Winter garden clean up: why should we wait?
Some plants, like ornamental grasses, retain their lovely fall seed heads for virtually the entire winter season, adding color and interest to an otherwise mostly sparse winter landscape. Their dense texture offers warmth for butterflies.
Also, in milder winters, some warm-weather perennials keep blooming, providing a food source for late garden visitors. Seed heads naturally feed hungry birds.
Root hardy shrubs, like thryallis and esperanza, which drop their leaves after the first frosty night and remain bare for the rest of winter, are still reabsorbing sugars and other nutrients from their considerable stems. It takes a while for this process to happen naturally, and plants like these, which should be pruned to the ground each year, will produce much heartier growth, if you wait until you see at least a hint of green emerge at the base before you whack them back.
In addition, when we get warm to even hot weather in winter, that will encourage new growth once we’ve pruned which can be at risk when temperatures drop to freezing.
It’s okay to prune roses and trees!
I know it’s tempting to get out into the yard and do a big clean-up on sunny, unseasonably warm winter days, but resist that urge. Savor the beauty of winter. Allow the garden to rest and rejuvenate on its own schedule, while you do the same, and watch for it to show you that it’s ready for you to lend a hand in its recovery.