Sometimes Plants get so Confused

This Orange Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea munroana)
 is putting out new leaves close to the ground.

This has been a very confusing year for plants in our area.  The calendar says it's almost December, but herbs and perennials in my gardens are still sporting green leaves and in some cases, even new growth.  So what's going on?  Has my yard suddenly been transported to a warmer state?  Or maybe just has a warmer state of mind?  Or maybe Mother Nature is just making up for how early winter came here last year. Whatever the reason, this year Fall has lasted a very wonderfully long time. We haven't even had a "real snow" yet, which is unheard of at our elevation, usually by now we've have more than a foot or more.

Although the Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris) has gone dormant for the year,
 the Red Rocks Penstemon next to it is still green and growing.

If you've read any of my posts in the past about how I "clean up" the gardens in the fall, you know I leave most of my plants standing till spring, the leaves stay on the gardens, and many of the pine needles stay where they land.  I also tend to wait till things are really going dormant before adding organic slow release fertilizer or compost to work its way down into the soil.  So, I've been waiting, and waiting to get these few chores done, but with temps in the 50s and 60s for most of October and November it just hasn't seemed like the right time.  Yesterday I decided I should get out there and do it anyway.  The veggie garden hoops and netting came down and the quick connect ends of the soaker hoses were removed.  Wagons and carts got put away, and the last of the ceramic pots moved to safer places.

Garlic, Chives, and Parsley are all still growing but in much need of moisture.  
The hoops and nets come down for the winter. 

My garden "helper" Yukon would rather be playing fetch.

The messy leftovers will get to be eaten by the wildlife, 
then pulled out in the spring

What does it mean for the plants if they grow longer than usual, ignoring the human calendar?  Does it weaken them the next spring, or do they just go with the flow?  For perennials and herbs it just means you get to enjoy them longer and benefit next spring from additional root growth and stronger plants.  By allowing plants to set their own schedule, instead of being put to bed on yours, the plants use nature as their guide to tell them when it's time to "go to sleep".  Perennials, shrubs, trees, ornamental grasses (native or not), and herbs all put extra energy into growing root systems in the fall.  They don't have to worry about putting on a show of flowers or pretty leaves, they just want to grow their feet.  The nice cool days and even cooler evenings put far less stress on their systems and the insects that may have been bothering them in the summertime are long gone.

Dormant plants can still paint a beautiful picture 
if you leave them untouched until spring.

So if your weather is still warm, and you haven't gotten out to the garden yet to do all of your "chores", maybe you should just wait a little, put up your feet, and watch your garden keep growing.  Spend the day reading some great gardening blogs, or come visit us at Wildlife Gardening to join in more discussions about fall cleanup and plants that provide winter interest.  The snow will be flying soon enough, so until then enjoy what's still growing!


  1. Please no snow! I'm with you. This is a great time of the year to pull up a comfortable chair and watch the birds and other wildlife in your garden. And I love your garden helper!

  2. it looks weary and sad in these conditions. It certainly is pathetic for us un-initiated. I also feel a bit depressed and feel the waste for the so many man-hours spent in making the garden so lush and so suddenly it becomes so desolate like this. But yes, it is just a matter of perspective, a round of life and death. Beauty of course is always in the eye...

  3. We've had several frosts already...well below freezing temps--and my foxgloves are still blooming! Plants certainly will 'do their own thing', despite what we 'think' they should be doing!

  4. We've had several frosts already...well below freezing temps--and my foxgloves are still blooming! Plants certainly will 'do their own thing', despite what we 'think' they should be doing!


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