Flowers of the Bay - Prepping for Winter

There are so many reasons to be grateful for living in the Pacific Northwest.  As gardeners we are spoiled with an outstanding growing season and mild winter.  When I relocated from Alberta it was like starting over and learning to care for plant material I'd only ever dreamed of.  So many Victorians are transplants from other regions and have no doubt experienced this same awe and excitement.  The possibilities that our climate offers are enviable.  Whether you have gardened here for a long time, or are just a budding gardener, there are always questions and discoveries.  

One of the biggest challenges in a mild climate is identifying timing and season changes.  In most regions of Canada the frost begins and inevitably the snow follows soon after.  The signs are clear - time to stop gardening!  Late last October I removed my annual plants in order to plant bulbs, even though frostbitten annuals in Alberta had been removed weeks prior. 

The brunt of the summer work is completed but there are still a number of tasks through the fall.  It is tempting to turn indoors and wait until spring to deal with clean-up; we all want to go dormant along with our plants! But if you can invest some time now you will be rewarded next growing season. 

Here is a short outline of some fall tasks and pruning suggestions, along with some ideas for leaving winter interest in the landscape. 

  • Dig and bring in dahlia tubers after stalks have died back
  • Remove and compost spent annuals and vegetable plants
  • Plant garlic and spring flowering bulbs - Daffodils, tulips etc. 

  • Transition pots and baskets into winter theme
    • Try Winter Roses (Hellebores), Cyclamen, Heuchera or Dusty Miller  
  • Mulch empty beds  with leaf or bark mulch
    • Protect from pests and erosion over the winter
  • Cut down herbaceous perennials that die back every fall
    • Daylilies, crocosmia, peonies, canna lilies, bee balm, bearded iris
    • Always dispose of diseased, infested or questionable material in the garbage, not your own compost pile!
  • Leave woody perennials, like fuchsias, until the spring!
  • Leave or tidy hydrangea blooms but prune in the spring or summer
  • Try leaving any ornamental grasses until the spring

  • Purple Conflower (Echinacea),Black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia), zinnias and cosmos seed heads will all feed birds over the winter
    • Consider leaving stalks intact if you don't mind the look of it
  • Shape rhododendrons in early spring before they flower
    •  Might sacrifice a few blooms as buds are already set for next year
    •  Best to prune after they finish flowering


  • Split and transplant perennials
    • Rejuvenate tired plants or move to a better location
  • Prune trees over the dormant winter period, finishing before spring growth 

Follow a few of these steps and your garden will be looking beautiful for next year!


Emily Richardson