As trees drop their leaves and nights grow cooler, what we call “dormant pruning season” begins. It’s so much easier to see the structure of a woody plant without leaves. As long as temperatures are above 20 degrees, we can prune fruit trees and any ornamental species now through April. Below that temperature point, branches are brittle and may snap too quickly in the wrong places. Gardeners’ hands stay warmer, too, above that 20-degree point!
Once the ground freezes, we protect David Austin and hybrid tea roses with a cone of compost. A standard rose needs to have a wrap of burlap filled with straw (see photo) to protect its graft and tender branches.
At this time we also top off lavender, heaths, and heathers with a layer of evergreen boughs. This strategy can also be employed for wind-exposed perennial beds and planting areas atop stone retaining walls. If only we could know what the winter weather will be like! Many years there is little or no snow cover and temperatures drop to the single digits or below. This weather pattern can be very damaging to plants, so an extra layer of protection is critical.
Do not put that layer in place too soon, however, as this only offers shelter to mice and voles who may tunnel through to the roots of your plants! Wait until the ground freezes thoroughly. Some years this doesn’t happen until January.