It was the Easter long weekend and unexpectedly I started to get busy.
The temperatures got warm for Friday then plummeted. On Sunday morning it snowed and the snow stuck to the ground. Yikes!
So on the one day it was warm I planned to spend it outside. My normal early spring gardening tasks include pruning the pussy willows so that I get fresh branches in the house and clean up the hellebores.
I only intended to prune away the dead hellebore leaves. But there was so much old leaves scattered around I started clearing all of them. I filled an entire garbage bin full of debris. When I got to the hellebores, the new buds were still very close to the ground. Usually they are already a few inches above ground with full heads. This time there were only a few buds coming out of the ground. One of the plants was so full of old leaves, at the base there was still frozen ice puddles. Kinda cool, but I want them to start growing. One of the plants had a big mass of bright green little buds coming out of the ground. Literally there was a giant mass of dead leaves over them and there they were hiding under all of that starting to grow. After clearing it off I piled two or three giant leaves on top, just to protect them from any frost that might come in the next few days.
My strategy for the hellebores is that I let the leaves die down over winter. I feel that the leaves protect the base of the plant over winter and clip them just as things start warming up so that they have room to grow. It’s worked for me over the years so I don’t want to mess with it. Although there is one type of hellebore that for some reason doesn’t do well in the yard, but I don’t think that’s related to my pruning habits, more likely due to where they are planted.
Here is a before pictures of the hellebores:
Here is an after picture, the dried stems are from the peonies which I usually just leave if they don’t snap off easily:
After cleaning up the hellebore bed I continued by pulling all the burlap off the roses. The stems looked green at the bottom so I guess it worked. I loosened the dead leaves that were stuffed inside at the base of the roses. I left most of the leaves there because I know the mornings are still going to be cold for a while. I just didn’t want to leave the burlap there where it would trap the moisture.
So I figured that was all I was going to do outside, but the weather was so nice and warm, I only wore a sweater and my lined gardening gloves, so I continued clearing the other side of the garden. I noticed as I poked around that since this was the area where we piled the snow, there was a lot of gritty particles on top of the leaves. I guess this was from shoveling the driveway. I tried to pick up a lot of that grit – I don’t think it was salt – with the leaves and debris I was picking up and tossed into the bin. Like I said, I filled up an entire garbage bin of materials. I didn’t do the entire beds, maybe three quarters worth on each of the south and north sides of the garden. It still really seems early to be cleaning so much, I just got ahead of myself with the good weather.
Under the pussy willow tree, behind my neighbour’s BBQ “hut” there is still a layer of ice. But it’s receeded past the rhubarb and you can see the buds starting to form. Still very early, no leaves visible, but well formed little round buds.
On Saturday, the weather was cooler, and since it was my Palm Sunday I decided to harvest the pussy willows. They weren’t completely bloomed, they all had half a brown cap on them, but they looked decent in size and I figured it would be nice to have it for Palm Sunday, bring a bunch to my grandmother at the home.The tree was very sparse this year. If it was fuller, I would have left it because the job would have taken me longer and would have been more involved. I got it done in one afternoon, wearing a scarf but still only a sweater. It was easy this year too because I could stand on the ice instead of sinking into the mud! 🙂 I got it cleaned up as much as I could too so that task is all done!
It snowed and the temperatures plummeted so I concentrated on other things.