We are blessed to have a couple of hundred-year-old trees in our front yard. For the past two years, I have asked the family member in charge of mowing the front yard to use the bag attachment on the lawn mower for the final mowing, so that the leaves are shredded and collected by the mower.The bag is emptied into cart or wheelbarrow and I then distribute the leaves over key garden areas as fast as I can, so as to have said cart or barrow empty in time to be filled again, which happens pretty quickly. Some of the leaves are shredded quite nicely, while others seem to emerge from the bag unscathed. No matter. They will still do the job, which is to provide insulation through the winter and then improve the soil. I used the first several bagfuls to insulate potted plants that I am wintering over. One year I wintered over four dozen plants this way. This year it was merely four. The leaves are packed in tightly on all four sides, and then mounded on top. This is to protect the roots, which would normally have a much greater volume of soil insulating them from the cold. Mulching the garlic not only keeps it from getting too cold in winter, but from warming up too fast in spring. Sometimes an early warm spell fools the plants that winter is over, and you don’t want the cloves sprouting before all hard freezes are done.
The remaining leaves were used to pamper the big leaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla). These are the hydrangeas that will bloom pink or blue depending on the pH of your soil. Once upon a time, they were not considered worth growing in really cold climates, because the flower buds formed before winter (ie, on old wood) and they would get killed by the cold. Endless Summer® was the first of many big leaf hydrangeas that supposedly made flower buds after winter as well as before, blooming on “new wood” as well as old. Well, if you don’t stuff leaves into the heart of the shrub, insulating it from
the worst of the cold surprise spring cold snaps, you still don’t have any “old wood” blooms and have to wait all summer for the blooms from new wood–if you get any at all.