Maine temperatures were warmer than usual this fall. In fact, October was the warmest on record. The beginning of November continued to be unseasonably warm. What does this mean to a gardener? In most years, by now, I would have been finished with fall clean up – raking leaves and cutting back frost-damaged foliage. I was lulled into complacency. I really didn’t feel a sense of urgency… and then, wham!!! Cold weather has arrived - really cold! Now when I venture outside, I’m dressed like an Eskimo. Such is life in our Zone 3-4 short-season, cold climate location.
Some of the last few chores I must do before snow arrives involve protecting plants from animal pests – mice, voles and deer. Mice and vole damage often goes undetected until spring because they make tunnels under the snow. The more snow we have, the more damage I’ve seen to trees. I must wrap the lower trunks of small trees with plastic tree guards. Young crab apples and maples seem to be most vulnerable.  I live on the edge of the woods where lots of deer live. While it’s fun to look out the windows and see a flock of deer, I know they can do extensive damage to some of my prized conifers. I wrap several evergreens with plastic fencing.

I must protect cedar from deer grazing with fencing or it will be simply branches by spring.

Plastic tree wrap protects small maples from voles and mice.  

This time of year, before beautiful, crisp, white snow coats the ground, gardens can look bleak and colorless. Make sure your garden has green year round – and not just a lawn. Conifers, mosses, and some ferns are forever green. In summer, green foliage makes the other colors in your garden more visible – more vivid. In winter, green may be one of the few colors you see. Look out each window of your home to confirm that you see green. Rejoice in green!

Several mosses carpet rocks in a path.

Conifers are especially important in areas with long winters.   

I’m already planning for next summer. That’s no surprise to hear for most gardeners! I’m making notes of things to do and plants to move, divide or prune. And, of course, I keep adding new plants to my wish list. There are always new plants to try. This year, among other things, I plan to add a few very large, impressive hostas. I’ve seen both in my friend, Lenore’s garden – ‘Final Summation’ and ‘Great Expectations.’ They’re the type of plants that stop you dead in your tracks. “Wow! What’s that?” Just what a gardener wants to hear. 

Hosta ‘Final Summation’ has huge variegated leaves.

The corrugated texture of hosta ‘Great Expectations’.