By Jeff Ray

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – When the first hard freeze of the season arrives it’s a sad end to your flower beds and your other warm-season plants. All that color and vitality, all that care and planning… transmuted over a few short nights into pale, wilted skeletons of faded glory. It is the harbinger of the pale of winter, a visual emptiness that you can alleviate somewhat with some winter annuals.

Know this. Spring will come again. You should start the winter with a clean slate. For those perennial plants (not shrubs) it is time to get cutting. In these pleasantly mild early-winter days cut back the dead growth and throw everything in your compost pile. What you are cutting back are the parts that don’t grow back. For most perennials this is everything that is above ground. The roots survive the winter and produce new growth next year. Cut back most to just a few inches above the ground. This is also a chance to clear away your beds of other stems and evasive plants that might be hiding in your beds. This is the absolutely the best time to mulch. Just like the warm season, don’t pile the mulch against the plant, even one that is dormant. The mulch can trap moisture and rot your plant down below the root crown, killing the plant over the winter. Up north you will see some cold-sensitive plants covered in a mound of mulch for cold protection. Here the ground stays above freezing and this isn’t necessary.

Clearing your beds and putting down mulch also clears your mind. I like to think of it as clearing away the past and looking forward to your future. You’ll spend all winter looking at clean and tidy garden beds. Start looking at the calendar.

All that color returns anew. To garden is to dream of Spring.

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