From Mélie’s Garden
October is the month to start cleaning up the garden and getting it ready for winter. This is difficult to do on Fishers Island because the growing season often continues into early November before we get our first frost. But many people on the Island “winter” other places and need to put their gardens in order before they leave. The flowerbeds should be left neat and tidy with all dead foliage removed, so diseases and little creatures don’t thrive all winter in the debris and damage the plants.
Garden Clean Up Chores
Annuals – all annuals should be removed from pots and flowerbeds and if not diseased placed in the compost pile.
Asters and other fall flowering perennials leave to be cut down in the spring, as long as the ground around them has been cleaned up and they show no sign of disease.
Daylilies – cut back to 3” and remove any dead interior leaves – if the plant looks too thick, dig up the mound and separate the fans. Each fan will form a new plant. If daylilies become too thick they will not bloom.
Dahlias – need to be dug up and stored after a hard frost in a cool, but frost-free area. I have had pretty good luck storing the tubers in shredded newspaper in Styrofoam coolers.
Iris – all types of Iris should be cut down to about 3 inches and leaves discarded.
Oriental lilies – cut back the stem to 3 inches
Peonies – all dying foliage should be removed and disposed of in a garbage bag to prevent botrytis from spreading.
Roses – will bloom well into the fall, but if you are leaving them unattended, cut back the canes, so they will be secure in the winter winds.
Sedums – just leave for fall color – ‘Autumn Joy’ can be cut back in the spring.
Hydrangeas – I have left for last because we have received a number of requests on how to prune them. Hydrangeas that bloom on old wood: Big Leaf, Mop Leaf and Lace Cap (Hydrangea macrophyllia and H.senate) and Oak leaf (H. Quercifolia) are all early summer bloomers, should be pruned in mid summer, so they can set buds for next year. Cut old canes at their base and 1/3 of the plant can be removed to revitalize the bush. Hydrangea “cci can be pruned anytime. Hydrangeas, that bloom later in the summer, Panicle hybrids (H. paniculata) such as PeeGee and Limelight, which are often sold as trees, and Smooth Hydrangea (H. arborescens) such as “Annabelle” can be pruned later because they bloom on new wood.
Of course, all of this doesn’t apply if the winter is particularly warm and buds are set too early and then frozen in a spring cold spell, which happened last year. In any event, it is good to remove all dead blooms, so they do not blow about throughout the winter. You cut the lovely purplish flowers in September, remove the leaves and put the hydrangeas in a vase full of water. As the water evaporates the flowers will dry and last for a number of winter months extending the feel of summer.