We have come so far as gardeners. When I first started, gardening magazines would talk at great length about putting the garden to bed for the winter. We didn’t have the internet back then, my younger garden friends. Cut back the plants, add a fresh layer of shredded mulch, and evict those fallen leaves from every inch of the garden was the directive espoused by many in the field. What we know now turns all that thinking upside down. Unfortunately, those old garden practices are still out there, reverberating around the garden world.
Why do we need to file some practices as outdated? For one, if you were to look out your window right now, go ahead, look, you should see plants in bloom, seed heeds enticing goldfinches, and skippers, butterflies, and bees all around. Do you not see that? Well, that is scary.
On October 23, I saw several different types of skippers, more native bee varieties than I could count, honeybees at every turn, and two monarchs in the garden. The buzz of honeybee activity on my stonecrop is so dense that I can see them flying about from my desk window. It’s not a bee here or there, or a sad skipper limping along the garden. No, it’s gorgeous, fresh Monarchs, so many bees you can hear them as you approach, and birds chirping and singing throughout the garden.
We now know that the garden, when we plant with nature, is still working in the fall and the winter. We know that many pollinators rely on late blooming plants to survive, that pollinators are scouting pithy stems to ride out the winter, and that monarchs are embarking on their epic journey to Mexico.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: cutting your garden back now is like stopping at the five-yard line and not scoring a touchdown.
It’s not just for the benefit of nature that we want to leave the garden standing and ensure we have plants blooming now, it’s for our benefit as well. To look out the window and see a beautiful garden is far more appealing than a sea of mulch. Our winter will come soon enough, with its gray skies and cold, damp winds. If we can inject more color, blooms, and life into our landscape as long as possible, why wouldn’t we?