It's so easy to just write off the garden until the spring bulbs emerge, particularly after the last two days of incessant rain. In the old days, the books would have you chop everything back to reveal a wasteland of earth and chopped stalks. Tidy but uninspiring. Now, they tell you to leave everything as it is. A celebration of decay, unlikely to result in the neighbours'compliments, but you're doing your bit for the environment. It's hard to disagree with the latter treatment but just leaving everything to, well, decay doesn't exactly make the heart sing on those lovely crisp Winter mornings and, if you have 'Winter Interest' in your garden, you may have inadvertently thrown over them a rather effective invisibility cloak by distracting the eye away from your Winter star-performers. So, what to do?
Here at the Garden, we put on our eyeshades and assume the role of Editors! We leave stalks that stand upright if they have interesting seed heads, we don't touch any of the shrubs until the spring and we leave fallen leaves towards the back if the borders. But we do remove soggy leaves of hostas, flattened stems of Crocosmia, annuals like Cosmos that have stopped flowering. Anything that leans upwards of 45% and anything that frankly looks terrible! But we do try to keep some structure - that's important.
This opens up the borders, creates new views and reveals the plants that are performing, whether with flower, seed heads or just simple green. Gardens can look lovely in winter and it's all about finding that balance.