What to do in the garden before it snows

(Question)

I’ve just moved into a new house with a beautiful landscaped garden that has lots of perennials and rosebushes. What I should do to get ready for winter? Should I fertilize or cut down perennials such as hostas? Please advise.

 

(Answer)

How wonderful to move into a new place with a beautiful garden! Every week of the next year will bring new surprises and delights.

It sounds as if the garden is already in good shape, so the main things to do to get it ready for winter involve cutting back perennials that are looking mushy or unattractive, pulling out any obvious weeds so that the garden doesn’t harbour them through the winter, bringing in any annuals that you want to overwinter and use again next year, and planting any bulbs (such as tulips, crocus and daffodils) for the spring.

Cut back hostas and other plants like Solomon’s seal that get mushy leaves and look unattractive. (Also remove  annuals like nasturtiums and marigolds, which die after the first frosts.) But you don’t need to cut back all the perennials — leave lots of them to provide some winter interest in the garden. They’ll also give you an indication of the garden’s structure that will help remind you what’s already there when you’re considering adding new plants in the spring. That being said, it’s probably good to wait a year — get a sense of your new garden through all the seasons — before making major changes in it.

Cut back hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses to about 18″ to avoid wind damage and possible upheaval of roots in strong winds. After the ground has frozen, hill up the soil to cover the crown where the graft is located. Use friable (crumbly) soil left over from an annual basket or retained in a warm place (e.g. garage). Do not use manure or compost. Once the soil is frozen cover with more soil, damp sawdust, leaves or hay.

Cut back shrub roses to about 2 or 3 feet. For climbing roses, secure or remove branches to avoid possible wind damage. Most miniature roses are hardy, but consider hilling up with soil.

For more detailed information, see the Toronto Master Gardeners Guides, Putting the Garden to Bed  and Pruning Roses at

http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/index.php/factsheet/putting-the-garden-to-bed-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/

http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/index.php/factsheet/pruning-roses-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/

 

See also Toronto Master Gardener Connie Hunter describing the process in a video for Anokhi Media at:http://anokhimedia.com/spotlighttv/tips-to-prepare-your-garden-for-winter