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It's time to cut back in the garden

Cutting back some perennials can keep your garden happy and healthy come spring.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The temperatures are falling, and your garden is getting itself ready for the long and cold winter ahead. Cutting back your perennials is something you can do to help make sure your garden is happy and healthy when spring arrives again. 

Cutting back is part of your end of the season garden clean-up routine. The things that need it the most are herbaceous perennials. Those are plants whose top growth dies over the winter, but the root system survives and produces new growth in the spring. Much of the dead leaf material gets mushy over the winter and can be a bit gross to clean up in the spring when things begin sprouting again. Romence Gardens suggests cutting back plants in the late fall when things are still a little crunchy and starting to yellow. 

It is important to remember, though, not all perennials are herbaceous. Some have woodier stems and don't need to be pruned. Some may only need a little help, so you can manage the shape and size of your plants. Lavender is one of those plants that don't need everything cut back. Romence recommends cutting it down to 2-4 inches so heavy snow doesn't hurt the plant. 

Many perennials, like irises, need to be cut down to avoid insect issues. If the leaves of iris plants are left up too late in the year it can invite iris borers who travel down the leaves and end up in the rhizomes. This can be a pain to treat and can ruin your iris plants. You should also cut down peonies, hostas, daylilies and most other plants with large leaves which can be mushy and hard to clean up in spring.

However, there are also many plants that can be left uncut over the winter and instead pruned in the spring. Ornamental grasses, sedums and some of the fall bloomers look very pretty in the winter landscape. Some plants like coneflowers and rudbeckia can feed birds and other animals with their dried flower heads which also look pretty in the winter gardenscape. 

If you aren't sure what to do with a particular plant, you can ask

Romence is also hosting Fork Fest on Friday, October 25. Tickets are $50 and include some free samples, workshop demos, and an artist market.

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