Leaving the garden be can create a winter wonderland for clients and creatures

Updated Nov 1, 2018
Photo: Morebyless/FlickrPhoto: Morebyless/Flickr

While some people like their gardens to be neat and tidy before they head into the fall and winter months, there are those who want to forgo the practice and with good reason.

Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf supports this naturalistic approach with the perennial gardens he has designed to look good throughout the year, not just one season.

The amount of clean up conducted in the fall is preferential and a garden gone to seed can seem chaotic, but there is beauty in the brown.

Food for birds

If the spent flower stalks that are usually removed by deadheading are left to their own devices, many of these shrubs produce seeds that can provide food for birds during the lean times of winter.

Instead of spending a lot time deadheading and then going out to buy bird seed to entice winter visitors at the feeder, advise your clients to save themselves some time and money by simply letting the plants do what nature intended for them to do. As an added bonus, if they have a native garden, it will attract the local birds that have adapted alongside the plants.

Shelter for critters

A vast number of insects hibernate as adults, while some overwinter as pupae. Ladybugs and lacewings like to tuck themselves into the sheltered crowns of native grasses while others nestle down under leaves and other dead vegetation.

A backyard that looks like it just received a buzz cut offers no shelter to bugs or other wildlife trying to hole up during the frigid months. A garden gone to seed may look like an eyesore to some, but it is a safe haven to the local fauna.

Free plants

If your customers are fond of all the types of plants in their garden and don’t mind a more casual landscape, allowing the plants to self-seed can result in a lush backyard. Whenever it looks too cluttered, simply remove the seedlings that don’t belong or are taking up too much space.

An added bonus of self-sown plants is they are generally stronger and have found prime spots for germination and growth. Edibles such as lettuce, leeks, arugula, parsley and cilantro are all known to be good self-seeding choices. Seeds that the plants produce can also be collected and stored or sown elsewhere.

Winter interest

For those fascinated with the intricate details frost can accentuate, leaving a garden be in the fall can result in some beautiful scenes in the winter. Brown stems and flower heads of all shades graced with a silver coating will stand out in yards with persistent snow coverage.

Not only will the plants provide winter interest, but so will the creatures that have called your  client’s backyard home for the season. A dash of red from a cardinal or the fluttering of blue and yellow feathers will show that the garden really isn’t dormant at all.

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