It’s a time for many gardeners when, despite our best efforts and wildest hopes, everything is winding down. During the coming weekends – the only time I have to work outside – I’ll be pretty much forcing myself to get the bulbs into the ground and into their pots, move whatever’s got to be moved inside and, in general, make sure that there’s nothing left in the garden that would be ruined by a Buffalo winter, unless I want it to be.

And there’s plenty that I leave to those winter ravages. I find that spring clean-up is a much simpler affair than fall clean-up once everything has been beaten down or even dissolved by rough weather. 

But then there are those who make a much more elaborate ritual out of “putting the garden to bed.” From all sides, I hear “cut it back!” One gardener was even wondering if hellebore could be cut back to the ground. Why?

Not sure what the motivation is here. Is it the longing for a clean slate? The hope that everything will look better if it can be rewound to point zero? Or is it just the need to do something, anything in a garden that seems to be turning its back?  

The truth is that I’d rather not do anything in the house or garden where “clean up” is the main goal. But at least in the house there is some satisfaction in looking at shining surfaces and rugs without crumbs on them.  

A garden where everything’s been cut back just looks kind of bare and desolate. 

Though I do enjoy looking at a patch of bare ground where I know I’ve just inserted a few hundred spring bulbs. 

Here’s one great thing I found out that’s saved me a lot of lifting and dragging: I now have a group of pots – many of which contain lilium – that I’ve been  leaving outside with a simple weighted tarp over them for the past 3 years or better. If this works in Buffalo, it should work anywhere. In the spring, many stay in this corner and get planted with interesting summer annuals that will help disguise the lily stalks. 

Leaves will be collected and bagged (not by me) and put out for the city’s compost collection.  

The fact is that I want to enjoy the garden with as little effort on my part as possible – fall clean-up offers me the worst of both worlds. 

So I ignore all those to-do lists. I think more gardeners would be happier if they did the same. 

Autumn tree image courtesy of driveway to Kathy Guest garden.