Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
December, 2005
Regional Report

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When the rose is but a memory, the hip remains.

This Waning Season

Late fall facing into winter is the season we gardeners begin to retreat for the year, heads down against the cold days to come. We have raked the last of the fallen leaves, trimmed back the frosted perennials, cleaned out the vegetable garden. By now the ground has frozen so we have hilled soil over our grafted roses, added an extra insulating blanket of mulch over the more tender perennials, and finished planting the last of the bulbs for next spring. We have erected our burlap fences to shield evergreens from winter's harshest winds. And now what do we have left to do?

We might look into adding a collar of rabbit wire at the base of our fruit trees, or wrapping the trunks of young maples to protect them against sunscald. We might begin a regular spray program using a variety of commercial formulations to ward off deer and rabbit browsing. We might keep an eye out for vole damage, too.

A Bird's Eye View of the Yard
At the same time we're trying to deter four-footed wildlife, we might be thinking of ways to attract our feathered visitors. We can set out fresh water daily in addition to the seed. Birds need food and water, certainly, but they also need places to take shelter from the wind in winter and to nest in spring and summer. Many native plants can provide one or more of these resources, but our garden does not need to precisely copy the natural habitat. Instead, a few carefully chosen plants arranged to echo a naturally occurring bit of hedgerow can serve quite well.

You might consider an island planting consisting of shrubbery, perhaps surrounded with a skirting of perennial and annual flowers to provide a natural supply of seeds. If the shrubs produce fruit or berries, so much the better. One of my favorite arrangements includes a small tree as well, perhaps a dogwood or crab apple to supply spring flowers and fruit in fall and winter. Some of my favorite perennials for attracting birds include purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and asters; among the annuals, zinnias and sunflower seeds are undoubtedly favorites.

Shrubs with terrific fruiting include many of the viburnums, the deciduous winterberry hollies, Aronia arbutifolia and rugosa roses with their huge red hips. Junipers and the evergreen hollies are also a source of fruit as well as an evergreen backdrop for your deciduous plants.

Take a look around your landscape with a new eye for the waning season, and enjoy.

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