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  • Writer's pictureFellow Gardener Sara

Waking the Garden

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

Snow is melting. January rains have wilted the snow to a spongy mess. Soon I will begin waking my Garden.

Walking, head bent and peering for the first signs of spring has always been a favorite pastime. First a tiny shoot, teensy leaf or the blush red of the peony shoots are spotted and my heart races, then warms. The pulse of life is rising again from the soil.

To aid in awakening my garden, once the snow has mostly vanished and my shrubs are dormant, I will check for winter breakage and begin pruning. Pruning is such fun. When pruning those woody perennials or shrubs, look firstly for absolutely dead wood and remove it with clean, sharp pruning scissors. Making an angled cut helps keep moisture from sitting on the end of the wounded branch and causing disease. After removing dead plant material I then prune for form and height.

Honestly, I try not to overthink the whole process. After reading my material on pruning for exams, I instantly hoped to never attempt such a complicated procedure! However, I find in real life I prune my plants to how I like them. If my hydrangeas are too tall, I chop them down in the spring, never below 24" for taller types. If my rose is looking over-crowded and like the air can't circulate between its canes to keep mildew away, I prune the most scraggly, ungainly and awkwardly placed canes out then adjust the height of the bush to my liking. If a plant is in front of a window and blocking desirable views, feel free to take it down to where you need it. And each year you grab your trusty pruning shears and have it you'll learn something new and gain confidence.

Continuing the garden-wakening, if you have perennial grasses, gather the clump of stems together and trim down to about 12" high. For plants like Silver Mound (Artemisia schmidtiana) trim the dead stems right down to the ground. Lavender (Lavendula) truly likes a heavy hand with the shears, and will perform and develop beautifully if well cut back each spring. Think a gumdrop shape when pruning Lavender, or similar shrubs each year.

Back to those erupting peonies, springs is a great time to split perennials and either share with a friend or plant the baby plant somewhere new.

Everything is pushing back winter covers in a few weeks, who's ready to wake the garden with me?

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