10 spring chores to keep your garden looking grand
Keeping one’s garden’s looks entails certain basic chores, which must be done lest the place go to rack and ruin. Below, more or less in order, are ten tasks to accomplish during May and June.
1 Cut down the dead tops of all perennials—but wait for signs of new growth on Russian Sage, Caryopteris (Blue Mist Shrub), Buddlea, and herbaceous hydrangeas before you start clipping.
2 Prune back winter-killed branches of boxwood, andromeda, hollies, and other evergreen shrubs.
3 Scatter a well-balanced granular fertilizer—ask for input at the nursery— on all beds and borders. While you’re at it, if you have acid soil, toss some lime around peonies, clematis, and lilacs (be sure to water the lime in); they have a weakness for sweets.
4 When the ground has entirely warmed up, apply mulch to the borders to discourage weeds and to retain moisture.
5 Divide fall-flowering perennials (in this case, there is such a thing as a free lunch).
6 Don’t shear the yellowing leaves of spring-flowering bulbs until they are well and truly withered; tying the leaves with rubber bands is ill-advised (the green stuff is actually feeding the bulbs).
7 Be on the lookout for such late risers as balloon flower (aka Platycodon), lest you inadvertently dig them up. The best policy here is to stub plant markers into the ground when you first install them so in future you’ll know where they are. Likewise, if you’re uncertain whether a green thing is a weed, wait to pull it out: it might be a flower you planted.
8 Install grow-through supports for herbaceous peonies and other tall perennials that tend to flop. Long-stemmed lilies can be staked with individual loop supports.
9 Cut back such Clematis cultivars as ‘Jackmanii’ to healthy buds 18 inches from the ground, as these bloom on the current year’s growth.
10 By mid-June, it’s safe to put houseplants and pots of annuals outdoors for the seasonal duration.