This week in my garden: Pruning roses and Filling up New Borders

by Susan Harris

Suddenly it’s spring-like out there and OMG there’s so much to do in the garden!  First, the regular spring maintenance:

The Pruning of the Roses

Now that there’s leaf growth popping out on my shrub roses, it’s time to prune.  Just today I donned my toughest gloves today and hacked them back my shrub roses to about a foot tall.  The victims of this temporarily unsightly pruning were ‘Knockout’ roses and a large Meidiland, another shrub or “landscape” rose, this one white.   If I still grew hybrid teas I’d have hacked them back today, too, but these days I’m all about easy-care roses, so no more hybrid teas for me.

The Ordering of the Mulch

In my town, the city public works department collects our leaves and turns them into mulch for the asking, so I’ve put in my order for seven cubic yards of the stuff, to be delivered next week.  And yes, spreading those seven yards in the garden IS a lot of work.  (I’ll try not to imagine actually how MUCH work.  I’m trying to stay positive here.)  

How to Stuff a New Border

What do you do when you have large new borders to fill and would rather not A, spend a lot of money or B, wait forever for them to look good? Steal like crazy from other parts of the garden – if you’re lucky to have an old garden that has plenty of divisions and too-big castaways to spare.

So as I wrote about on GardenRant, landscape architect Billy Goodnick drew me this cool plan for my ex-lawn – greatly enlarging my existing borders and reducing the lawn-like area to not much more than a path. So, where to start? First I used stakes and then orange marking paint to create the new border – that’s easy enough. But now it’s mid-March and time to fill ’em up.

In the photo below you see, on the right, the right-hand border (as seen from the house and also on Billy’s sketch).  I recently planted those low junipers in their spring-summer-fall home after they’d spent the winter potted-up on my front porch.  They seem to tolerate being moved every spring to the back yard to make room for Fun with Annuals in the pots on my front porch.  (More about them soon.)

Near the junipers are two large, severely cut-back grasses of some sort (varieties of Miscanthus, now forgotten), which were too big where they were so I’ve moved them here, in hopes that they’ll drape gracefully over the large pot that will, I hope, fulfill Billy’s vision of a focal point.   I’m thinking of filling the pot with a dramatic tropical, like a banana.  Then behind all that are 3 year-old Itea ‘Little Henry’ which don’t look like much yet and I’ve decided I need 3 more of same to fill the area and mimic the kind of massing Billy suggests.

Then on the left you see the lefthand border where I’ve moved the full-grown spirea to another focal point, and the enlarged border now jumps over the dry streambed (something I’d never have thought to do). To fill up the new space I planted some large carexes (including some that are blizzard-battered but presumably capable of recovering), lots of smaller ‘Ice Dance’ carexes, and a flowing mass of lamb’s ears along the new edge of the border. The stepping stones WILL be moved and relaid to follow the center of the new lawn-like path through the garden.

Next up – The Starting of the Veg Seeds

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