Because of health issues, I let my yard go over winter. Funny thing, but the yard didn’t seem to mind.
The butterfly bushes (Buddleja davidii) — which I normally prune nearly to the ground in winter — have put on 3 or 4 feet of height, providing afternoon shade where none existed before. The catmints (Nepeta x faassenii) — which looked dry and dead in March because I did not trim them back — have roared back to life, are blooming like mad and attracting masses of pollinators. The ornamental grasses (Pennisetum setaceum, P. orientale and Muhlenbergia rigida) did not get their February haircuts. No matter. They’re sending out deep maroon and gray-green shoots and airy pink plumes.
I’ve concluded that my winter garden to-do list just might be too long. Maybe I’ve become too controlling of my yard. Perhaps my new motto will be “Let it go.”
What about you? If you’re uncomfortable knowing you didn’t prune your roses in late January, ask yourself this: So what? I didn’t prune mine — nor did I fertilize them, or check for aphids or powdery mildew, rust or black spot! They are now heavy with blooms as well as lovely rose hips. The roses will be OK.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating the total abandonment of winter gardening chores. There are some things that must happen out there, no matter what. Thankfully, my husband raked up the leafy remains of fall. That eliminates hiding places for insects. He, of course, turned off our sprinkler system in November and turned it back on just recently. And then he gave the whole system a close inspection for leaks and clogs. He also made sure to regularly dump any standing rainwater that accumulated on our property. This limits mosquito breeding. He patrolled for weeds, and yanked them while they were small, ensuring fewer battles with thorny burclover and climbing bindweed. Thank you, honey.
But the freeze-damaged lantana went untrimmed until a month ago. I happily pruned away the blackened branches to allow the strong, new growth to come forward. That chore felt symbolic somehow. I was thrilled to do it.
Next winter I know I will be out there, pruning and raking and cleaning up. Controlling. But not as much — nor as fervently — as before. And the yard will be OK.
— Kathy Thomas-Rico