It’s time for final winter prep!
Finish planting bulbs.
Finish cutting down herbaceous perennials. Grasses may be left up if you like their look in winter.
Finish protecting hybrid tea roses and climbing roses. Clean out dead wood and crossing branches, trim off twigs smaller than your little finger, and bring height down to 18 inches or so (leave climbers a little taller). Remove and discard all leaves, including leaves on the ground. Spray roses with rodent repellent (so the mice don’t nest in the cosy burrow you’re about to create) and with antidessicant. Cover base of rose with a few handfuls of compost. Pour a bucketful of mulch on top of the compost to hold it in place. For particularly exposed roses, wrap in burlap, staple the burlap closed, and tie the whole package with a few loops of twine. Rosa rugosas and Knockouts will usually do okay without protection; floribundas and fairies could go either way depending on their site exposure. Basically you should protect anything that you can’t live without.
Spray broadleaved evergreens with antidessicant.
Spray deer-attractors with a deer repellent. Common deer targets are arborvitae, blue hollies, chamaecyparis, euonymus, hemlocks, mountain laurel, rhododendrons and evergreen azaleas, and yews. Where deer are a serious problem, you can net the shrubs for further protection.
Wrap a few loops of green twine around evergreens prone to splitting under the weight of snow and ice. This will typically be boxwoods and littleleaf hollies. The vertical Ilex crenata “Sky Pencil” is a notorious splitter. Arborvitae and yews can also split, particularly if they are under an eave where snow may be funnelled down onto them.
Deciduous trees and shrubs may be pruned after the leaves fall and there is no danger of new growth. Needled evergreens may be lightly pruned of excess growth. Heavy pruning is better done in late winter/early spring.