Fall clean up is all about timing. Although the photos in this post are from about a week ago, the garden still looks good. There are still warm enough days to be outside in it, and I don't want to start cutting back perennials or grasses. I'm not ready to look at empty areas yet.
The grasses are at their best now, but since the shot above, the purple asters have gone by and that little bitty stick of a dwarf ginkgo under the windows has dropped all its yellow leaves. Who knew the climbing hydrangea had golden fall color -- I haven't seen that before.
Pink 'Sheffield' mums are still blooming, but they have all laid down in the dirt to rest. Dried seedheads on many plants are standing upright, and many shrubs, like fothergilla and blueberries are still brilliant red.
So things still look good enough. But if I wait too far into November it gets cold, and then cutting back and tidying up is a pain.
So I started cleaning up. I cut back the clematis by the patio, and the anemone, all the zapped daylily foliage, and all the catmint, which was still full and made a nice blue-green cool contrast with the bright red 'Gro-Low' fragrant sumac nearby.
I hated to cut that back, or any of the ornamental grasses, while they still look good. But. . . timing. If not now, on a comfortable day, when?
I've waited until December in the past, and that's a mistake. Too cold, or sometimes ice or snow arrives early and makes the chore impossible.
I've left things all the way until spring in the past too. There is no such thing as "winter interest" for perennials in this climate, but still, I have left everything standing some years. But that's worse. When spring comes the ground is so cold and wet and clean up chores are a miserable bit of work then.
So, on a cool but nice day in mid November, I started getting things tidied up. I emptied containers on the patio too -- some of them still looked good despite recent freezing nights, but it's time.
There's still more to do. I left the grasses for another day, and there are still things that need to be trimmed. The key is to time it just perfectly to finish it all up before winter sets in.