Spring Garden Cleanup
The snow has mostly melted and the days are getting longer. With the arrival of warmer days, it is time for cleaning up your gardens. Starting as early as you can means less work later on. Taking care of dead branches before the trees leaf out, pulling small perennial spring weeds and covering all the small new annual weeds before they grow means more time to enjoy what you love about gardening; planting and harvesting your flowers and vegetables and being able to enjoy the view!
Prune tree branches back to the trunk using a handsaw for branches larger than 1/2 inch in diameter. Use sharp bypass pruners for shrubs and small trees, shaping as you go. Overgrown evergreens can be cut back to the branch in the direction you want to encourage. Use hedge trimmers on plants like boxwood, arborvitae and yews. For fruit trees you were not able to prune before winter, prune before the buds begin to break into bloom or you will stress the tree.
Leave any spring flowering shrubs until early summer when they are finished flowering for the season. For roses, cut back the winter damaged or diseased rose canes to 1 inch below the blackened area. On climbers, keep younger green canes and remove older woody ones.
Maintain Paths, Structures & Irrigation
Check the soakers, drip lines or irrigation systems to see if they are working properly, if they are covering the area needed and watering the roots. Inspect and clean decks, wood arbors and fences, making necessary repairs. Refresh gravel or wood chips in paths. Check stonework for frost heaves.
Prep for Vegetables
Remove any vegetable debris from the previous season. Rake on new layer of compost.
When the soil has thawed, dig and divide your perennials before the plants have started their spring growth. 3-year and older dallies and hostas especially benefit from dividing.
Native to our eastern region, the bloodroot flower has white petals and a yellow center. The flowers will bloom earlier than others in your garden, making them a good option for gardeners looking to get their yards cheerful as early as possible. Bloodroot is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants, a process called myrmecochory. The seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes, and put the seeds in their nest debris, where they are protected until they germinate. They also benefit from growing in a medium made richer by the ant nest debris.
Bloodroot grows from 8 to 20 inches tall, it has one large basal leaf, with five to seven lobes. The leaves and flowers sprout from a reddish rhizome with bright orange sap that grows at or slightly below the soil surface. The color of the sap is the reason for the genus name Sanguinaria, from Latin sanguinarius "bloody". The rhizomes grow longer each year, and branch to form colonies. Plants start to bloom before the foliage unfolds in early spring. After blooming, the leaves unfurl to their full size and go summer dormant in mid to late summer.
This golden yellow flower, whose common name is Tickseed, can grow to heights as tall as ten inches and will last until late fall. If you are looking for a flower to fill up a large space in your yard with color, golden glow is a good option. Plus, golden glow is a perennial that also transplants well. The flowers are usually yellow with a toothed tip or could be a yellow and red bicolor.
One of the most cheerful flowers, the bright yellow daffodil can bring life to any garden. Daffodils are a fall-planted bulb, so plant them in autumn and they will bloom in late winter or early spring.
An easy-to-grow perennial, the flowers symbolize friendship, and are some of the most popular flowers exclusively due to their unmatched beauty. Daffodils belong to the genus Narcissus. Daffodil flowers have a trumpet-shaped structure set against a star-shaped background.
Otherwise known as the Purple Coneflower, this perennial can be planted in spring, but will bloom in late summer/fall. As its name suggests, it has a large, showy head of purple composite flowers and a spiny central disk. The flower can grow up to three feet tall and will help attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your yard and is in the daisy family.
Grape Hyacinth (Muscari)
Grape hyacinths (Muscari) are not directly related to true hyacinths, but belong to the same botanical family and have essentially the same care requirements. Both Muscari and Hyacinths are perennial bulbs and are often planted directly in the ground outdoors, though these easy bulbs are also excellent for forcing in container gardens or being made to flower indoors during the winter. Blooming early in the spring, The Victorians revered hyacinths for their sweet, lingering fragrance, and carefully massed them in low beds, planting in rows of one color each. In general, hyacinths are said symbolize playfulness, sport, and rashness, though meanings are color-dependent.
There are hundreds of varieties of iris flowers, but the most common one found in gardens is the iris germanic, which can grow over two feet tall and start out above other plants in your yard. A bright and hardy perennial, the iris is a great choice for Maine gardens.
Lilacs are most often found in white and purple varieties, but do come in seven different colors. These fragrant trees bloom in the northern states for 2 weeks in late May. However, there are early-, mid-, and late-season lilacs, which, when grown together, ensure a steady bloom for at least 6 weeks. Lilacs are hardy, easy to grow, and low maintenance. They can grow from 5 to 15 feet tall, depending on the variety. The fragrant flowers are good for cutting and attractive to butterflies.
Lupines are a favorite in Maine. Once late spring hits, the lupine's tall, colorful flowers can be spotted everywhere from roadside to meadows to gardens. You can plant lupines either by sowing seeds or by getting permission from a landowner to dig up and transplant wild lupines into your garden. Lupines are perennials, but generally will not bloom in the first year of planting.
Lupines, with their colorful spikes, are some of the most popular garden perennials of them! Lupinus includes hundreds of species, many native to North America. You’ll see them both in the wild and in gardens—from California to Maine. Growing 1 to 4 feet tall, the leaves of lupine are grey-green with silvery hairs and the flowers resemble pea flowers. The seed pod looks like a hairy pea pod and contains up to 12 seeds.
When flowers are starting to appear for sale in the garden centers—that means pansies. Get to know this old-fashioned “flower with a face” half-hardy annual, and you should get at least two seasons of bloom from them. To insure a longer bloom span, you can do your part by planting them where they get morning sun, but are shaded from hot afternoon sun. Deadhead them often to keep them from setting seeds, water and fertilize regularly, mulch them, and don’t be afraid to pinch them back to encourage new growth. Frost won’t faze them. They can survive dips into the single digits and recover to bloom again. Heat is a little more of a problem. When the night temperatures rise, your pansies will take a break from blossoming. Keep the plants mulched and watered and they will perk up and begin to bloom again in the fall when the temps cool down. Pansies are also a great flower to plant in the fall. Try them instead of mums. They will bloom until really cold weather sets in. If well-mulched, the plants can winter-over in many areas of the country and be one of the first to blossom in your spring garden.
Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan)
Members of the sunflower family, Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are native to North America. The “black eye” is named for the dark, brown-purple center of its daisy-like flower head. The plants can grow to over 3 feet tall, with leaves of 6 inches, stalks over 8 inches long and flower diameter of 2 to 3 inches.
Butterflies, bees, and a variety of insects are attracted to the flowers for the nectar. As they drink the nectar, they move pollen from one plant to another, causing it to grow fruits and seeds that can move about easily with the wind.
These plants bloom from June to October. Note that they can be territorial in that they tend to squash out other flowers growing near them.
Black-eyed Susans are good for cut flowers, borders or in containers.
This brightly colored jewel brightens our days in early spring. We truly look forward to seeing those blue-green leaves start to emerge as the Earth awakens from its winter sleep! Tulips normally begin emerging from the ground in March. If mild winter weather causes premature growth, the danger is not as great as it may seem. Tulips (and daffodils) have braved these cold temperatures before and quite tolerant. If winter temperatures return, it may delay growth. The snow is helpful, discouraging additional growth and protecting the foliage from extreme cold. Like daffodils, tulip bulbs should be planted in the fall.