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Chicago Snow Coming and Forgot To Winterize Your Garden? No Worries

By Patty Wetli | November 20, 2015 3:06pm
 It's healthier for the overall ecosystem when perennials are allowed to remain standing over the winter, providing food for birds and insects.
It's healthier for the overall ecosystem when perennials are allowed to remain standing over the winter, providing food for birds and insects.
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Facebook/Lurie Garden

LINCOLN SQUARE — If the meteorologists are remotely correct in their forecasts, white stuff is headed Chicago's way this weekend.

So let's talk about the green, or likely brown, stuff that's still in your garden.

Didn't get around to prepping your landscaping for winter weather? Congrats. You don't need to.

In the past, gardeners were taught to cut back perennials to within an inch or two of the ground as temperatures approached the freezing mark.

Don't bother, said Scott Stewart, director and head horticulturalist at the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park.

"If you've got a garden, leave it up," Stewart said. "Be lazy."

It's healthier for the overall ecosystem when perennials are allowed to remain standing over the winter, according to Stewart.

 Winter landscape, covered in snow and ice, has a beauty all its own.
Winter landscape, covered in snow and ice, has a beauty all its own.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

"Those plants still have seeds," he said. "And there are still birds and insects to eat off of the plants."

The best time to cut plants back is in the early spring, as they prepare to awaken.

As for the practice of piling leaves on top of landscaping beds to protect plants, Stewart said it's not worth the effort.

"It does nothing from a compost or mulch perspective," he said.

Aside from environmental benefits, Stewart said there's much to appreciate about winter gardens simply on a superficial level.

"There's an aesthetic beauty to winter and gardens covered in snow and ice," he said.

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