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Preparing for winter

I have just had major abdominal surgery that will prevent me from doing anything but light dead heading for 6-8 weeks. During Sept/Oct I normally tidy back the garden for winter. Can you advise what plants I can safely leave untouched till spring. I have a mainly cottage garden with shrubs for structure. 


  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 10,341
    I wish you a speedy recovery.
    I also have a mainly cottage style garden with lots of perennials.
    I generally don't tidy up properly until the spring when the first shoots appear. I find that if I cut everything back in Autumn there's noting to indicate where plants are and I often dig plants up by mistake or damage them when I dig bits over in the autumn/winter, and I know where to mulch in the Spring - then I tidy it all up.
    If I leave the dead stems on the plants I generally know what plant it is by the dead stem.
    The decaying plant material also provides lots of hiding places for insects and the like, but not exclusively the insects we want in our gardens....
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • Thank you, I do see the sense in doing this but have always cut back to give bulbs, wallflowers etc to shine without having to push through the undergrowth. Encouraging to note I can maybe do a light cut back at end of October.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,162
    In my last garden in central rural Belgium all I did was clear the kind of debris which provided shelter for slugs once all the foliage had died down on perennials so late October into November.   Leaving the stalks helps identify where plants are but also gives visual ineterest when they are frosted and provides seeds for birds and some teeny insects even shelter in the seedheads.   

    The stalks also take the frost and help protect the crown of the plant from frost damage but can be safely remobved once bulbs start to emerge and wallflowers get going.   We could get severe frosts in Belgium so I left shrub and rose pruning till March or later apart from cutting back any obvious dead or damaged wood and any long whippy stems I couldn't tie in to protect from strong winds.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • In my opinion there is nothing urgent in the garden that can't wait a few weeks/months.  Perhaps get someone in (if finances allow, or a kind friend or relative) to mow any grass during your convalescence @witchwithwineuk but apart from that most other gardening jobs can wait as already mentioned by Pete & Obelixx.  Most insects, invertebrates and other critters prefer a garden that isn't too tidy, trimmed, pruned or raked and your garden will reap the benefits of a little untidiness at this time of year.
  • Thank you, I know I am a over jealous ‘tidy’ gardener but I am going to do what everyone has suggested and do light tidy up late October but leave most perennials to cut back in spring. I suppose there is no right or wrong way so will give the ‘untidy’ border a go.
    Will try to look to see of there are any specific plants in my border that must be cut back in the autumn other than that I will put my feet up and gaze out the window.
    Thanks folks
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,236
    I think your health is more important  @witchwithwineuk.
    I can understand how frustrating it is if you like to have a tidy up at this time of year, but stick to a few easy jobs, and hopefully you'll be fit and able by spring. There's nothing in a garden worth slowing up the progress with your recovery.
    Putting your feet up and looking out the window is a good way of  enjoying the wildlife too:)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • CeresCeres Posts: 2,301
    Leave the garden to the birds and animals for the winter and spend your time getting better. At least your surgery didn't happen at the beginning of the growing season. Here's hoping you make a speedy recovery.
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