Putting the Garden to Bed for the Winter

Greenwood Gardens

15 November 2022

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Home Notes from the Garden

Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter

As the season comes to an end, we are often asked if work continues year-round at Greenwood. We answer that with an emphatic ‘Yes!’ We often find ourselves just as busy in the off-season with planning and preparing to re-open. This takes many forms, depending on the department at Greenwood, but maintaining, promoting, planning and stewarding a 28-acre formal garden requires all hands on deck.

Once the gates close to the public, the horticulture staff leaps into action preparing the garden to overwinter. They carefully evaluate the plantings that need special care to weather the cold. Plants that are unhealthy or do not feature in the plans for the garden in the coming season are removed, either to be rehabilitated indoors or to make room for a different planting.

Some plants are borderline hardy or have broad leaves that are susceptible to desiccation in the cold winter months. The Aucuba and the Camellias are treated with an anti-transpirant to prevent the foliage from drying out. The Camellias, rosemary and figs are wrapped for additional winter protection.

Tender perennials and tropical plants that will grace the garden in the following season are prepared for over-wintering in a variety of ways depending on their needs.

Smaller specimens, such as cuttings from our cane begonias (Begonia ‘Sophie Irene’) and our favorite scented geranium (Geranium ‘Attar of Roses’), are offered to staff as office plants with the promise that the horticulture staff will care for them through the winter.

Other tender perennials, such as salvias, are cut back hard, potted in a container or crate, and left to go dormant for the season in a cool place where temperatures drop to 45F. They are checked on throughout the winter, and watered periodically, so they do not dry out completely.

Cannas, dahlias, and some Colocasia are cleaned, cut back hard to the rhizome, tuber, or corm, and potted in crates filled with newspaper, old potting mix, or peat. They are stored in a cool, dark location until the spring.

The majority of our tropical and tender perennial plants are moved into our basement, where temperatures stay on the cooler side (55-60F) throughout the winter. We installed grow lights that allow these plants to thrive and check on them weekly for watering and to inspect them for pests.

Agapanthus and Colocasia ‘Thai Giant’ are two examples of plants that go into a semi-dormant state. We give them minimal water throughout the winter months, and they sit waiting for spring.

Our office staff is equally busy with development plans, booking programs, lectures, concerts and more, planning our promotions for the coming year, and ensuring the capital is available to support our efforts! Making Greenwood Gardens the historic garden oasis it is takes the efforts of many. We wouldn’t have it any other way.