“If you wish to be happy for a day, get drunk;
If you wish to be happy for a week, kill a pig;
If you wish to be happy for a month, get married;
If you wish to happy for ever and ever, make a garden.”
The autumn garden clean up
There are two schools of thought as to when one should be cutting back the summer perennials. The higher moral ground belongs to those who advocate leaving them all standing until early spring in order to feed the birds over winter. I feel slightly defensive about being out there cutting and clearing as part of the autumn garden clean up. Does this mean I am depriving the ornithological population of much needed winter sustenance?
Well, yes and no. I suspect the advice derives from much colder climates where gardens are put to bed for winter and our feathered friends have a much tougher time. Here, where we have growth all year round, albeit much slower in winter, the birds do not have problems with lack of winter feed. And so many of those summer perennials are downright scruffy and unattractive now. It is one thing to leave plants like the phlomis which has attractive, upright seedheads and tidy rosettes of foliage but the sedums and asters flopping all over the place are not things of beauty. I cut and clear now, often thinning clumps as part of that process. If you do a garden tidy round now, you can get a blanket of mulch on and the garden stays looking remarkably neat until it rushes back into growth in spring.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.