It’s the time of year when the leaves return and perennials start sprouting. Excitement for the new gardening season is usually at a high and we can’t wait to start getting our hands dirty. One of the best places to start is with a spring cleanup of your garden.
Any perennials that were not cut back last fall and that have wilted over winter can be pruned back to the ground in anticipation of the new growth that emerges from the roots. This can also be an appropriate time to split your perennials as needed. A good indication that it is time to split your perennial is when you begin to see a hole in the centre of the plant where there are no leaves, or if it has simply outgrown the space allotted to it. To split your perennial, dig it out from the ground with as many of the roots as possible and then cut the entire root ball in half with a sharp knife. You can then replant half of the perennial back into the same spot and the other half can be used somewhere else in the garden or can be given to a friend!
For the most part, deciduous shrubs just need a light pruning in the spring to get the growing season off to a good start. Prune back any branches that have died over winter; branches with no buds or leaves on them. If you’re not sure, just scratch the bark off the branch with your nail and if there is no green underneath that branch is no longer viable. When pruning, always make sure to prune back the branch to the closest joint with another branch.
There are some shrubs however, such as Lilacs and Mockoranges, that should only be pruned after they bloom in the spring. If they are pruned in late fall or early spring, you will risk losing the flowers for the year as they bloom on the new growth only.
Evergreens can be left alone during this time of year. Besides some watering if the season is dry, they shouldn't be touched until late June. From May until late June is their prime growing season and this is when you'll see new growth start to emerge. You can spot the new growth on evergreens easily as, in most cases, it will be a slightly brighter colour of green (or blue) that will fade to match the remainder of the shrub or tree in time. Evergreens can be pruned or shaped once the growth has slowed.
By starting the season out right, your garden will thank you with a brilliant display of flowers, texture and colour throughout the summer and into fall!