Friday, December 15, 2023

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day & Foliage Follow-Up December: Into the Garden We Go!


Welcome to my December Long Island garden and I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season! As the months go by quickly, we saw our first silvery white flakes of snow falling from the sky on November 28th. It lasted about fifteen minutes, but was the first snow for the season (technically) and brought a smile to my face. Since then, the temperatures have been in the 40's and low 50's during the day and we have had several nights hitting the freezing mark. The Winter Solstice will be upon us in just less than a week, and the garden still has much to show. Join me for a stroll!
Back Raised Island Bed
Of course you have probably heard the latest news. Long Island is now hardiness zone 7b, up from 7a, as many areas in the U.S. have shifted approximately five degrees warmer. Not that it makes much of a difference as to which plants to buy, it does reflect the changes in seasons we have been experiencing over the past several years. I don't mind it a bit, as it seems that I have more time to play in the garden before it gets super cold. First stop are the hydrangeas in the raised island bed. Even though their blooms are well passed, I still enjoy the dried flower heads until they blow off during the winter.
Dwarf Maiden Grass Fall-Wintertime
Here in the pool border is Dwarf Maiden Grass 'Yaku Jima'. The dried plumes do give some interest to the fall-winter garden. Here is a tip: If you are going to cut back your grasses, do not cut them all the back as it can put the crown of the plant in jeopardy when the deep freezing temperatures come. Either leave them be, cut only part way or tie back with a bungee cord. As far as Lilyturf and Sedges, do not cut them back now as it can harm the plant! Wait until spring to tidy them up.
Dwarf Cryptomeria and Nandina 'Obsession'
An interesting plant that I added to the garden a few years back is this Nandina 'Obsession' It is a dwarf, variety that does not spread by seed or produce berries, and the pinkish-red color of its foliage is magnificent! Here it is along with Dwarf Cryptomeria
Weeping White Pine Seed Cones
Have you seen an abundance of pine cones this season? I have. Some say that it is the plant's way of preparing for a harsh winter...time will tell.
Montauk Daisy Fall Color
The fall and winter seasons do have their beauty. We just have to pass by these Montauk Daisy's, which are obviously done for the season, but I do enjoy the color of their leaves this time of year...
Montauk Daisy Seed Heads
and the seed heads are also good for the birds.
Azalea 'Girard's Fuschia' Fall Foliage
Here is Azalea Girard's Fuschia. It's foliage turns to this glorious purple hue in the fall and wintertime.
Red Pine and Ajuga 'Black Scallop'
Ajuga 'Black Scallop' lasts throughout most of the winter as well with its deep purplish-black foliage.
Red Pine and Juniper 'Gold Strike'
Along the patio border is Red Pine 'Low Glow' and Juniper 'Gold Strike', and along with them is Garden Gal who has been repositioned in the revamped garden with her basket of trailing Creeping Jenny.
Osmanthus 'Goshiki' and Garden Gal!
I'm not sure if the Creeping Jenny is going to make it through the winter in this planter. It is an experiment in progress. If not, perhaps I will go back to the Black Mondo Grass, which did well for some time, or perhaps some annuals! 
Stachys (Lamb's Ear)
A perennial for all season interest is Stachys, or Lamb's Ear. I love its fluffy white foliage which persists throughout the majority of the winter!
Nellie Stevens Holly Berries
In the shade border, the bright red berries of Nellie Steven's Holly add some interest too!
Japanese Skimmia Fall-Winter
Also in the back shade border is Japanese Skimmia. Helpful Tip: Skimmia are dioecious, meaning there are both male and female plants, so both a male and female shrub must be present for the female to produce flowers and ornamental berries in fall. 
Wildlife Visitors
The birds are certainly enjoying the new feeder set up, as you can see it needs refilling again, and we have a photo moment! While the sparrows will often tolerate me getting close, the cardinals are more shy and rarely allow me to get close enough to photograph them. This one actually stayed long enough for a photo shoot! 
Leucothoe 'Axillaris' Fall-Winter
In the same garden is Leucothoe 'Axillaris'. The edges of its foliage displays a nice tinge of burgundy this time of year...
Tea time!

and in the newly revamped patio garden, here is the welcoming committee sharing some tea time.
Indoor Blooms: Moth Orchid and Thanksgiving Cactus
"While the weather outside is frightful (well almost) and inside it's so delightful", here is what is blooming indoors.
Seasonal Planter
Last, but not least is this new seasonal planter I just created for the front porch. It is a combination of  Dwarf Alberta Spruce, Cypress 'Moonlit', Cypress' Goldcrest' and Osmanthus 'Goskiki' in a whisky barrel planter of Acacia wood, with a little touch of Wintergreen for the holidays. 
Thanks for Visiting!
I hope you enjoyed your visit to my December garden. I so appreciate you being here, look forward to your comments and look forward to seeing what you have growing in your garden. Special thanks go out to our hostess Carol at May Dreams Gardens, who makes it possible to see blooms on the 15th of every month with her meme Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Also, special thanks to Pam Penick at Digging who had hosted Foliage Follow-Up, a meme I will continue to honor. I am also linking with some other wonderful hosts and hostesses at Floral Friday FotosFriday Bliss at Floral Passions, Macro Monday 2, Mosaic Monday at Letting Go of the Bay Leaf, Nature Notes at Rambling WoodsImage-in-ing weekly photo share every Tuesday with NC Sue and Gardens Galore Link Up Party every other Monday with Everyday Living. I am also happy to join the Weekly Photo Link-Up at My Corner of the World on Wednesdays and Garden Affair at Jaipur Garden. Wishing all a joyous, peaceful and healthy holiday season!

Friday, December 1, 2023

This Month in the Garden: To Rake or Not to Rake: The Great Debate on Fall Leaf Removal

This Month in the Garden

As the autumn landscape becomes covered with an array of vibrant color, the temptation to tidy up your property and remove fallen leaves becomes almost instinctive. Leaving fall leaves in your garden can offer several benefits to both your landscape and the environment, but while the practice of leaving fall leaves has its advantages, it’s essential to strike a balance. Let’s explore the facts to help you make an informed decision. 

Natural Mulch:

Allowing fallen leaves to remain on the ground acts as a natural mulch, providing insulation for the soil. This layer helps to regulate soil temperature, preventing extreme fluctuations that can be harmful to the roots of plants and trees. As the leaves decompose, they release valuable organic matter and essential nutrients back into the soil, which will in turn help to promote plant growth. On the other side of the discussion, too many compacted leaves can block sunlight and trap excess moisture against your lawn, leading to possible snow mold growth and possible lawn damage come spring. Maintaining a leaf cover of no more than twenty to thirty percent of lawn area is recommended to allow enough light and air to reach the turf while providing the benefits of mulching. According to the USDA, the best solution is to finely chop newly fallen leaves with a mulching mower or a leaf shredder, then return them to garden beds to ensure the health of your plantings. It is important to perform this activity before leaves are on the ground for any length of time to avoid any harm to wildlife. Another option is if you have an out of the way area in your garden, such as behind a barrier of trees, leaves can be relocated to that space to allow nature to take its course.

Moisture Conservation:  

It is a known fact that besides providing insulation, a layer of leaves can act as a protective barrier, helping to retain moisture of the soil. This can be especially beneficial during the winter months in wooded or mulched areas, under shrubs and around dormant perennials when the ground is prone to both freezing and drying out from winter winds. Keep in mind that while the leaves help to retain moisture, it is best to not have leaves built up around fall or winter blooming perennials, as it could cause lack of sunlight to the plants and encourage disease. Also, removing the browned or mushy foliage of dormant perennials such as Hosta and Peony in fall will help to prevent fungal issues. Note: Such perennials containing seed heads, for example Echinacea and Rudbeckia, can be beneficial for birds to feed on and can be left for winter before cutting back.

Wildlife Habitat:

Fallen leaves create a haven for a variety of small creatures such as insects, spiders, and other invertebrates that seek refuge in the leaf litter.  Butterflies and moths often lay their eggs on the leaves of specific plants, and leaving the leaves untouched can support the life cycle of these pollinators. A layer of fallen leaves in garden beds also fosters biodiversity. By preserving this natural layer, you create a microhabitat for different organisms, such as fungi and helpful bacteria, which can contribute to the overall health of the soil and, consequently, the health of your entire garden. If you have a compost pile, shredding the leaves can help to speed up the decomposition process, allowing for better aeration and faster breakdown, while providing a habitat and food source for wildlife. 

Saving Time & Effort: 

Removing leaves can be both time consuming and physically demanding. Leaving the leaves and allowing nature to take its course eliminates the need for this labor-intensive chore. This frees up your time to enjoy the beauty of the season, assess the garden and plan away for next spring!

In conclusion, while many prefer the "clean" look of traditional mulches, embracing the idea of leaving fall leaves in your garden offers a wide range of benefits, including moisture conservation, temperature moderation, and addition of nutrients for improved soil health, all while supporting wildlife. Striking a balance by incorporating responsible leaf management practices allows the best of both worlds-a thriving landscape and a sustainable, biodiverse ecosystem.

I hope you enjoyed This Month in the Garden for the month of December. Be sure to stop by on the 1st. and 15th. of each month as I continue to share gardening tips, information and horticultural adventures! 

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"As Always...Happy Gardening!" 

Author: Lee @A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, © Copyright 2010-2023. All rights reserved.