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Tidying up herbaceous plants for winter

I'm in two minds about clearing up summers perennials that are now fading from green to yellow/brown. Somebody once told me to simply leave it to provide winter protection for the plant, and the garden wildlife (both good and bad), but I have a friend who clears all dead growth, which enables her to fork over her beds and apply a winter mulch of well rotted manure and compost over the plants before winter really sets in. Is there a preferred method (from the plants/wildlife point of view), or is it simply down to the gardeners preference?


  • Alina WAlina W Posts: 1,445

    I clear anything that could rot or go slimey, but leave a few stalks sticking up from each plant so I know where they are.

  • jo4eyesjo4eyes Posts: 2,058

    I also clear dead & dying vegetation, trying to do it as it goesw over. Otherwise in my garden the overwintering slugs & snails will have a field day come any early new shoots next Spring.

    I've also got quite a lot of early bulbs in places, so need to sort things out before they start to show. I also try to add mulch as I go, but again not on top of plant crowns, just around. Mulching in Spring with the bulbs just isnt an option for me.

    However in Autumn 07,10 & last year things just didnt get done at all in some places & it didnt look too bad I suppose. I know that the birds loved a lot of the taller stems remaining in 07 until about Feb 08 when I was able to start a delayed tidy up.

    Depends perhaps on how tidy you are, how much time you have now & in Spring & whereabouts in UK too. Moister areas in the North & West just end up very soggy - not for us the picture of dead waving grass stems that the drier Eastern counties can have. J.

  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 23,068

    When I lived in England I used to cut everything down before winter and mulch. Now I live in Dordogne I find perennials survive the winter better if I leave everything and clear up in March, just in time for daffodils. Then I fork manure between plants.

    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,349

    I cut down the stuff at the back of the border (if I get round to it) and leave the stuff at the front for habitat/food through the winter. That way there's always something there but I don't have to walk on the garden when the bulbs are coming through as I can never remember where I put them. This is the theory anyway.

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • I like to clear up as much as possible in the autumn.    I need to see the spaces ready for planting more bulbs to flower in the spring.   I grow annuals such as cosmos, marigolds and lavatera, and these need to be removed.   When I cut down the perennials I always leave about 6-8 inches of stalks so I can see where they are.    It seems most people like to clear up in the autumn.    I do as much as I can and then the weather usually stops me!      I hope this is of some help.

  • BenDoverBenDover Posts: 484
    Thanks for comments folks - think I'll tidy what I can and if weather gets rough, I will leave till spring.

    In the meantime - anybody offer advice on Crocosmia Lucifer. It started yellowing on a few leaves in early September after flowering in July, and I thought by October it would have all gone brown - but most of it is still green!!! That is something I do want to clear out the way as its fallen over with recent heavy rain. Will I starve the newly forming corms if I cut back now? I was thinking about cutting back to around 6" above ground.
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