Tag Archives: spring cleaning

Garden assessment

Can I get outside and get my non-calloused hands in the friggin dirt already? With the official first day of spring here, I should have so much more done by now. Every ornamental grass should be cut down. The perennials should be cleaned up with their new growth exposed. The trees should be pruned. The plants that wussed out and didn’t survive the winter should be enjoying their new home on the compost pile. But we ain’t even close to that right now. Not by a long shot.

Now having said all that, I am still remaining patient. I believe the term you all may use is “maturing”. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was my early spring garden. The truth is, the soil is still so wet and I am not about to compact my compacted soil any further. As much as I want to put on my shit-kicking boots and garden away, we must wait.

But that doesn’t mean we cannot plan. I’ve told you before about my detailed plant spreadsheet but did you know that there is a column dedicated to spring tasks associated with each plant? And I log what I ended up doing each spring, going back five years now? Yes, I am aware of how awesome I am and I appreciate your praise. We can’t all be this organized and on top of things. You just have to accept it and move on.

So as I navigated the garden with pen and paper in tow (I can still kick it old school), here are some of the things I noted for future efforts or just simply noted or even noted in anger.

My four year old Malus (Crabapple) ‘Prairie Fire’ has never been touched beyond the removal of some suckers at the base and dead wood when I remembered to notice it. Well now I am ready to prune it a bit to aid in its development.              

As you can see, it could use some shaping but I don’t want to prune it just for the sake of pruning. I’ve done my research though and I think I am ready to take the plunge. Now is the time to do so before it blooms and leafs out. There are quite a few crossing branches that can be cut out.

And also a few branches that are now growing back towards the center of the tree.

More to come after John Scissorhands chops away. Did I mention how phenomenal the blooms are come the end of April?

I’ve been disappointed to date with the growth and habit of my Amelanchier (Serviceberry) ‘Autumn Brilliance’ and my gut tells me to take action with a pruner. For now however, we are ignoring said gut and leaving this alone for another year.

This Viburnum ‘Shoshoni’ is dangerously close to outgrowing its spot along the front of my home but I’ve managed to trim it enough “post bloom” to keep it in bounds. I have considered a severe pruning to really address the potential spacing issue but again, will continue with the light shearing and enjoy an actual shrub that is happily thriving in my garden.

Just a minute to salute this Viburnum ‘Emerald Lustre’ and the fact that the deer have never touched it and I can let it grow to its heart content. No pruning required here.

Me like berries and would never mess with that.

I so love the Redtwig dogwood (this is ‘Arctic Fire’) in winter so I will be selectively pruning this one to aid in the production of young red stems for next fall/winter.

You are looking at a suckering Clethra and I’m not quite sure if that is a good or bad thing yet. I welcome the spreading but need to keep an eye on it to see if it affects the overall growth of the mother plant.  

Time to remove the Holly ‘Blue Princess’ from the spreadsheet as she got her ass kicked this winter. And yes, this is not a deciduous Holly.

I am in the process of writing a new garden song entitled “The day the arborvitaes died” as I have close to ten of these that are in need of removal. I never really took to them anyway but they filled space and that can’t be underestimated.

I played around with some experimental pruning with Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’ a few years ago and this is the one I’ve never touched. Pruning to the ground worked well on another with its new flush of wine colored foliage and it is now residing in a container on my deck (long story). I think I may allow this to bloom in the late spring and then I will cut it back severely.

This is what happens when you desperately throw a boxwood in a container in December.  

This is what happens when you … actually I have no idea what happened to this unfortunate boxwood.

Since this Physocarpus (Ninebark) is on my deck and away from the soggy soil, I went to town and cut it back to a few inches. Hopefully the newly emerging foliage will be vibrant and light up this container.

Some other parts of the garden are completely inaccessible at this time so there is more evaluating to come. And yes, I will soon share my “plant spreadsheet of the gods” with you all but not the machinations that are behind it. That is for a future episode of Shark Tank.


Saying goodbye to winter

While there is still some snow on the ground and it is still frigid outside, I have officially declared it to be spring in my neck of the woods. We were fortunate to have been spared by the storm that just hit the Mid-Atlantic last night so I am confident that things will only look up from here. The nasty winter is in the rearview and it is time to get down to business.

The photo below is a great representation of how my garden looks right now:

Ornamental grasses ready to be cut to the ground, perennial foliage that has been battered all winter and deciduous shrubs that are just now showing signs of leafing out. In other words, a lot of brown and not much else.

But we move on. There is garden assessment and work to be done.

Grab a child, put a hedge trimmer in their hands, scream at them incessantly through a megaphone and before you know it, the grasses have been cleaned up.


And nothing is more exciting than spotting those few blades of green grass emerging on the cool weather ornamental grasses.

There are signs of the daffodils returning.

And the geraniums are showing signs of life.

There are some reminders of the past, like this milkweed seed capsule.

Or this small ornamental grass that never took hold after being planted last fall. RIP whatever grass you are since I’ve already forgotten.

There is still a lot of work to be done and how awesome is that?

Out with the old …

Last weekend started the spring clean-up and this weekend was more of the same. The difference was, the temps were in the upper 50’s this weekend and it felt more like 70 degrees after the cold winter that just passed (fingers double crossed). 
One of my favorite spring tasks is to cut down the sedums. It signifies the end of winter by removing the spent flowers that persisted since the fall and exposes the new spring growth. Boo ya!
So out with the “old”:              

And in with the friggin “new”:

Now that the old flower stems of the sedum are removed, it is time for the daffodils that sit behind the sedums to take center stage and put on their spring show: 

We have a ways to go with the daffodils, but promise is in the air.

The next task was to move on to the Amsonia. As you may have heard me mention in the past, these are one of my absolute favorite plants for spring, fall and summer interest and the deer have left them alone for years now.

So again, out with the “old”:      

And barely in with the “new”:

To get outside with the pruners and actually physically do something was incredibly invigorating. I spent some time confirming that the bee balms and geraniums have returned yet again this spring and I’m ready to kick some ass from this day out.

One final confirmation that spring has returned; I spotted this creature roaming about the yard with baseball bat in hand:      

All is good y’all.


Time to cut back the ornamental grasses

I don’t give a flying fig what Punxsutawney Phil said, Spring officially began this past Saturday, February 25th. 
According to MY calendar, Spring commences when I cut down the first ornamental grass. This normally occurs around the second to third week of March, but to celebrate this mild Winter (and to take advantage of a window of free time between dance class and a basketball game) I headed outdoors, battery powered hedge clippers in hand and went to town on the OG’s. 
First up, Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’:        

This is my largest ornamental grass so the “cut-back” was the most difficult. But with my pure brute strength, I laughed at the challenge.

I do worry about the big hole that is left as a result, but hope the emerging daffodil bulbs will help hide the carnage for the time being:  

Next, we move on to the Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’. These grasses collapsed in an ugly pile in late October, after an out of nowhere snow storm, and never recovered:

I couldn’t wait to slice and dice these puppies so the ugliness of fall/winter could be forgotten:

Since ‘Karl Foerster’ is a “cool season” grass, I knew it would show signs of new growth already … and it didn’t disappoint:

I also chopped back another Calamagrostis (‘El Dorado’) and was greeted with new growth again:

I even cut back a few small newly purchased clumps of Calamagrostis ‘Avalance’ (a variegated form I’m super psyched to watch mature) and yes my friends, more new, green growth:

Like Leatherface from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” I slaughtered this Sorghastrum ‘Sioux Blue’ without missing a beat:

And boom, whacked back Carex ‘Kaga Nishiki’ and was greeted with this delicious foliage:

Northern Sea Oats was cut back in mid Fall in hopes of managing the reseeding, so no need to touch them:

Finally, I was able to contain myself and allowed this Carex ‘Cappuccino’ to remain as is because she still looks damn good:

That’s all for now.

There are still quite a few Miscanthus and Panicum in need of a haircut and I can’t wait to chop away soon.