Minor projects for spring

A badly leaning redbud has been removed, and most notably, its debris has been cleared. Too often, clean up is delayed until later, in particular in the winter months when sloppiness matters less. Needless to say, I am pleased by this effort that should be the standard rather than the exception, and thus there is one less chore put off for later.

The removal opens space for two small trees, a variegated Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas ‘Variegata’ flowering last spring, above) that has been planted after struggling in a container for two years (due to irregular watering), and a still to be delivered ‘Orange Flame’ Japanese maple. To provide a bit more room for the Cornelian cherry, a wide spreading distylium was cut back, and also trimmed on the front side so that it did not overhang a shrubby ‘Shaina’ Japanese maple. While wildly spreading branches were cut, the looseness of the shrub was maintained by pruning select branches and not shearing, though even a tightly sheared ball would soon grow out in the spring.

I look forward to the arrival of ‘Orange Flame’, and soon granite stepping stones will create a path through a vigorous patch of Liriope spicata to get to an area that is not easily accessed. This is a minor project, demanding only a few moments of time that is precious in early spring, but the colored leaves of the maple must be seen close up for full enjoyment.

Certainly this is surprising to anyone just starting to grow sweetbox (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis, above), but a section must be chopped out that has invaded what was once a dense clump of Japanese Forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aurea’, below). The yellow, variegated grass remains healthy, but sweetbox is relentless, though slow in its spread. At the start of March, flower buds of the sweetbox are noticeably swelling, so its small, fragrant blooms should be near.

It is likely that the small clump of sweetbox that is chopped out will be transplanted elsewhere. Two taller growing species of sweetbox reside temporarily in the greenhouse, waiting for milder temperatures, but also for me to decide where they should be planted. Many, and possibly most plant acquisitions here are made with only a vague idea where they will he planted, and while most every planting works for the best in the end, this should not be taken as an example to follow.

A larger project is in the works to convert a portion of the underutilized garden shed into a greenhouse. A section of the roof is already covered by double walled polycarbonate, but this eight foot wide area will expand to cover a larger portion that will enable more plants to be wintered outdoors. The small greenhouse constructed two years ago is more ideally situated to capture sunlight for seed starting and rooting of cuttings, but it is limited by its size. Trays of hundreds of recently sown seeds of blackberry lily (Iris domestica, below) and pots of cannas brought in for the winter leave little open space. The new greenhouse will hold overflow, and of course the other junk that accumulates in a shed.

A trickle of mail order plants has arrived in recent weeks, which will be planted alongside larger shrubs still to be purchased. I enjoy digging and planting so much more than other tasks that are a necessary part of maintaining the garden. But, both planting and maintenance must be fit into the few weeks before growth begins in April. The weather in recent weeks has encouraged no more than a few brief outings, but that should change and every mild afternoon will be spent outdoors working on various projects as the hours of daylight increase.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Beautiful photos, thank you 🙂

  2. Valerie says:

    This is exactly the kind of advice I need and appreciate: the steps a gardener takes to keep his garden healthy and to prevent overgrowth. I like to hear about your various small projects, as your descriptions help motivate me to look at my yard with a new view, to see what small improvements I can make. Thanks for describing your projects, and please add additional “before” photos of your pruning chores. Great advice from an expert!

    1. Dave says:

      I hope that changes will hardly be recognizable, but I’ll have a small clump of sweetbox to plant elsewhere. Japanese Forest grass will arch stems to cover any open space, and while I’ve never dug sweetbox, I assume it is shallow rooted and it should be easily transplanted. Sweetbox and Forest grass are intermingled a bit, but I’ll work it out. After thirty two years in this garden I’m still learning as I go, but I’m happy to share the good and some of the bad.

  3. Jeane says:

    Your plant pics are beautiful as always. Would love to see photos of the greenhouse project!

    1. Dave says:

      The shed is badly in need of updating so this renovation might not make it worthy of photos, but maybe.

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