The Cap Theory of Garden Clean-Up

girl in cap
Looks in good in cap

Let’s face it: Not everyone looks good in a cap. The young lady at right, for instance, has always looked good in hats.  Sadly, I don’t look that good in caps, and so only wear them while gardening. But I think about caps while cleaning up the garden in fall, and today was a perfect day for garden clean-up in Minnesota: warm temperatures, sun, no wind and the ominous threat that this will not last lingering in the air.

So here is the Cap Theory of Garden Clean-Up: Any perennials that would look good in a cap of snow should be left standing. Plants like sedum, Joe Pye weed, yarrow, coneflower, and some rudbeckia provide the perfect landing pads for snowflakes, making them a bright spot in the otherwise monotonous tones of winter. Other plants that might be left standing are those with interesting color and texture, such as grasses or Husker Red penstemon, which as bright red stems. Cut down any plants that look flat or soggy after freezing, such as hosta (yuck — nothing is more unsightly than a hosta after a freeze) and daylilies. Today I also cleaned up a lot of Clara Curtis daisies, some Mexican hat, and a scraggly looking Walker’s Low nepeta. Because they may carry powdery mildew, the phlox also got cut back.

coneflowers with snow cap
Coneflowers look good with a snow cap.

You don’t have to cut plants back in the fall  at all — and many years, I have just not gotten around to it. But with beautiful weather, it’s fun to walk around the yard, shears and pruners in hand, deciding what would look good wearing snow this winter.

Sedum with snow cap
Sedum always look good in snow.

8 thoughts on “The Cap Theory of Garden Clean-Up

  1. That is a great principle! I’ve left my coneflowers standing and they are also full of feeding chickadees if we approach quietly. I’ve enjoyed finding your Minnesota garden blog (found you on Blotanical) as a former Minnesotan myself. In fact, many years ago I spent a semester at Carleton College.

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