Contributed by Lynn Hutchinski
Surveying my garden today in the early morning chill (only 38 degrees – much better than 17!), I was struck by what a disaster area it seems to be. After a much ballyhooed record-breaking winter of snow in the Boston area and after a fall of neglect on my part, the side beds are covered in plant debris: partially-decomposed leaves, haphazardly-fallen dead stems like pick-up stix, overgrown dead foliage, forlorn-looking bare shrubs. It looks like a major flood came and receded.
But wait! If I look again, there are masses of green here and there – crocuses in royal purple, daffodils fattening up and even the green leaves of tulips starting out of the soil. It’s time to envision once again my garden dreams. There’s a rhyme and reason to the flow of seasons, as it says in Ecclesiastes: “to everything there is a season …; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” and I feel the quickening of the earth waking up and stretching, and life moving and reviving the plants.
So it’s time for me to get moving – dig out the rake and hoe from the shed, find the empty trash barrels, and clean out that garden debris. A joyful response as I look forward to the unfolding of new blooms and the parade of emerging perennials that usually surprises me at some point as a plant shoots up in a spot that I thought was empty. However, if a ‘joyful response’ is not quite the emotion you have as you look at your emerging garden, please feel free to call us for your Spring clean-up – we’re ready to go and eager to celebrate the season.
As the temperature warms this week, the woody plants of your garden will start to show again. Oh, the irony of finally seeing your “winter interest plants” now that spring is almost here!
We are getting inquiries about how to handle damage seen on shrubs and small trees. You may see more evidence of broken branches as the snow recedes – or you may find that the snow acted as a support cushion under the branches.
What can you do?
We are advising that you resist pushing on or otherwise testing the branches. If we provide garden maintenance services for you, we would prefer to evaluate any partially detached branches to see if they can be reattached. And wiggling them to see just how much they wiggle (admit it – you want to do this) can make the tear more acute. In some instances, a clean removal cut may be advised to allow the plant to start healing the wound immediately. But in some cases, when the branch is still mostly attached, and if determined to be significant to the plant for health or aesthetic reasons, we can bind, brace or use a stainless steel screw to bring the two split sides together. Some of you may have seen us use this approach with a Japanese Maple branch and the plant heals over the crack and envelops the screw.
If you want to tackle this on your own – observe the crack and figure out if the branch is still attached by greater than 50%. If the branch is a major branch for form, structure and/or leaf coverage (food production), try binding it with a splint to stabilize the force pulling the two sides apart. Don’t tie so tightly that you overly constrict the sap flow in the bark, and remove it this fall to evaluate whether the crack has healed enough to stand alone or take a looser brace for the winter. If the branch is not healing quickly, we would most likely advise removing it since leaving a torn wound is an entrance point for disease and pest invasion.
You can always send us a photo – email@example.com
In our last blog for 2014 you might expect the theme of gratitude: to our clients, our staff, our vendors and our colleagues. But that would be so predictable! (but really, THANK YOU TO ALL!)
Instead I want to talk about the sense of disconnection I feel in winter when I stop working in my garden. Perhaps you feel the same way. It’s like when you pile in your car to leave your childhood home and extended family after a great visit and you face six long hours in the car. Life is on hold during that prolonged drive until you arrive back home again.
Winter is kind of like that car ride for me. A suspended reality that, yes, I dig into and use wisely – but part of me feels on hold, waiting for spring. Cleaning the cobwebs from the ceiling and organizing my recipe binder is satisfying but lacks that active communing feeling I have when puttering in my garden. Me and the cobwebs are not friends and while recipes can feed me, they don’t commune with me.
Sure, I have a lot to look at in my garden out the window being a Conifer Queen, but passively ‘looking’ just doesn’t fulfill the ‘doing’ part of gardening that I love.
While I understand why so many people want ‘no maintenance’ gardens, for me it is the tangible action of plant care that gives me the greatest enjoyment in my own garden. Touching branches, wrestling with a multi-stemmed shrub, setting up my ladder to get to the top of a tree, deadheading, weeding – this is when I feel the comradery with my plants. We are buddies for that period of time and just as you feel closer to a friend after meeting over coffee, I feel closer to each plant.
So as winter sets in and most days I stay indoors, I miss my plant friends. I can watch them from a distance and know they are there – but I already long for spring.
See you all in SPRING 2015!