A productive clean up day


A remarkable amount of clean up can be accomplished in a short while if the gardener is unconcerned with tidiness. And I’m not, or at least I wasn’t on the recent Sunday when I made tremendous progress cutting back perennials and semi woody shrubs. The garden began the day as a disaster, and by day’s end it was something better, I think.

Since my spring clean up has been delayed for several weeks by snow, I was determined to make the best of this day. I set out in late morning in my rubber muck boots with pruners in my pocket and a fully charged battery in my hedge shears. On this day the hedge shears were put to good use, chopping though small branches and woody perennials until the battery finally wore down. Surprisingly, my poor old back held up with hardly a complaint as I madly dashed through the garden grabbing fistfuls of spent leaves, stems, and flower stalks.

Blue Mist shrubs are semi woody. They often must be pruned by a foot or more in early spring.
Blue Mist shrubs are semi woody. They often must be pruned by a foot or more in late winter.

Too many times I’m distracted by this and that while laboring in the garden, and where I start is too often not where I stay for long, so that bits and pieces are accomplished here and there. This day, I was disciplined, or at least as much as I could possibly be. I began a few feet outside the garage, then worked my way around the front of the house, to the side, and then to the back. I left behind piles of debris, which were (and I give myself considerable credit for this) mostly picked up and deposited in the large compost piles at the garden’s edge before I finally collapsed in late afternoon. There are plenty of remnants of the day’s debris left behind, but someday soon the mower will grind most to be unrecognizable.

Beautyberries are smei woody. I often cut shrubs back by two-thirds or more.
Beautyberries are semi woody. I often cut shrubs back by two-thirds or more in late winter.

My productivity was greatly improved by the garden’s relative absence of blooms. Yes, the witch hazels are flowering, even the Vernal witch hazel that has been flowering since early in January. It seems that it is just as fragrant today as when it was at its peak, and I stopped for a sniff or two. The hybrid witch hazels, ‘Diane’ and ‘Jelena’ are at their peak, and though neither comes close to the mass and brightness of the dearly departed ‘Arnold Promise’ that perished a year ago, both have been enjoyed greatly in recent weeks while snow covered snowdrops and hellebores.

Vernal witch hazel in January
Vernal witch hazel in January

The Winter jasmine has finally begun with a few flowers in mid March. No doubt, I’ve anxiously checked its buds thirty times through the winter, and while this vigorous shrub regularly flowers in January, I was continually disappointed that there was no sign of color until a few days ago. There will be more flowers in a few days, but on this clean up day none are so distracting that I’m tempted to take more than a few moments to poke my nose close to catch of whiff of the witch hazels, or for a closer glimpse of the clear yellow blooms of the jasmine. There will be plenty of time to enjoy the garden after this mess is cleaned up.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. bittster says:

    I’m planning on getting out there tomorrow, my fingers are crossed the snow will melt off early and I can just rake up trimming, snow, and whatever else for the compost and call it a winter. My hedge trimmer and mower are my best cleanup friends!

    1. Dave says:

      I don’t expect to be done with the spring clean up for another few weeks, but I’m far enough along now that it will be a few hours here and there rather than all day, all weekend.

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