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The Autumn Perennial Bed and border

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James Kilkelly
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 2:22 pm    Post subject: The Autumn Perennial Bed and border Reply with quote

The Autumn Perennial Bed
By Kate Copsey

The perennial bed in your garden contains plants that may seem to be self-sufficient.
They should not, however, be left to fend totally for themselves though.
Fall is probably the most important work that you need to do in the perennial bed.
Dead leaves harbor disease that can be transmitted back to the plants next spring. So it is important to clear the perennial bed before winter really sets in.

Perennial border, photo / pic / image.

Start by looking at the perennials that are there. If they are herbaceous perennials then you need to snip off the top leaves.
This includes the leaves or hosta, daylily, cannas, monarda and all other basic perennials.
Most of the leaves will have gone brown with the first heavy frost, but if you are in an area that is still mild, then they may still be just a little brown around the edges.
Take the debris to the compost pile, or bag it up for garbage.
Do not use these leaves as mulch. For woody or semi woody perennials such as sage, Russian Sage and thyme, trimming the stems is unnecessary in autumn, and better left until the spring when you can decide which branches are dead.

If you have annuals in the flowerbed too, these also need to be removed.
For most annuals this is an easy matter.
Take firm hold of the main stem of the annual and pull gently to remove both the upper foliage and the roots, in one go.
Some annuals may have already set seed, but if not, be careful not to spill unwanted seeds onto the ground.
They could germinate next year and be a problem. If you decide to save the seeds of annuals or perennials, it is better to bag them as they ripen, rather than let them germinate in the cold and damp late winter ground.

Tender bulbs such as dahlia, gladioli and cannas should be dug ready for winter storage.
Again, remove the foliage from these plants and rinse the dirt off the bulbs or tubers.
When they are dry, inspect them for soft, decaying spots.
Place the bulbs into a dry medium such as sand or peat moss and store in a covered container, so that you do not encourage mice into the house.
Store the bulbs in a frost-free area of the house, but avoid the garage if possible, as mice and fumes can be a problem.

With all the tender and dead foliage removed, rake the flowerbed smooth and mulch lightly, paying particular attention to borderline tender perennials.
Do not put too much mulch on perennials until the cold weather settles in, as you might encourage mice to bed down in the warm ground alongside your dormant perennial roots, which will provide nice midwinter snacks!

With all these chores completed, your perennials will be bedded down for a long, or short, winter, and be in optimum condition to give you pleasure next year, and beyond.

Kate Copsey is a garden writer who has written for several years. She has gardened in the midwest, the mid Atlantic, Great Lakes and now the South. Visit the web site

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