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Time for Spring Clean-Up

March 4, 2012

The first crocuses opening in my Gettysburg garden signal time for spring clean-up (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) For the past two weeks, I’ve been eyeing my Gettysburg, Pennsylvania garden and wondering if it was time to get out and clean up the debris from last year’s garden season. It’s a bit earlier than I would normally  do this task; but winter has been largely a non-event here this year, and the foliage of spring bulbs has been poking up through the old leaves and stems. I decided that, if the weather cooperated, this would be my clean-up weekend. Not only did the sun come out yesterday, but when I looked out, I could see the purple buds of the first crocus flowers about to open. It was definitely time for spring clean-up!

When I headed out to the garden after lunch, the sun was shining, the temperature was near 60F, and the only hint of early March was a strong west wind. I always enjoy this task; not only does it provide a chance to get outside on a nice day, but you get the gratification of seeing the garden waking up from its winter dormancy. An added bonus in my Gettysburg garden is that spring clean-up can be done very quickly here. This is a tiny garden with one miniscule flower bed, three very small flower beds, and one small flower bed; the entire job was done in an hour and a half.

Before clean-up, old stems and soggy, spent leaves were a prominent feature in the garden.

Old stems and leaves in the garden before spring clean-up (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Afterward, you can see new green growth of daffodils, daylilies and sedum and the first red nubs of bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis).

New green growth visible afer clean-up in my Gettysburg garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) New growth of Lamprocapnos spectabilis (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
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And, of course, those beautiful first crocus flowers.

First flower of spring - Crocus (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) There is still spring work to be done in this garden. A number of overgrown plants need to be thinned or divided, and several plants need to be moved. But it is still too soon for those activities. I’ll save them for some mild, sunny April day when I need a good excuse to be out in the garden.

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39 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2012 12:11 pm

    LOVE the early signs of spring!

    • March 8, 2012 7:27 pm

      Billie Jo, Thanks for visiting. I love the early spring, too. This morning when I walked to work, the sun was shining and the temperatures were already in the 50s. There were crocuses and daffodils in bloom along my route. It felt like April, and I dawdled like I do in April and May, stopping to check out what was happening in people’s gardens along the way.

  2. March 4, 2012 1:14 pm

    Jean I wish I could have a good warm weekend…but alas it is either too wet on the sunny warm days or too cold and snowy the other days…winter is not giving in yet here…soon though…love all your new growth!

    • March 8, 2012 7:30 pm

      Donna, I hope you get a warm sunny day on the weekend soon. I always find it frustrating when I’m stuck in my office on a nice day. Today, I was quite happy that one of my classes meets in a building on the other side of campus from my office; the hard part was talking myself into going inside to teach ;-).

  3. March 4, 2012 1:27 pm

    Busy cutting back reeds at our two creeks, but the earth is still too dry and hard to think of planting yet.

    • March 8, 2012 7:31 pm

      Diana, I hope you get the rain you need soon. Is fall prime planting time in your climate?

  4. March 4, 2012 4:37 pm

    Love your photos of the crocus. They’re always such a harbringer of spring! Too snowy here in Chicago, though. Hope you didn’t get a lot of snow in Maine.

    • March 9, 2012 9:16 pm

      Karen, No spring flowers blooming yet in my Maine garden, but there is lots of bare ground showing. I enjoy having the PA garden at this time of year.

  5. March 4, 2012 5:22 pm

    We were both out in our gardens yesterday doing the same thing. It was gorgeous but too cold for me today. Lots of potted plants are in the garage in anticipation of the cold weather on Monday night. Don’t tell me that they have changed the genus name of bleeding-hearts. I don’t think I can take it anymore.

    • March 9, 2012 9:22 pm

      Carolyn, I think the genus name of bleeding hearts changed a couple of years ago, but I’ve been resisting it. Because I’ve been reading a book about the development of scientific botany, though, my resistance started to feel very anti-science. I’m hoping to do a post soon about the recent spate of genus name changes. Maybe they’ll be a bit less frustrating if we have a better sense of what’s going on.

  6. March 4, 2012 5:51 pm

    How wonderful to be able to get out in your southern garden and to be welcomed by those beautiful purple blooms. It’s great to see that green growth peeking through the fallen leaves, such a welcome sight.

    • March 9, 2012 9:30 pm

      Marguerite, It’s amazing how exciting each little sign of spring is. I find myself going out at least twice a day to peer at those new green shoots and buds. :-)

  7. Lilith permalink
    March 4, 2012 9:53 pm

    ah…. new life! and how great to have such a manageable size garden that you can work on so satisfyingly ..

    • March 9, 2012 9:33 pm

      Lilith, I think of my little Pennsylvania garden as my “garden fix” when I’m away from Maine. I think if it were my only garden, I might get frustrated by its limited size and scope — but as a source of pleasure that doesn’t require a lot of effort, it’s perfect!

  8. March 4, 2012 10:26 pm

    I still have garden clean-up to do in places; at times I dream of a small garden! I planted several bleeding hearts last year. Yours are already coming up, but I have no signs of mine. I hope they made it!

    • March 9, 2012 9:38 pm

      Deb, The species of bleeding hearts I grow is L. spectabilis, which blooms in early spring and then goes dormant when it gets hot. I wonder if you’re growing L. exima, which appears later and has a longer bloom period.

  9. March 5, 2012 12:07 pm

    I do love how you grade the sizes of your garden beds. :) Sometimes I find a townhouse garden frustratingly limiting, but oh, is it a pleasure to be able to spend more time enjoying the garden than working in it. What a perfect day you had for doing both! And yay for your first crocuses! (‘Ruby Giant’?)

    • March 9, 2012 11:02 pm

      Stacey, I’m afraid I have no idea what variety the crocuses in my Pennsylvania garden are. They fall into that large, vague category of “what was on sale at the local garden center the weekend I decided to plant crocuses” ;-)

  10. March 5, 2012 12:46 pm

    We also have had a lot of mild weather this Winter Jean. Like you I just love getting out there tidying up and seeing what’s going on. Its my most favourite time of year, but yet, I say that in April, early Summer and again in Autumn. Winter is a time to relax—Alistair!— when are you going to decorate the bedroom?.

    • March 10, 2012 5:16 pm

      LOL, Alistair, I have a bedroom that I need to finish redecorating, too. In the winter, I might have some time to work on it, but who wants to paint in the winter when you can’t open the windows to let the paint fumes out? Then summer rolls around and I can open the windows, but there are so many more interesting things to do in the garden. Oh well, at least there’s no one to nag me about it except myself. ;-)

  11. March 5, 2012 2:59 pm

    Nothing says spring like crocus. I love this time of year, as the start of the new spring growth begins to emerge. My chore list for the garden this spring is big too, I’m not sure there’ll be enough spring days to get it all done, but it will be fun to try!

    • March 10, 2012 5:32 pm

      Clare, Things don’t get really busy for me until I get up to Maine at the end of the school year in May. Then, in a short period of time, I need to get that much bigger garden cleaned up and weeded, move and divide plants that need attention and plant some new ones, get soaker hoses, stakes, peony hoops, etc. put out, and mulch. Whew! This year, I’m going to continue last year’s strategy of coming home for a long weekend in late April and getting spring clean-up started then. Once I retire and I’m living here full time, it will be great to take on these tasks at a more leisurely pace. But with all you have going on, I don’t think there is a leisurely spring pace in your future!

  12. March 5, 2012 6:20 pm

    Early Spring cleanup is so satisfying, one of my favourite jobs in the garden, but I have to wait 6 months for mine!

    • March 10, 2012 5:47 pm

      Lyn, Do you have a fall clean-up regimen? I find this much less enjoyable than spring clean-up — which is perhaps why I do less and less of it every year. This past fall, I barely managed to get the hoses and peony hoops put away before winter.

      • March 11, 2012 11:12 pm

        Because we have such mild winters, there isn’t a lot to do in autumn, except the usual weeding, watering, deadheading and bulb planting. I cut some perennials down but not everything, I tend to leave a lot of plants until they start to look really bad (end of winter) before I cut them down. Nothing needs to be put away or protected in autumn, so it’s kind of a winding-down time rather than a busy one.

  13. sequoiagardens permalink
    March 6, 2012 1:03 am

    Let the garden year begin! :)

  14. March 6, 2012 7:56 am

    Such an exciting time of the year when it is at long last warm enough for that initial bout of spring cleaning. Afraid that Lamprocapnos spectabilis will never trip off my tongue or keyboard Jean ~ I will just stick to Bleeding Hearts from now on :) Your crocus is such a glorious colour.

    • March 10, 2012 5:55 pm

      Anna, I agree with you about the new genus name for bleeding hearts; “Dicentra” sound so much more graceful (like these beautiful plants). Darn those scientists and their new knowledge!

  15. March 6, 2012 11:00 am

    That new growth bursting through the soil looks great. Such a good idea to clean up debris and spent foliage to let spring shine through.

    • March 11, 2012 8:14 pm

      Spurge, Thanks for stopping by. At this time of year, I’m so eager for the garden season to begin, that even a glimpse of little nubs of new growth poking up provides a thrill :-). Clearing away the old season “to let spring shine through” is a great way to put it.

  16. March 6, 2012 11:40 am

    Jean, I love the photos, they give such a sense of life bursting through after the quiet of winter. But I’m with Carolyn on the dicentra point!

    • March 11, 2012 8:29 pm

      Jill, it is wonderful to see the new life bursting through in early spring. I know what you mean about dicentra becoming lampocampros; it reminds me of when a family member decides that you should stop calling them by the name you’ve been using for 20 years because they want to be called by some different name. :-( Seriously, I’m doing some research to try to get a better understanding of the name changes, and I hope to post on it soon.

  17. March 7, 2012 5:58 pm

    When I tidy up the beds, I always enjoy seeing what is peeking through the soil. That burst of life as it seems to awaken from winter is so gratifying to see, to watch. My daylilies and sedum are also peeking through and beginning their growth. I enjoyed your photos of this process…

    • March 11, 2012 8:31 pm

      Michelle, I’m up in Maine this week on spring break, and even here, I can see some little nubs of growth from some bulbs I planted in the fall. When I get back to Gettysburg, things will have probably grown by leaps and bounds during my week and a half away!

  18. March 10, 2012 11:06 am

    Happy Birthday! I actually love that day too, and like you it was a full month before I normally do it. Last year it was about this time. I think for us this is going to be a very weird year. So many things are up early, but they are not their best because normally the spring flowers bloom all at once making a stunning display… this year things are drips and drabs really. Except the azaleas, which are out so early that they are coinciding with many of the camellias, those type of gardens are having their best display I’ve ever seen.

  19. March 11, 2012 8:34 pm

    Jess, Thanks for the birthday wishes. I’m in Maine for the week, and even here, we are having spring weather. I’m really surprised to hear that your spring flowers normally bloom all at once in Charleston; I think of that as a northern climate phenomenon. The first year I was in Gettysburg, it seemed to me as though it took forever for things to bloom in that slow, languid unfolding of spring that is characteristic of the mid-Atlantic region.

  20. March 14, 2012 7:45 am

    There’s something so theraputic about a spring clean up in the garden, as you say you get to see the new shoots, but for me it also shows me the structure of the garden, what lies ahead, a sense of a job well done

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