If you ever thought gardeners were soft, touchy-feely people, you have never observed them in the fall. From cutting down beautiful flowers still in bloom to roughly hatcheting perennials in half, now is the time for ruthless behaviour in the garden.
Everything needs to go right now as we race the clock against the frost. It’s the paradox of paradoxes that has to be embraced right now—that by cutting down a living thing, you ensure its life next spring. Gardeners know it, hate it and then get on with it, and it seems to be causing real pain this year.
The fantastic summer (and the mild winter before it) meant that gardens in our region had rare life this year. Everything just flourished, in spite of the dry spell, and there are so many plants that are roaring along.
My Japanese anemones are still a mass of pink blooms, and my Iceberg roses are in their second, or is it third, flush of flowering this year. So it’s really hard to just cut off all that life and activity. As a neighbour in a similar situation said to me this week, “It’s breaking my heart to cut them all down.” But she also knew she would.
This weekend is the moment for me. Tomorrow I must give my garden the big haircut.
I’m going to split the Japanese anemone up and foster out the orphans to people who have stated their dibs on them (that’s the other unexpected thing about gardeners: open greediness). I don’t know how yet but I will split my giant hydrangea because my sister has her heart set on it for her garden in Pointe Claire where it should grow as well as in Hudson.
And my biggest job will be to regroup certain perennials to grow together. I have three clumps of Echinacea all living separate lives in the front and back yards, and Russian sage doing its wispy thing in a few strange corners. They somehow all got separated two years ago when I had the yard dug up for Hudson’s new sewer connection and need to be together again to make a better show in the summer.
I also have to correct some mistakes.
Like the three peonies that are stuck in the wrong place and who feebly put out a few flowers every year but who need a new home. And two bittersweet vines that I planted in separate places but who need each other (Bittersweet requires a male and female to produce the berries I would be enjoying if I had planted them properly).
Then there are all my beautifully blooming, canary yellow marigolds that I fell in love with this year. They’re annuals of course, so I don’t have to be mature and responsible and cut them down.
They’ll take me into the frost and snow—and I will definitely be relying on them again next spring when it all begins, all over again.