you prepare for winter’s icy presence, consider what snow, sleet and
freezing rains might do to your plantings. Yet don’t panic. There is
the many microclimates and soil conditions of the Milwaukee
metropolitan area, Stephanie Wilson, a landscape architect with David
J. Frank Landscape Contracting Inc., has the inside scoop on
protecting flowers and encouraging proper plantings. Lake Michigan and
geology play a large role in guiding flower selections that are
appropriate around here, she explains.
emphasizes that native flowers and grasses are great choices for area
gardens because they are reliably hardy and often provide habitat and
food for Wisconsin’s insects and animals. They generally need less
special protection and care once established because they have adapted
to the area’s climate, soil and water conditions. Many of the native
wildflowers can be left in place for fall and winter and will attract
birds and other native animals. The seed heads and arching foliage
also create visual interest in the winter landscape, Wilson adds.
But first, make
sure your garden is properly prepared to deal with winter’s rigors.
Autumn is a good time to assess if mulch needs to be added to the
planting beds — Wilson says 3 inches is ideal. When kept close to
that depth, mulch suppresses weeds, adds organic matter, moderates
soil temperature and retains moisture.
be cut back to the ground and foliage removed to deter fungal diseases
that can overwinter in the soil. Fall is also a great time to split
peonies, but be aware that doing so may affect flowering the following
year. Add bulbs to perennial beds for more spring color. Hardy
crocuses and daffodils are other great choices for an early palette
when waiting for other shrubs and perennials to leaf out. Wilson likes
to add alliums for variety.
and shrubs located in the Greater Milwaukee area’s growing zones do
not need winter protection unless they are in an exposed, windy
location or in an area that makes them susceptible to salt damage. But
for gardeners hoping for honeybees in the spring, vegetation such as
aromatic monarda is a great option. The hardy floral should be planted
in conjunction with tough perennials (think New England aster, joe-pye
weed and goldenrod) to extend the length of time nectar is available
to the pollinators. Choosing nonhybridized plants is important because
the hybridized varieties often provide less nectar and pollen,
according to Wilson.
the roughest Wisconsin winters and providing year-round interest to
the landscape, Wilson suggests the following perennials:
» Big bluestem
— a bunchgrass with blue-green stems that can grow 4 to 8 feet tall.
dropseed — a showy plant that looks like a fountain of green, making
for distinctive borders.
sunflower — a plant with daisy-like flowers and a lengthy summer
bloom, it can grow 3 to 4 feet tall.
gayfeather — the creamy-hued flowers of this plant perk up in early
— a perennial that spreads rapidly in clumps and grows in partial to
as well as other irises like the native blue flag iris, provides
reliable color in the landscape year after year. Frost-resistant
hellebores, offering more than 20 varieties, ensure early spring
flowers and interesting foliage throughout the summer. Rugged wild
onion and silky prairie smoke are also winter survivors. Baptisia,
aromatic catmint and lilies of the valley last for decades when
properly cared for.
One of the great
things about Wisconsin gardens is being able to enjoy them through all
seasons, enthuses Wilson. Fall preparations are fun because of the
chill in the air and anticipation, either good or bad, of the change
from autumn to winter. This seemingly short transition from a pleasant
fall day to freezing temperatures presents a challenge at the end of
the growing season. So be sure to complete the necessary cleanup to
ensure your multi-hued garden emerges healthy when spring actually
does arrive. m