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.
The show is over…spring blooming shrubs and trees have put on their much appreciated display. With blossoms just passing by, your plant is already planning for spring 2015. It is hard for us humans to remember that this is the right time to prune those same plants. Timing your pruning correctly will positively manage the shape and health of the plant as well as promote their bloom performance in the years to come. As a general rule of thumb: don’t prune spring blooming shrubs and trees more than a month or so after they finish blooming unless you are willing to sacrifice some bloom. Plants like Forsythia will now start developing their 2015 flower buds so waiting too long to prune will eliminate some of next year’s display.
Spring bloomers like Forsythia and Lilacs renew themselves by sending up new stems at or near ground level each year. As plants age, older stems begin to crowd each other and the plant will flower less than desired. Cutting away some old stems will make room for new vigorous ones to take their place and gives the new shoots time to grow and bud up this year for flowers next year. Making selective pruning cuts to older stems promotes the overall good health and vigor of the plant. This is also a good pruning approach for Red Twig Dogwood and other multiple stem shrubs like Spirea. Do this type of thinning now.
For more bushy shrubs with side branches off of a main trunk, like Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Pieris, and Kalmias, they can use some shaping after they bloom too. Consider their current shape and make some cuts inside the plant to increase air circulation and sunlight penetration. All too often, these shrubby plants get too dense and the flowering decreases. Shrubs that have been pruned incorrectly in the past or outgrow their location may require more radical considerations. This is often called rejuvenation or renovation pruning. Some mature or neglected shrubs may need several seasons of renovation pruning to bring them back into scale with the landscape and restore their full beauty.
To do any of this pruning, sometimes you need courage, sometimes you need coaching and sometimes you need a professional to take charge. We’re available if you need help.