The Cap Theory of Garden Clean-Up

Looks good in hat
me in hat
Lose the hat, lady

Let’s face it: Not everyone looks good in a cap. The young lady at right, for instance, has always looked good in hats. Her mother, at left, not so much. (And, why is she kissing a dog?) 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.

Coneflower, looking good in 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.

7 Replies to “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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