What Do Flower Gardeners Do In The Winter?

Snowdrop flowers in the winter garden.

It’s November and my flower garden is looking a lot different than it did a few months ago. The peak of summer production is gone, and the slow down of fall is nearly over. But that doesn’t mean that flower gardeners like myself take the whole season off. Some tasks remain to be done, even if they look different than the summer schedule and to-do list. So just what can we flower gardeners do in the winter?

Cut flower gardeners have plenty to keep them busy during winter. To start, some plants can survive the colder weather and will need attention throughout the season. Additionally, there are plenty of winter tasks that help wrap up the gardening year and prepare for the next year. Some of those tasks include recording information about the season that has just ended, ordering seeds and plants for spring planting, planning any new beds that will need to be built, and catching up on all the new gardening books.

Can you have a garden in winter?

You can still have a garden in winter. One less reason for flower gardeners to take the season off! While the cut flower garden especially will look very different than in the summer, there are many plants that you can overwinter in the ground.

Perennial plants, which are plants that live multiple seasons, will possibly need trimming to remove any dead or diseased branches. Depending on your climate, they may also need a good layer of mulch to keep the soil just a little bit warmer.

Some annuals such as nasturtiums and calendulas can take a little nip in the air. They won’t survive a hard freeze but they might make it through a light frost. At the very least, you can expect to see some cheerful blooms later into the end of fall and the beginning of winter when your other cut flowers are already dead.

If you’ve grown any greens or herbs as part of your cut flower garden, these can also survive the winter. Edible kale, ornamental cabbage, and mint can all make it through colder temperatures Their growth will be much, much slower than summer growth, but even a good frost won’t kill them.

A jar of mint, calendula, nasturtium, and kale.

You can make a little green bouquet to freshen up your kitchen, or just throw those leaves into a dish you’re cooking.

What should you do with your flower beds in winter?

At the beginning of winter, flower bed clean-up and preparation will give your garden a head start come next spring. Instead of having to clean up debris from the last year and get your soil ready to receive new plants, that work will already be done.

It’s a good idea to leave behind some plant material to provide a habitat for insects and small creatures that live in the garden, but that can be balanced with removing big piles of debris that would otherwise get in the way next spring.

Once you’ve pulled out the annual flower plants that won’t survive the winter (or that are already dead), you can pile mulch on top of the bed to provide some insulation and organic matter to the soil. For example, take advantage of the leaves that are falling in your yard. Lay them on top of the garden beds to start decomposing over the winter. In the spring you can pull the much aside and plant straight into the soil.

Fill out your garden planner or journal with records

Many a gardener promises themselves that they’ll take good records of their growing year. What was planted, when it sprouted, what kind of harvest that one variety of snapdragons provided. But once the season gets going, it’s very easy to say “I’ll do it later” and then never actually do it.

Your memory of seed sowings and flower harvests won’t be as clear as when they happened, but it’ll be worse if you wait until next spring when you wonder just how many transplants of bells of Ireland you meant to grow this year. So do yourself a favor and record what you can now in the lull of winter.

Use the photos on your phone to jog your memory and use the date stamps to make at least a sketch of your past season. Were there any big flops that you want to avoid next season? Any clever successes that you want to replicate? If there were certain varieties that you want to be sure to grow again, make a note of it to include in your seed purchase.

Order seeds and plants for the spring

Speaking of seed purchases, winter is certainly the time to dream and plan for next year’s cut flowers. Once your mailbox starts overflowing with seed catalogs, set aside some time to dive in and see what’s new for the year. It’s fun to try a few new varieties each year to add to your collection of tried-and-true staples.

I’d never plant a cut flower garden without Queen Lime series zinnias, but next year I’m giving the Oklahoma series a try. Maybe I’ll find a new favorite!

Three garden catalogs for spring seed ordering.

If you don’t want to start any seeds indoors, winter can be the time to decide which plants to buy. Cut flowers such as lisianthus can be a pain to start from seed, so purchasing starts can spare you a headache.

Plan out a new flower bed

Once you’ve ordered way more seeds than you need (don’t worry, we all do it), you’ll probably need more beds to put all those seeds in. There are a few ways to do this: rearrange the layout of your current beds to find more room, eliminate some cut flowers from last season that you don’t plan to grow again, or keep everything and make more room for them all.

One guess which is a flower gardener’s preferred method…

Once you’ve decided to create a new bed you can spend some time planning where to locate this new growing space and its layout. Even if you don’t create the bed right now, it can be beneficial to gather the supplies now so they’re on hand for when you’re ready.

Compost, lumber if it’s a raised bed, stakes, or netting that you’ll need for the taller cut flowers, and any new irrigation supplies can all go on the list. Not only will your supplies be ready but you’ll also beat out the spring rush of other gardeners putting in their orders, too.

Read cut flower gardening books for inspiration

Finally, on those days where the weather is just too dreary to want to go outside, have a stack of books waiting for you. Whether you’re digging into Floret’s photographic inspiration or Lisa Mason Ziegler’s in-depth knowledge of hardy annuals, there are so many books to learn from.

A stack of gardening books with a coffee mug sitting on top.

And don’t feel you have to limit yourself to books only about cut flower gardening. Soil science, companion planting, and flower farming are other topics that can teach us, flower gardeners, more about our craft. Read up on how to start herbs seeds, how to make your compost, or how to find cut flowers that will also attract pollinators.

No matter the topic, a cup of tea and a good gardening book are a classic combo while dreaming of next year’s garden.

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