Monday Miscellany: Salamanders and Fall Pruning

If you’ve been paying attention to the blogosphere lately you’ve probably noticed The Great Leaf Debate going on. While reading the pros and cons of leaving fall leaves, I wanted to do a bit of research on salamanders, who often live in fallen leaves.

Wouldn’t you know it, one of the first articles I found was about how to get RID of salamanders in the garden! Even the author of that piece sheepishly acknowledged in the intro that salamanders are harmless, eat loads of garden pests and other bugs, and generally contribute a lot to our ecosystems and gardens, so you should think twice before wanting to get rid of them. (Sorry guys, I’m not linking to that article – if you want to read it, Google “how to get rid of salamanders ehow” and you’ll find it.)

I thought I’d side with the salamanders in this one and give a few tips on how to attract them and provide a home for them in your garden:

  • Provide damp, moist places to hide and live, such as piles of moist fall leaves, decomposing logs or piles of old vegetation. Even in a very neat garden, decomposing logs can provide interest if tucked around plantings in a pretty way, and leaves can be left towards the back of the garden.
  • Artfully place a few piles of loose, rounded stones around the garden where a salamander might hide.
  • Water sources and elements that form puddles can be beautiful and helpful to wildlife. Could you integrate a few shallow stones with divets or places for puddles through your garden?
  • Provide some shade for salamanders by planting for full ground coverage so they have places to scuttle, and add a couple of larger shrubs or trees to cast shade. Salamanders do not like to bake in the sun.

Fall pruning is upon us. Need tutorials?

While some plants, like ornamental grasses, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Black-Eyed Susan and more will provide seeds for the birds to eat if you leave the finished flowers on through winter, many other plants should be pruned or deadheaded now. Here’s the scoop:

What NOT to prune in winter in Coastal Northern CA and the Pacific Northwest: Frost-tender plants should not be pruned until threat of last frost has passed; here’s the skinny on which plants you ought to leave as long as possible.

How to prune Heaths and Heathers: Many heathers have finished their summer and fall bloom and are ready to be trimmed. Calluna or Scotch Heather in particular needs pruning rather urgently after bloom, because if you don’t prune off their dead flowers, they will do two things: their stems will become bare along the sections where they bloomed, and they will put out tufts of new growth at the very tips.

If you’ve ever seen a straggly Scotch Heather with a lot of bare wood tangled up in the plant, that would be why. Keep yours nice with a good shearing right now.

How to prune your Hydrangea: In mild winter climates along the coast, this is a great time to prune and deadhead your Hydrangeas. In colder climes, you can simply deadhead them and prune them after threat of frost has passed in spring.

How to prune Astilbe

How to prune Alstroemeria

How to prune ‘Rozanne’ Geranium and other Hardy Cranesbills

How to prune raspberries

Interview with me about urban gardening:

I’m not an urban gardener anymore, but I was educated in San Francisco and began my career there, so I had my share of urban gardening experiences. Bryan Ogden over at Metropolitan Gardening asked to interview me about it after we shared some messages on Twitter.

You can follow Bryan on Twitter @metro_gardening. Thanks for the interview Bryan!

And a quick congrats to my fellow Garden Designers Roundtable peeps!

If you pick up a copy of Horticulture Magazine this month, myself and a few of my fellow GDRT pals are featured talking about some of our favorite plants! My issue hasn’t yet arrived, but I think we’re around page 64 if you have your issue handy. Congrats to my fellow Roundtablers!

Read anything cool this week? Let me know in the comments below.


  1. says

    I can absolutely relate on the first article in a search being how to get rid of something. Far too often when I research wildlife species, the first and most dominate articles are about getting rid of them instead of attracting them. While searching resources online for my ‘Landscape for Wildlife’ resource lists, many times I found the beneficial insects listed under extension services ‘Pests’ sections, even though the article was written on how to attract them. Even in many books about urban wildlife, there is much space dedicated to getting rid of beneficial wildlife species. Glad we have excellent blogs dedicated to providing the benefits of wildlife and how to attract!

    • says

      Kelly, you are too, too right. It’s sort of a slap in the face to see the first results for attracting an animal are about how to hurt it!

      The one thing I have a conundrum about is deer – I love to watch them graze, but not on my clients’ plants!!

  2. says

    Hi Gen, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a salamander in my garden even though I have all those requirements. ( I do vividly remember finding one years ago, in the leaf litter, while on a nature walk at a pinetum with one of my sons – we were both so excited!) Maybe they’re hiding in the wood piles or the stone wall. I like the idea of rocks with crevices to hold water, I’m definitely going to try and add a few of those near the wood pile and keep my fingers crossed than any salamanders find them.

    I was so excited to see that all the designers in the Horticulture article are from GDRT. I had no idea that would be the case when I was asked to participate – it makes it all more special!

    • says

      Debbie, you’re an awesome storyteller. When you write I get such vivid mental pictures of the scenes you set. I need to work on incorporating more water into my garden, though I confess the chickens make things a bit tough sometimes.

      I am hopping up and down waiting for my issue to come!!! I even tried to buy a newsstand copy as an extra but apparently the three bookstore shere do not carry it, and Horticulture Mag itself isn’t yet calling “our” issue the current one. Can’t wait to see the article though.

    • says

      Seriously, Stephanie! They are such sweet little critters, and they even seem to form families. I usually see the older ones with a mate and a smaller one in the same area of foliage. I love them.

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