You would think that November would mark the end of the gardening season in the North Country but youd be wrong! Every year were treated to delightful mild spells late into the fall. Here are some things you can do in your perennial flower garden during these spells. You can still do them when the temperatures drop but its not nearly as enjoyable. Cut Some, Leave Some
With a few exceptions, perennial plants dont care if they are cut down in fall or not. I used to leave almost everything standing in my garden because I like the way it looked after a snow fall. But I find some plants look better than others as fall progresses and Im getting more selective. Its purely a matter of aesthetics so I try to take advantage of a nice day this time of year and just cut down the plants that have become floppy and bedraggled looking. For me, the two plants that hold up the longest, often lasting until spring, are phlox and sedum Autumn Joy. My ornamental grasses hold up pretty well too, but are often flattened by a heavy, wet snowfall. A big advantage to cutting out the plants that have flopped is youll have much less work to do next spring when time is short and the weather in unpredictable. The plants that are the exception to the cutting down rule are sage, Russian sage, lavender and buddleia or butterfly bush. These plants have semi-woody stems and are less winter hardy if cut to the ground in the fall. Wait until spring to cut them to about 2 inches tall. Mark Your Plants
While youre out cutting down the bedraggled perennials, its also a good time to mark your plants. Its amazing how hard it is to remember in spring where the new perennials are that you planted last year. If I bought 3 plants of one variety I try to put at least a twig if not a plastic tag next to each one so I can make sure they all survived next year. The twig is a subtle marker and more natural than a plastic tag but come next year you may scratch your head over what they all mean. A lot of gardeners have learned the trick of leaving notes for themselves right in their garden. Its not as crazy as it sounds. I often put a plastic tag in the ground labeled divide this next to plants that need dividing next year. Other notes Ive left include move to the back, give more room, and give to Linda. Yes, you can make notes in a notebook but come next spring its tricky to figure out which beebalm amongst the other plants needed the dividing, for example. Gardeners I know have used other labels. Some use bright colored, plastic surveyors tape to mark some plants and others have used the plastic flags on wire used by contractors to mark an underground line and such. Old Venetian blind slats work well, too. The one item that doesnt work well is anything made from wood wooden labels and wooden paint sticks. Most markings fade quickly from the wood leaving you with no message next spring. Last Weeding
Ive said it before but it bears repeating. Take advantage of a nice fall day and get ahead of the weeds in your gardens. Theyre easy to see if youve cut some perennials down and you can really make a difference. I find young ground ivy and quackgrass lurking at the bases of my plants and by teasing them out now I have a lot less hassle next spring. Once you get all the weeds you can its okay to cover your beds lightly with leaves but dont overdo it. Tiny leaves such as those from honeylocust and ash are ideal. The larger leaves of maples can really pack down and smother the crowns of your plants. If you have a lot of maple leaves take the time to run over them first with the lawn mower to chop them up and theyll make a beautiful mulch.