Opening the Garden: Spring Cleaning

Raking up the debris is normal spring cleaning, or Opening the Garden.

Raking up the debris is normal spring cleaning, or Opening the Garden.

I had an employee who had previously worked in the UK who shared the phrase “Opening the Garden” as the British equivalent of “Spring Cleaning”.  Winter’s debris is removed and the grasses and other plants left up for winter interest are cut back.  With our warm winter this year, now is the time to be out opening your garden, doing the spring cleaning.

Calamagrostis is a very popular grass, but it starts growth early.  If you don’t cut now (late February), it is likely that some new growth will be cut along with the old.  Most years we can wait for March for these tasks, and our Southern friends might need to do this in January.  Of course, calamagrostis is not the only plant that starts basal growth in early spring.  I saw new growth on my agastaches just yesterday.  Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and similar are often left up for winter interest, but the basal growth is beginning there as well.

Pink and blue pulmonaria blooms close up with dew

The pink and blue blooms of the pulmonaria are fine attractors for early spring hummingbirds.

Our hellebores are waking up (more like a Seattle time frame this year) and before long the pulmonarias will initiate.  So, indeed, before all that occurs and new growth gets in the way, it is time to open the garden.  To rake, to use the blower, to prune (we touched up the boxwoods) and to cut back the plants so they are ready for the spring.  We’ll have our bulbs in no time it appears.

Though dormant plants are fairly tough, it is a good idea not to step on them.  Sometimes folks have a hosta come up with some wildly distorted or torn leaves, and it’s the result of a trampling or other mechanical injury while dormant.  I keep my shade garden closed to visitors until the plants have emerged so they don’t get accidentally smushed.

So talking with other gardeners this season be sure to use the “Opening the Garden” catchphrase for your spring cleaning.  I think it sounds wonderful, and fills me with anticipation for the season to come.  I think of how I will boost the perennial display, wonderful as it is, with annual bedding plants mixed in.  I think of the containers and how I’ll be bringing them to life.  Spring is the gardener’s heyday, and the time we love to open the garden.  I have removed at minimum 1′ of the soil from each container, with complete changeover of soil in ones where that task was not done last year.  Your containers won’t look great unless you give them good soil.  Salts build up in containers.  Complete changeover every 2 years and top 1′ or more the off year.  If you read this and want potting soil early call the nursery.  Our soil really is better.   Our compost won’t arrive until March this year but we have potting soil now.

Three ceramic containers filled with soil but not yet planted.

These containers have been emptied and new soil put in place for the season. When it is time to plant the job will be easy.

All the plants are on their way to Tower Perennial for spring, and we’ll be open April 1 to help you make the most of your season.  Of course, any time we can meet if you want assistance from the landscape team.

Southern Californians and Hawaiians can just wonder what it would be like to open a garden from its dormancy.


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