Here are some of the things I like to do at this time of year:
1. Mulch overwintering root crops, such as carrots or parsnips with clean straw. The bales you used for your Halloween decorations are perfect for this use.
2. If moles and mice are prevalent, place your tulip bulbs in wire “cages” as you plant them.
3. Get a head start on spring weeding by clearing as many weeds as possible from your beds now.
4. Mulch your bramble fruits as they go dormant. (I’ll also be giving winter protection to my new ‘Chicago Hardy’ fig.)
5. Keep watering perennials and newly planted shrubs and trees until the ground freezes.
6. Take soil samples for testing before the ground freezes--usually by mid-November. (Especially from areas where crops didn’t do well.)
7. Mulch trees, shrubs, roses, and perennials once the ground has frozen.
8. Begin winter pruning only when trees are thoroughly dormant.
I found nice comprehensive lists of November and December monthly garden chores at: http://awaytogarden.com. If you have any other seasonal tips you’d like to share, let us know.
The qualities we enjoy in a winter landscape have much to do with the form, structure and height of a plant, as well as its interesting bark texture, and colorful fruit, berries, or seeds. Needle and broadleaf evergreens, such as hollies (especially natives), spruces, pines, and false cypresses (especially the Hinoki false cypresses) are natural choices, and here are a few others to consider:
I am becoming interested in some of the newer eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis—Pennsylvania’s state tree and a native species) miniature cultivars, some of which are tiny and very slow growing, and suitable for many areas of Blackridge yards. ‘Abbott’s Pygmy,’ which has dark green pointy leaves which flush into light green in the spring only grows to 18 inches in height. ‘Summer Snow’ features ivory growth, which becomes deep green, on a hemlock which grows to a mature height of 5-10 feet. I found some online nurseries selling up to 35 different small cultivars of T. canadensis.
The native red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Allemans’ and other cultivars) is a very hardy spreading (6’-10’ high by 5’-10’ spread) shrub with dark blood-red bark, which looks beautiful against a backdrop of fresh white snow.
Although it can become a little invasive, I have a soft spot for our native bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), which, like the dogwood, has a spreading habit (6’ high by the same spread). Its glossy, aromatic foliage complements its waxy, gray berries, which are used to scent candles. The shrub is also drought tolerant and deer-resistant, although birds love its berries.
Another easy-to-grow native, the American cranberrybush viburnum, has some cultivars (V. trilobum ‘Compactum,’ ‘Alfredo’) which grow to only about half the size of the species. The mature plant is rounded and measures about 6’ tall by 4’ wide. In the winter its masses of red berries serve as a source of food for wildlife, and look lovely in the winter landscape.
For more options on winter interest you can visit http://www.indyzoo.com/pdf/Plants_with_Winter_Interest.pdf
You’ve noticed that the topic of the garden club’s Oktoberfest program is understory trees. Here’s a short list of some of my favorite ornamental trees. If you want to do a little homework before the October meeting, look them up, and think about whether they’d fit in your landscape.