Pick a side, because the middle ground is disappearing. What’s true on the political front is equally true on the gardening front. Over the summer, I have watched gardeners in my region go all out for natives, ruthlessly getting rid of plants they—admittedly—like, once they find out their buddleia/shasta daisies/forsythia/clematis are “useless.” The daisies especially made me sad, because I’d love to have a big patch of daisies and have not yet been able to make it happen, through too much shade and likely too much incompetence. Native vs. non continues to cause heated and unnecessary conflict in the gardening world.
Another polarizing issue for many US gardeners is about to take center stage as we pass the autumn equinox, deciduous trees start to shed their leaves, and summer perennials finish up their decline. The discussion has already begun here, and it’s interesting. There are the traditional gardeners who love a fall clean-up. That means cutting back almost everything so the snow will have tidy beds to fall upon. Anyone who hires a mow ’n’ blow landscaper will see their perennials—and many shrubs—cut back to nothing.
And then there is the other side. “Leave everything!” they cry. “Don’t cut back anything!” It’s really just rumblings, now, but soon it will be a roar. And then the leaves. Who’d like to start a pool on when the first “Leave the leaves” post or meme will appear?
We have to clean up our maples leaves or they’d form a thick, sodden mat that—without decomposing at all—will smother small spring bulbs and emerging perennials in the spring. We put them out for the municipal compost program, which picks them up. But I was surprised to see that the crew who did the leaves also took it upon themselves to cut some mature hydrangeas (arborescens) way back and remove many perennial stalks and foliage. I was at work, and didn’t know or I would have stopped them. This year, I’ll be on the spot.
I just don’t see the point. Old man winter will beat the hell out of those perennials, and I won’t have that much to remove in the spring. Lazy gardener=wildlife advocate, in this case.
Gardeners who have diverse landscapes with abundant trees, shrubs, and perennials should likely not worry about what and what not to clean up. Just be lazy; do what you have to or really want to (your choice!) and leave the rest. Only the individual gardener can decide how much cleanup/lack thereof makes sense. Polarizing directives do not help them.