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Northwest Regional Reports

Northwest: December Garden To-Do List

Grasses covered in frost add winter interest and provide shelter for birds. Photo: Erin Presley

Don’t cut back perennials or grasses. They will attract overwintering birds this winter. The additional dead and dying plant material will also protect the crowns of the perennials.

Avoid hard cutting of penstemons (Penstemon spp. and cvs., Zones 4–10) and salvias (Saliva spp. and cvs., Zones 5–11), as their stems help protect them in winter and draw water to the crown, ensuring more reliable survival in winter.

Ozark witch hazel
Ozark witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis, Zones 4–8). Photo: Jennifer Benner

Visit nurseries or public gardens to find selections with winter interest. Look for witch hazels (Hamamelis spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) with the best colors and scents. Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis spp. and cvs., Zones 5–8) has a lovely scent.

Mulch hellebores (Helleborus spp. and cvs., Zones 4–9) and other winter-blooming plants to ensure petals stay clean and free of mud. Cut back last season’s leaves to highlight the beautiful winter blooms.

Enjoy the end of the year by selecting seeds for the coming growing season from the catalogs that arrive at year’s end.

seed packets
Start selecting the seeds you will plant in spring. Photo: Carol Michel, May Dreams Gardens

—Jason Jorgensen is a landscape designer in Seattle.

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