Buttoning Up the Garden

This past weekend it finally started to feel like November, with a sort of raw gray cold settling in. I realized that the available time for winter preparations was slipping away.


Not that winter preparation is all that much work here. As I’ve written before, I let all the perennials stand until spring. I do like to protect vulnerable plants from the fiendish rabbits, however. Too many have been girdled or chewed down to a nubbin by the cotton-tailed evil ones in the past.

And so, I’ve deployed what I like to call my AARDS (Advanced Anti-Rabbit Defense System), also known as chicken wire, around my ‘Sallie Holmes’ rose. I’ve also got hardware cloth surrounding two very young Prunus virginiana, which are currently not much more than twigs.

There’s also hardware cloth protecting my ‘Golden Raindrops’ Crabapple and an American Witch-Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) on a year-round basis.


Containers planted with tulips have been lined up along the west and south walls of our back porch. They too are protected by chicken wire, held in place with pavers. (Chicken wire is a very awkward thing to stretch out, there must be a trick to it that I’m not aware of.)


Judy and I raked the leaves in the back garden. But since we allow the leaves to remain on the beds and borders through the winter and don’t have much lawn, this is not a huge task. Most of the leaves I piled onto the container tulips for insulation, and the rest went to the compost bins.


I carried our little fountain into the garage and brought out the Bird Jacuzzi (heated bird bath).


While carrying out these gardening chores, I noticed there was still some leaf color to be seen. The leaves of the Prairie Rose (Rosa setigera) were a nice red-orange.


Also the ‘Redwing’ and straight species Cranberrybush Viburnum (V. trilobum). Here’s a picture of ‘Redwing’. The foliage of ‘Wentworth’, another variety of the same species, had turned and fallen weeks earlier.


Here’s the straight species. I wonder if it always has this deep maroon color.


Wild Currant (Ribes americanum) usually doesn’t have much fall color, but here and there you’ll see splashes of yellow and orange.

In what ways are you buttoning up your garden for winter?

61 Comments on “Buttoning Up the Garden”

  1. I’m raking up leaves, but since mine are oak leaves, they don’t break down well, so I remove them and put them in our yard waste containers. I didn’t do any of my fall chores last year, nor in the spring, so I actually have two years worth of leaves to get rid of. I’m surprised my garden did as well as it did this past year since I neglected it so badly.

  2. I just love the idea of the heated bird bath! Australia had a very endearing garden presenter called Alan Seale, and he always reminded us to put a little splash of warm/hot water into the watering can when watering plants in winter.
    And, ….I’d love to know how to manage chicken wire, it is beyond me…

  3. At the moment leaf sweeping is taking all my time. These are then kept in a corner of the woodland where they rot down and make the most wonderful leaf mould, which gets put back on the garden as a mulch in a years time or added to planting holes when new plants are added to the garden. I find oak leaves rot down very quickly, it is our chestnut leaves that take the time.

  4. My garden birds are so jealous of your heated jacuzzi! I love the thought of a garden being ‘buttoned up’ as that is exactly what it feels like! November always takes me by surprise and there are always jobs still waiting to be done. However everything which curls up and dies at the first signs of frost is safely snuggled inside and everything else can wait until spring!

  5. The bulk of the leaves have been shredded and placed in the back corner. The rest will stay where they are until spring. Nearly all the perennials have been cut down. I have a wet lot and if I wait until spring it is like mush out there. I haven’t wrapped the tender hydrangeas, but will likely do that one day next week.

  6. I have had to enlist a web of chicken wire too. It is unwieldy to use. One needs at least four hands to get it to get into place and then the metal memory will snap back into it’s rolled up position. Some years I leave things standing some years I don’t. This year all will be standing. It sounds like winter will be harsh enough to melt all into the earth. But how do they know?? They are usually wrong anyway.

  7. I’m sure the birds will appreciate a Jacuzzi this winter! I pretty much finished up gardening chores last Thursday, the last warm day we had. I don’t worry about rabbits so much–the dogs tend to keep them at bay–but I did add more mulch to part of the garden, especially the heucheras and other plants that tend to heave up some winters. I like to leave everything standing, too, and am enjoying the look of frosty seedheads.

  8. It’s important to leave native plants standing as home and food for native insects and animals. Nature is not as tidy as we seem obligated to be. Some perennials also look good swaying in the breeze, gilded with frost or frosted with snow. Take it easy.

  9. I went out today in fact, to cut down a few plants that have collapsed after all our rain, and to rake up some leaves which go on our compost heap. The winter can come… but I wonder if it will?! Last year was so incredibly mild…

  10. Oh, a heated birdbath – that one’s on my wish list! I’m just waiting to find one that doesn’t an arm and a leg. I still have a small pile of mulch left to spread – I’m hoping that it won’t be frozen solid when I go to deal with it later this week.

  11. I thought I was doing well, but now with some snow on the ground I’ve suddenly remembered a few things I still needed to do. Still some tulips to plant. Maybe I can pot a few up as well and stuff them into a leaf pile… that’s a good idea!

  12. Congratulations on the good work Jason; here I’m still doing a mini autumn clear up. Today I cut all the dead wood from the roses, there was a lot after the hot summer. There were still flowering so I needed to be careful to not damage the blooms as I pulled the dead wood from the bush.

  13. My yard is a jungle of chicken wire. If there is a tidy way to stretch it out, I am unaware of it, which is why I have been slowly switching to hardware cloth. I have so many plants wrapped in chicken wire I am beginning to lean toward whole bed protection. It is a never ending battle. (My ‘Wentworth’ is tenaciously clinging to its leaves.)

  14. Haven’t had time to do anything here – still need to finish bulb planting but the weather has been rubbish. Other than that, we’ll just rake the leaves off the lawn, remove fallen branches and twigs after the recent storm and then leave everything else until spring. I’m impressed by your endeavours and by your birdbath!

  15. So rabbits are partial to Hamamelis virginiana? Hm. That could be a problem. I’d been considering adding one to my garden (though I probably don’t have shade to make it happy here either).

    I’d been blaming deer for ravaging my daikon radishes, but yesterday I spooked a rabbit in the radish patch and watched him bound across the lawn. So perhaps the rabbits and deer have been sharing the harvest??

    Not doing too much to put the garden to bed for winter here. I bought a new toy – a battery-powered leaf blower – and have been pushing some leaves into the garden beds to act as insulation and mulch, but I really don’t have that many deciduous trees, so there’s not that many leaves to blow. (Of course, some of the neighbors’ leaves blow into my garden and some of mine blow into theirs, but this is still not what you’d call a wooded neighborhood…)

    Eventually I’ll cut the old perennials down, but I tend to leave the stems standing most of the winter to provide shelter and food for birds, little mammals and insects.

    Plus I find it more interesting to look at than stem stubs.

    I don’t use any chicken wire to protect plant stems, though I do keep some bubble wrap on hand. I’ve found it deters deer if they start using the tree trunks as rubbing posts for the velvet on their antlers.

  16. Hello Jason, I’m glad we don’t have to do rabbit-proofing as we have foxes in the area, though deer can be problem. Even in late November, we do have a lot of green in the garden and it’s not just from the evergreens. Various shrubs and trees still haven’t turned but the grass is covered with fallen leaves. It’s a strange mix. I’m doing pieces of winter preparation as well and I love the idea of the Bird Bath Jacuzzi as ours freezes solid in cold weather too.

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