Summer has passed and it is the time of year where plants begin to prepare for the coming winter and enter their dormant state – my favorite. There are myriad plants that also use this time of year to bloom and release seed that will remain dormant through the winter in preparation for Spring germination. Most gardeners, naturalists and landscape aficionados very much look forward to the fall season and take pleasure in observing the arrival and evolution of fall colors as they shift from yellow to orange, red and purple. Many gardeners also associate this time of year with their own winter preparations. It is common practice to cut-back the garden and remove all dead tissue and seed heads from perennials in order to tidy up the beds for winter. Some of us, however, find splendid beauty in the dead or dormant state of the garden. The subdued and earthly colors of the dried plants, the architecture of the seed head, the subtlety and muteness all make the winter garden perhaps my favorite state. Don’t get me wrong, flowers blooming in all of their color and glory is a marvelous spectacle to behold, but there is something remarkable about the garden when all of the plants are united in their collective hues of brown and gray. Additionally, seed heads and desiccated plant tissue provide much fodder for wildlife in the winter when other sources of food have disappeared. Birds especially love it when you leave seed heads attached and standing, as they will happily snatch their lunch from stalk, helping to disperse others that are scattered when they alight on or fling themselves from a plant’s stalk. Ironically, by leaving dead seed heads standing in the garden, you make possible the reintroduction of more vibrant color through the plumage of birds, some of whom are much more colorful than the surrounding landscape (gold finches, cardinals, jays). Finally, I do not think there is anything more beautiful than a late fall frost reflecting the early morning sun and coating the surfaces of seed heads and dried foliage in a dormant garden. The foliage and stems can even help insulate some of your plants from the winter cold and make them even more vibrant when they begin to flush in the Spring. In short, I like to leave my gardens in tact during the winter, enjoying its subdued beauty, the wildlife it attracts and the knowledge that many of my plants are happier with a blanket above them and will return with more vigor in the Spring.