Time To Cut

It is time to cut the garden down.

But it is still pretty!*

Yes, it is still pretty, however…

What about that oft-repeated rally cry of Winter Interest?

There is something even more important than pretty Winter Interest happening now…

New green stuff, another dimension of Winter Interest.

It is not going to wait.

Onward, then, cut away.

While winter has only just begun, the spring blooming bulbs seem to be on a totally different schedule. With topsy-turvy weather patterns, drought, flooding rains, gardening according to the calendar seems to be a thing of the past. Some cutting has been done already, more will be done as temperatures allow. That is the way of it in my Zone 7a garden on a steep slope in Southeast Tennessee.

*Moss Rocks line the long wall. Click here to find out about them.


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30 Responses to Time To Cut

  1. Gail says:

    Frances, Seeing those delightful blooms makes me eager for the spring beauties to arrive, but,….I do think winter just knocked on the garden gate! I did a bit of cleanup where the bulbs are planted but, the grasses will stand till February. I love them and if we get snow they look even better. Love that red headed woodpecker. xoxo gail

    It does seem early, Gail, but who knows what Mother Nature has in store for us. I have bulbs planted among the driveway muhly grass that need some sun to reach their full potential. Lots of grasses are ready to flop now, like the Karl Foerster. Cleanup of the Hellebores always happens in January. It is what it is.

  2. Wow, spring is really coming in your garden! We have had some strange weather here in the Chicago area. I just read that our zones have changed since 1990 and that the Chicago area is now approaching a zone 6 climate. Maybe that’s why I have noticed my daffodils sprouting on the south side of my house.


    It is, Eileen, and usually does have spurts and then lags through January. Cutting the grasses and perennials without harming the bulb foliage is tricky, much easier then those new green leaves are shorter. I already cut a few tips off!

  3. Layanee says:

    Oh, but the cold will come and the green bits will wait until true spring arrives…don’t you think? Cut away. it has to be done sometime.

    Yes, Layanee, it will be colder for a while longer, but the bulbs will merely stand still, not recede back into the ground. Cutting around them is tricky at best and I have a lot of garden to cut since there is no lawn. I can only do so much in a day. HA

  4. michaele says:

    I have been staring hard at the picture with the cardinal and I have to surrender and ask, “what is the heck is the dark green stuff behind the birdhouse. I don’t have a clue!”
    I am going to tackle grapevines today. I hate when I procrastinate on that task and then hit the time when they bleed profusely. Seeing the life blood sap pour out in a steady drip makes me feel so guilty.

    Thanks Micheale, for visiting. You may be talking about the Moss Bird I made last year. The birdseed birdhouse is tied around its neck. Here is the story: Moss Free Bird. I agree, where we live, certain tasks must be done earlier than in other parts of the country. When it is a nice day, get out there! It feels so good to be working in the garden.

    • michaele says:

      Thanks for such a quick response and yes, that is what it looked like but, since I am a somewhat new reader to your blog, I just couldn’t convince myself that it was a bird shaped mass of moss! I should have known that, since there doesn’t seem to be any limits on your creativity, it could definitely be something fanciful and imaginative. Sometimes when I’m sitting on my sofa at night multitasking with watching tv and browsing the internet, I’ll visit some of your side topics. I really enjoyed the one on your favorite daylilies. I, too, seek out Champion Daylilies, and always treat myself to a purchase. I particularly salivate over some of the really pricey ones but just can’t talk myself into a daylily with a $100+ price tag. But, goodness, aren’t the hybridizers doing some amazing stuff with the color combinations,the patterns, the frills and the substance. I bought one of Kieth’s (? I think that is the name of the gentleman who owns the business) own efforts last year and can’t wait to see it in bloom again this year. Over the past couple of years, I have found myself attracted to bolder colors in daylilies like Ruby Spider and All Fired Up which I bought from him. Last summer’s indulgences included Holiday Party, MS Red Bed Beauty and Savannah Style. Blah, blah, blah from me….get me on daylilies and I about can’t shut up!

      Oh the daylilies! What a passion we have for them, and yes, Keith is a fun guy and we also bought All Fired Up from him, and a couple of his crosses that he called “duds”. I made some crosses myself and some of the them bloomed for the first time last year. I am waiting to see if the rest bloom so I can post about the process. Fun, but it takes years to develop. No way will I pay the high prices for the newer daylilies, either.

  5. Dave says:

    Our daffs are on their way up out of the soil but I haven’t noticed the crocuses yet. In fact I still have a few bulbs to stick in the ground! Hopefully the weather pattern will figure itself out. For now we’ll just have to enjoy the warm days as garden work days.

    Yes, Dave, the weather will figure itself out, with or without our understanding. I am with you, any nice day is a garden work day. There is plenty to do, even if it is only weeding the henbit and bitter cress.

  6. Hi Frances,
    I am 5b, and have some daffodils coming up on the south side of the house. I need to go on a yard walk and see what else is going on. I am excited to see your warmer zones’ progressions into spring, and have a countdown going on my blog.

    Your moss rocks are looking happy!

    Happy New Year!

    Thanks Sue, and may your 2012 be the best year ever! It is fun to walk around and check for bulbs coming up and other signs of life out there. I have always done a lot of checking in winter, but still am finding surprises this year. I will check out your countdown.

  7. Catherine says:

    I was just starting on the same thing yesterday. Spring blooming bulbs are starting to come up here too, although not quite as far as the ones in your garden. Most of my winter interest has lost it’s interest by the birds eating the seeds or the wind knocking them over. Luckily spring isn’t really that far off.
    Happy New Year!

    Thanks Catherine, may 2012 be the best year ever for you and yours. There are patches of daffodils that are way ahead of the others each year, the earliest blooming ones. Having the Crocus chrysanthas already blooming is unusual. The cutting down of certain things has begun, as has the watch for spring.

  8. At least it’s never dull. The first green shoots and blooms of spring, I mean winter, are so magical.

    So true, MMD, never dull. Winter is reminding us of the reality of the calendar today, after many weeks of warmth. Those green shoots will have to rely on their antifreeze for a few days, it seems.

  9. Inanna says:

    Hi Frances…I’m with you…actually I’m way ahead for I cut mine in November…hated that but it takes me about 5 weeks of cutting 3-4 hours a day…and winter is iffy here in the Shenandoah Mountains and there is a lot of mulch to do in spring…so i have been drinking in your beautiful pictures of winter and enjoying vicariously.

    Hi Inanna, thanks for visiting. Some things are cut in November here, but the fall garden lasts well into mid-December with asters and mums. Right after the holidays seems perfect for starting anew in the garden chores. It will take a good month of cutting, like you, to get it all done. You do live in a beautiful area.

  10. Leslie says:

    You do such a good job with the bird photos…I live the cardinal!

    Thanks, Leslie. It is hard to take the bird shots, I have to be patient and sit still, two things that are very hard for me!

  11. Cindy, MCOK says:

    I’m leaving most of the grasses untouched until February or March. The goldfinches are here and I think they’ll enjoy the seedheads!

    Thanks for joining in here, Cindy. All gardening advice is local, very very local. What works for me isn’t for everyone else, for sure. Goldfinches have already devoured the seeds here, the stalks are bare!

  12. Dee says:

    Not yet for me. We’ve been cold, but I can understand if I had flowers popping up all over. Pretty how you’ve placed the Moss Rocks.~~Dee

    Thanks Dee, the Moss Rocks are quite nice. Seeing flowers even as early as December is thrilling. A good impetus to get cutting!

  13. Your bulbs are coming along nicely. Ours here in Shropshire, the coldest English county, are showin just a centimetre or so through the protective bark mulch. We have Great Spotted Woodpeckers on our feeders but they certainly wouldn’t let me take photos of them. They are so nervous! Just posted my first in a series of blogs I am going to write at the beginning of each month to show highlights. Thanks for a brilliant blog again!

    Thanks Green Bench. Our woodpeckers certainly do not let me get close, I am far away using the zoom on the camera, even then being very quite and not moving a bit. I will check out your post as soon as time allows.

  14. patientgardener says:

    I love your moss rocks so pretty. I appreciate the whole point of winter interest and leaving seedheads for birds etc but I prefer now its the new year to see the emerging spring shoots so there has been a real tidy up going on in my garden

    I am of the exact same mind, Helen. Once the new calendar is in place, the garden starts over. It takes me several weeks, working around the weather to get it all cut down and tidied up anyway. By that time, spring is close.

  15. michaele says:

    I realize you consider your zone to be 7a but when and how much do you cut back spireas like goldflame, magic carpet, etc. (not bridal wreath) and also the low growing nandina hybrids if you have any? I always wait until March or so (I’m more zone 6b, Knoxville TN area) but I’m wondering if it would hurt to do it in late Jan or Feb. I tend to google questions like that and then scratch my head with the variety of answers to absorb. I’d like to really refresh my spirea and be more severe than normal if it isn’t too risky. Just wondering if you have any words of wisdom since you’re in a cutting back mode.

    I cut the Magic Carpets at any time of year with no damage at all. I like to cut them whenever they get larger than I want. I have a couple that will be cut in the next few weeks. I also cut the Salvia greggiis now. Roses get pruned on Valentine’s Day, and anything else that needs pruning. I don’t follow the accepted general rules much. Live dangerously! HA

    Thanks so much for the info (and the nudge not to be chicken).


  16. Ah, to have your discipline to cut and chop before everything is looking very sad. I’m useless at recognising when it is time to chop!
    Our bulbs were a little early last winter too, but yours are really looking determined to get on with it!

    Thanks for visiting, Gippland. I need an excuse to get out into the garden after the holidays to help cleanse my spirit and renew my soul. Cutting stuff down is a good reason, and I have waited to long in previous years and found it very difficult to cut around the emerging bulbs. I love bulbs and have them in every bed. Such cheerful plants.

  17. commonweeder says:

    Frances, I love visiting your garden any day, but especially at this time of the year. Happy new year!

    Thanks Pat. You are welcome to visit anytime!

  18. Weird weather is right! We’re just now getting a cold snap in Wisconsin! Not much snow, and then it’s supposed to be warm again toward the end of the week. I haven’t noticed any blooms yet, but some buds on shrubs are in suspended animation–they started unfurling in November! I hope we have a mild winter. It must be wonderful to see so much new growth so early in the New Year!

    Hi Beth, up and down and all around, the weather is taking us on a joy ride! I join you in wishing for a mild winter. Our Zone 7a can be a pleasure with the early blooms each year, with the proper plantings, of course.

  19. Lisa says:

    Oh, goodness, I’m just thinking the same thing, but don’t yet have crocuses coming up (but I haven’t been back to the Piedmont to check, though!)

    I’m still enjoying the winter foliage, but this year, I think spring will be just around the corner (after the cold snap blows through).

    All the best in the new year,

    Thanks, Lisa, I hope 2012 proves to be the best year ever for you and yours. The ups and downs are a wild ride, but seeing those Crocus chrysantha blooming already is a good and hopeful sign of things to come.

  20. Elizabeth McLeod says:

    The wonder and growth in a garden is such a joy to behold all year through! Here’s to quick winter snaps that do not kill any eastern plantings and sunny weather that will have us enjoying all the spring, summer and fall blossoms. Happy gardening across the continent. Liz

    Thanks Elizabeth, happy gardening to you, too! The plants here have to be tough and not complain about the sort of variable weather we experience each year, either. We do hate whining!

  21. Beautiful winter images…too hard to give this garden its haircut, I wouldn’t be able to!

    Thanks Ronelle! I have learned by experience what must be done and when around here. It is hard to cut things that still are pretty.

  22. Les says:

    I spent a beautiful New Year’s Day in the garden, a first for that date. I am now all caught up on my cut back, the bananas and cannas are down, brown dayliy foliage removed. On a warm day in Feb. I will get to the grasses and liriope. Stay warm!

    Hi Les, thanks for adding in to the conversation, and I hope you can stay warm, as well!

  23. Michael says:

    Happy New Year Frances! I’m new to your blog, but this post made the journey here worthwhile. I can’t believe that your spring bulbs are coming into bloom! They are beautiful. What happens in the spring? Have you planted late or other early spring bulbs that have yet to pop up? Many thanks for the beautiful photos.


    Hi Michael, thanks and welcome! We have thousands of spring blooming bulbs here, I have been dividing the daffodils that came with the property for over ten years now. There will be bulbs blooming until June, and then the lilies begin. I do love all bulbs, but the earliest earlies, like the Crocus chrysantha are very special. Anything that blooms in the winter, hellebores, witch hazel, little bulbs, make spring come earlier here.

  24. Goodness, look at all your daffodils! I’m not sure what’s happened to ours. We had a lot of cold weather in December, but I’d have expected to at least see a hint of ours by now. I hope they show! If not, I’ll have to appreciate yours from afar instead. Happy New Year Frances!

    Hi CV, thanks for stopping by and may 2012 bring the very best to you and yours. Surely your daffodils are just sleeping in a bit, they are such tough plants. Hope so!

  25. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It makes sense to me to be cutting back. Even here my daffs are up a couple of inches. They got their noses frozen last night. Winter is not going to give up trying to come in. It might not last long but the single digit wind chills have not loosened their grasp today. Brrrrrr. The sun is trying to lure me outside but I can read a thermometer and it isn’t out of the 20’s yet. Nope. I’m not going to do it. I’m staying inside. I love your moss rocks. I also like all your birdie pictures. Nice job.

    Thanks Lisa. I know what you mean about those cold days, not good for humans to be out stomping around on frozen plants and ground. We too, have to wait for warmer days to keep on cutting.

  26. sweetbay103 says:

    It’s been almost like spring here too ~ until today! I’m so glad it’s going to start warming up again tomorrow.

    I’ve started cutting back too, although it may take me all of the rest of the winter to finish it. lol

    Same here, Sweet Bay. We had a bitter chill with winds from Old Man Winter himself! It is to warm up later this week, though, back to cutting. It will take me most of this month to get done, I can only do so much in one day.

  27. Yes indeed, it is still pretty!

    Thanks Helen. Cutting the muhly while it still is showing a little pink is the hardest part of cutting at this time, but it must be done.

  28. Rose says:

    Oh my goodness, I can’t believe you have spring bulbs emerging already! It certainly has been a strange year; even here in Illinois, we had one of the warmest Decembers I can remember and just a brief blanket of snow. Still, I will be waiting to cut my garden down until later–no spring bloomers to provide some winter interest yet.

    Thanks for stopping by, Rose. We normally do have bulb tips showing, but not blooming and not so high as this year. Weird weather!

  29. Oh we have really had some unusual weather here in Tennessee. That is something that your bulbs are starting to bloom. Looking at them really does make me want Spring to be here!!

    Thanks Alicia. I think the weird weather is happening all over the US, if not all over the globe! Warmer during winter is fine by us, especially after last year’s snow and cold.

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