Much to do before I sleep

With the delayed arrival of spring temperatures, routine chores required to tidy up the garden are off to a slow start. I’ve made little progress with only one warm weekend day earlier in the month, but no further delays are acceptable, no matter how cold. At the least, the dead tops of perennials and grasses must be removed prior to new growth, which could come quickly if a few warm days begin to string together. Given the recent weather, this seems unlikely, though it’s improbable that the pattern of cold, snow, and ice will continue for too long.

Fortunately, the crop of winter weeds that has plagued the garden in recent years is tolerable, though I can’t imagine that this has anything to do with improved maintenance on my part. If the weeds are pulled before going to seed there will be fewer the following winter, but I did nothing a year ago until well after seeds were set, so the fewer numbers must be the result of the prolonged cold, or perhaps only good luck. I often say that the most notable successes in this garden occur by complete accident, and this appears as evidence this is true.Carol Mackie daphne in late April

I continue to be concerned that a few evergreens have not survived the winter, though the losses are not likely to amount to much. Several gardenias will need to be replaced, and since they didn’t flourish nearly as much as I expected, this is not so tragic. I’ve slated a few daphnes (above) to go in their places, and though I hear that many gardeners have spotty results, I’ve been fortunate that daphnes have performed well in my garden without any particular attention except to provide a spot with a bit of sun and well drained soil.Diane witch hazel

It would be nice if I was able to smell the fragrant daphne blooms in any less than ideal conditions, rather than only enjoying the colors of the early spring flowers. But, this lacking does not deter me from planting witch hazels (Hamemelis x intermedia ‘Diane’, above) and winter hazels (Corylopsis pauciflora, below), no matter that I can barely smell their fragrance, even on the stillest afternoons. I read that flowers of paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha) and mahonias also are fragrant, but I can detect no scent at all. Still, these are delightful despite my sensory handicap.Winter hazel in late March

The fern leafed mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ (Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’, below) appears to be dead, or at least the top is. Perhaps I’ll cut the top and see if it sprouts from the roots. Other mahonias have done well in the garden for years, but ‘Soft Caress’ has been a bit of a disappointment, never displaying much vigor. The lacy foliage has never filled in, and it has flowered sparsely in my garden. Further south, I’ve seen outstanding specimens, but here I suppose that it’s a little too cold to be dependable.Soft Caress mahonia flowering in early October

The long established clumps of Sweetbox (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis, below) have suffered some through the winter with a few spots of withered foliage. I hope that nothing comes of it, since the slow growing sweetbox takes a while to get going. In recent years, the low growing, evergreen shrub has become more vigorous with stolons spreading to pop up between path stones, but when first planted it seems that sweetbox stands still for a year or two. The tiny, late winter flowers rarely stand out, and again it’s unfortunate that I can’t smell the fragrant blooms at all.Sweetbox in mid March

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3 thoughts on “Much to do before I sleep

  1. I want to ask you about removing gum balls from the garden now. I was thinking it might save me from pulling up a zillion seedlings later like I did last year, but then I thought they might have already deposited their seeds and it might be too late. To be effective, should this task be done as soon as they fall, or will it still help to do it now? I am in College Park, Maryland.

    • Sweetgum seeds are adapted with two small wings so that the seeds are spread further by the wind as they fall from ripened fruits. Some seeds cling to the fruit until it falls where they are consumed by squirrels and birds to further the tree’s spread. As you’ve seen, the seeds are well adapted to readily germinate. To capture that largest share of seeds before they are dispersed the sweetgum balls should be picked up as quickly as possible after falling.

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