Garden chores

A few chilly nights have bruised my enthusiasm for spring, but much of the garden has made it through recent freezes without damage. I am overjoyed to have completed the worst of the garden’s clean up, which often lingers into mid April, but was completed a few weeks early thanks to the warm early spring. With temperatures in the sixties and seventies I was less inclined to invent excuses to delay beginning on chores, and for me starting is the problem, not finishing.

Ogon winter hazel has become established in a spot that I figured would be too damp. It might prefer a drier circumstance, but it shows no ill effect from saturated soil.

Ogon winter hazel has become established in a spot that I figured would be too damp. It might prefer a drier circumstance, but it shows no ill effect from saturated soil.

I suspect that the standard for a finished clean up is much different than ten and twenty years ago. Now, I’m content to allow piles of magnolia and sycamore leaves to decay in place as long as they’re cleared from immediately around plants. Years ago I would shred these, and shredded leaves look neater and decay much more quickly. But, in the wooded side garden with mountains of leaves, that’s a good deal more effort, and I’m not up to it any longer. By late May, maybe June, it all works out the same. I don’t want to give in to getting older, but it sneaks in anyway.

Seedlings of the dark leafed Espresso geranium combine with Creeping Jenny.

Seedlings of the dark leafed Espresso geranium combine with Creeping Jenny.

There seem to be an inordinate number of twigs and branches littering the garden this spring, I suspect a result of breezy weather in recent weeks. As I wander about I break these into smaller pieces and toss them back since there are already large piles of brush at the edges of the garden that I didn’t get around to disposing of over the winter. The brush will still be there next winter, and certainly the piles will be larger from branches that come crashing down in summer storms.Wood poppy

In recent years I’ve planted a variety of ground covers between larger shrubs to keep weeds down, and several are coming along quite well. Wood poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum, above) are spreading, I think from seed since clumps are spread widely, and these appear to be happy in the dry shade. In autumn I planted a hundred bareroot sprigs of Partridge berry (Mitchella repens) in a somewhat open area between Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia). They were planted just before leaves dropped, so they’ve been buried, and I was a bit concerned the small plants might not make their way into the sunlight. At least some have, and I’m hopeful these will take hold this year.Robb's spurge

If the plan works out, the low growing plants will cover bare ground to keep weeds down, and of course it’s also nice to have a variety of plants. It is curious that the seemingly aggressive Robb’s spurge (Euphorbia robbiae, above) stops at the point where other plants start, while a clump of wood poppy will pop up right in the middle. I don’t mind a little aggression if weeds are crowded out, though I had enough of the Chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’), and these were finally grubbed out last year. There is no sense in doing any more than is necessary.

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