Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Late Fall Garden To-dos


Hello Fellow Readers,

The-Press-Thanksgiving-Issue-CoverI didn’t realize until I saw our paper on newsstands last week, with its colorful front-page greeting, that it was the official Happy Thanksgiving issue. Here I thought this column would be my greeting of thankfulness to all of you for the gift of our weekly chats. Time sure has a way of sneaking up on us. The good thing, though, is that Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. And giving thanks is timeless, universal, and a practice for every day.

We shouldn’t rush things

Growing up, Mom made a point of being sure Thanksgiving had our full attention separate from Christmas, a custom I continue. It’s not until after Thanksgiving that we start to deck the halls, unlike in stores, on TV, and online where holiday promotions begin well ahead of Halloween. Even before Christmas arrives, we can grow tired of it.

We shouldn’t rush things, although there’s something to be said about being ahead of the game and planning. Maybe a balance of both, like most things, is what we should achieve — without, of course, living so much in the future that you lose out on today.

It would make sense to adorn our cherished umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) with sparkly white lights before the temps drop and our fingers freeze. Don’t leave lights on plants all year round, though, as they will grow into the shrubs or trees, harming them.

 Seed heads and some dry foliage are splendid through winter

Dry Hydrangea flowers are fabulous over winter.


Beauty Berry is a beauty in winter too.

This brings me to a confession — I have yet to do the last fall cleanup of my gardens. It’s hard to get to our gardens after tending to my client’s gardens, which makes for a good excuse. The truth is, I like the look of seed heads and some of the dry foliage through winter. Ornamental grasses, for example, are splendid dry. And coneflower (echinacea) and black-eyed Susans (rudbeckia) have cute little seed heads. When frosted with snow, they become charming pom-poms in the garden. Astilbe is another favorite left standing. Its feather-like plumes look as beautiful dry as they do in bloom.

Late Fall Garden To-Do’s

If there are plants that you don’t wish for volunteers (it’s true rudbeckia has a nickname of Rude Becky for a reason), then toss seed heads where feathered friends can have a feast. Or, gather and share them with your two-footed friends.

As you go about tidying up the garden (I will soon, promise), take notes of plants to divide or move and garden areas to enhance come spring. Apply Wilt-pruf or other anti-transpirant on evergreens, especially broadleaf ones like rhododendrons and boxwood, to prevent damage from winter winds.

After cutting back perennials that I prefer neatened for winter, I’ll top-dress the garden with a few inches of leaf mold so the nutritional boost can permeate the soil over winter. And it’ll serve as a mulch to prevent weeds come spring. (See that; I can be ahead of the game :^).

Here’s to giving thanks and sharing with others to help make the world a more beautiful place. Garden Dilemmas? (and now on your favorite Podcast App.)

Learn more about Wilt-pruf.  And you’ll enjoy hearing the story of the Turkey Puppet “tree topper” in a column titled Giving Thanks.

There’s More to the Story in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:

Column Updated 11/26/23 








Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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