Use a light touch with fall cleanup, and leave plants that provide winter interest standing. Grasses and seed heads of plants such as blazing star (Liatris spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9), coneflower (Echinacea spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp. and cvs., Zones 3–11), and sedums (Sedum spp. and cvs., Zones 3–11) provide valuable food and shelter for birds as well.
Recycle fallen leaves on your own property. Use a mulching mower to shred and store leaves to use as mulch in the spring, or stockpile unshredded leaves in a corner to break down into leaf mold over the next year or two.
Try planting some minor bulbs such as crocus (Crocus spp. and cvs., Zones 3–8), Siberian squill (Scilla siberica, Zones 2–8), snowdrops (Galanthus spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9), or glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa forbesii, Zones 3–8). These little charmers naturalize readily and provide a pop of early color in the spring garden.
Erin Presley is a horticulturist at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin.
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