Conventional wisdom tells us that in fall when our perennial flowers have finished blooming we should cut them back to tidy up our borders. There is an alternative point of view which maintains that we should ignore this advice and on the contrary we should leave everything standing throughout the winter. This article by Benjamin Vogt which I found on the Houzz website lists seven reasons why we should adopt the latter course.
My belief in leaving the garden alone in fall was cemented last year on a December morning, when a robin landed on a garden chest where I keep my tools. It balanced on the edge where some snow was melting and dripping to the deck below. The robin arched its head downward and pecked at each droplet. Soon a bluebird landed right behind the robin on the edge of the chest. Then another bluebird. All three were now lined up, ready to take their turn at the melting snow. I have little doubt that if I hadn?t left the garden up, creating a welcoming space, I?d never have seen them. And I have little doubt that winter wouldn?t have meant so much, or been easier to get through, without the living beauty outside my door in a ?dead? season so many of us gardeners unnecessarily loathe. Here are seven of the many reasons to leave your fall garden standing.1. Why work when it’s cold? Look, I’m tired; you’re tired. So leave the garden alone. Plus it’s getting cold out. Do you really want to be outside working? Isn’t there a football game on or some pumpkin-spice latte to savor? Let the garden be for your own health and sanity.2. Wildlife is hibernating. Lots and lots of insects and frogs, and who knows what else, are out there in your garden overwintering in leaf litter, on twigs, even in the top layer of soil. What happens when you “clean up” the leaves and chop down the plants? You might be tossing out a black swallowtail chrysalis or a mantis egg case, or stepping on a mourning cloak butterfly.3. Protect your plants. Leaving the perennials standing will help them gather snow. That snow in turn will insulate the roots when it gets really cold and also add moisture to the soil. That?s a double win for low-maintenance gardening. Besides, isn?t this image just gorgeous? Viva snow!