulated gloves, beyond the sun hats and gardening gloves of now.

Afternoon is a more pleasant time to be outside, with the grass dried and the sun warming my bent-over back, but if the morning is spent with indoor chores, my energy for the day is spent, too.

It’s a healthy premise for both muscles and mind to limit the amount of time you work on the garden. Amazing what can be done in a quick hour or two, when tools are easily kept at hand, with buckets and gloves.

Many years ago, I discovered that every season has the perfect tools and receptacles for the weeding and debris of the beds. When deadheading flowers, a bucket and small clippers will work well.

In the final cleanup, a pair of long handled hedge clippers, both a light and heavy duty one, join my stash of old sheets in my quest for neatness.

The sheets tied by their corners when full, hold an amazing amount, cut long and thrown down on the ground, easily stacked in the wagon or wheelbarrow with a bungee cord to stabilize the load.

A useful memory tool for what needs cutting is a rhyme made up and taught to all my garden club tours, “If it’s brown, cut it down.” With the exception of those plants with winter interest of seed pods or swaying ornamental grasses, a brown plant is no longer working for the good of the roots.

Where you cut down to is important, too. Perennials do not need stumps left, next year the new growth has to fight through it and next fall there is a thatch of two years’ to cut; it just keeps compounding. It looks so severe, but does no harm to the plant. Real gardeners have to get tough!

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