With mild temperatures this afternoon, I managed sufficient energy to gather and shred leaves that buried hellebores, heucheras (below), and a few other low growing perennials that do not go completely dormant in winter. Deep piles of leaves remain under trees and shrubs on the garden’s southern edge that borders forest, but these will be left to decay.
It does not bother me at all that the huge leaves of Bigleaf magnolia, and sycamores that blow in from the neighborhood might look sloppy. It’s winter, and though leaves will remain through through half of spring before breaking down I consider the leaves a treasured resource rather than an eyesore.
Typically, the leaf clean up is accomplished over many weeks, and sometimes not completed until late March, when perennials are emerging. Now, I’m looking forward to a long winter of rest, though admittedly I’ve loosened the standard for areas where deep piles of leaves will be allowed to remain.
The leaf clean up served two purposes today; to clean debris around the hellebores so flowers can be seen, and to spread leaves on the far side of the garden where there are fewer trees and winter weeds have gotten hopelessly ahead of my meager efforts at weeding. My hope is that four inches of shredded leaves will deny sunlight and kill the weeds. We’ll see.
Leaves have been cleaned from the small areas of lawn and from around and beneath healthy, green foliage of hellebores and heucheras. The leaves of most hellebores will be cut back so that flowers can be more readily seen, but in early winter every green leaf is appreciated, so this will wait until just before flowering.
On occasion, a few hellebores begin flowering in late December or early January, and several show swelling buds that indicate this possibility with a bit of color showing already. I suppose that without the insulating cover of leaves, mild temperatures will further encourage earlier flowering. Flowers are not damaged by freezing temperatures, and even if there is only a glimpse of color this will make the long wait until spring more tolerable.