Where To Start?

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After the frenzy of family and fun as one year turns into the next, a gardener’s eyes, and the to-do list turn to the garden. It can be overwhelming, all that needs doing. The fact that each year the bulbs that are planted far and wide across the landscaped slope emerge earlier puts even more pressure on getting right to it.

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While the winter interest is peaking, with swaying golden grasses and the luscious leaves of dark green hellebores looking almost tropical amid colorful Heucheras, Ajuga, Dianthus and the brilliant mosses, there is change afoot. Daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and others are peeking up out of the soil, ready or not.

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Everywhere I look, there are cuts crying out to be made. Where to start? Looking back at the garden journal entries for earliest January, 2012 and 2011, we see that the place to begin cutting is where the first bulbs will not only appear, but soon be in bloom, the crocus and rock garden iris growing in the lower Gravel Garden.

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The Aster tataricus ‘Jin Dai’ was still scrumptious in sable robes, but whack whack chop chop, down it goes, along with the Japanese blood grass, Louisiana iris and various creeping thymes.

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Along with the grasses, muhly and more, the hellebores must be clean shaven.

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The bearded look was allowed one year, click here to read about that, and was deemed unacceptable so the hand driven hedge trimmers will set upon this task.

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All ready now for the show to begin. Almost ready. Beginning to get ready. Just starting to get ready. Wait! I’m not done!

Frances

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19 Responses to Where To Start?

  1. I will be thinking like you now that the snow has finally melted away. It is 50 degrees here this morning. CRAZY. Things will start popping here too. Must get out after the rain stops and start all that whacking. Have fun this weekend whacking away.

    Hi Lisa, thanks for visiting. The warm bit in mid January that comes every year here is a great time to cut stuff down. We have bulbs with buds and some even blooming. I guess the cutting job needs to happen before Christmas to make sure none of the bulb flowers get sheared off! You too have a great weekend.
    Frances

  2. Carol says:

    Where to start? That is always the question when a garden starts to wake up after winter, isn’t it. Your garden is way ahead of mine, but we are having January warm up, so I, too, may see emerging bulbs soon.

    Hi Carol, thanks for stopping by. This warm spell in mid January almost seems to be too late to be cutting some things that are interplanted with spring bulbs here. I have been cutting of flower buds and that is unacceptable. Watch closely, the bulbs are absent one day and up with buds the very next day in these warm temps.
    Frances

  3. Dee says:

    Yes, where to begin? My garden is a bit behind yours, but I’ve been thinking about what to do.

    Hi Dee, thanks for visiting. Thinking about what to do is very pleasant and can be done from the warm and dry environs of the house. I have moved outside to the wet and cooler if not cold, but love every minute of it!
    Frances

  4. Aha! At last my little patch has a tiny advantage over your glorious garden, Frances. I get the delicious pleasure of going over mine by hand, inch by inch, Felcos at the ready, lovingly nipping and tucking and patting it all into readiness. Must remember to plant more bulbs, though. Your sweet little crocus is gorgeous.

    Hi Georgia, thanks for sharing. It is an advantage to be able to go slowly and relish each leaf that is cut. It started out like that here, with only a few hellebores. Something happened and it is now way more work, but the show of flowers is fantastic. I do love the early crocus best, don’t tell the later ones!
    Frances

  5. entwinedlife says:

    I’d better get busy… You are always an inspiration! And the sweetness of the Prunus mume becons! I love this time seeking out all the little discoveries of life anew!
    Jayme B

    Hi Jayme, thanks for stopping by. Oh how wonderful, the Prunus mume is. Timing of bloom is everything, isn’t it?
    Frances

  6. We will be having a warm day today (upper 60’s) with snow predicted for Sunday! I’ve been going over my to do list for today. It’s pretty long! I’m also going to check on my crocus. Even in the winter, your garden looks good. Have a great day! Brenda

    Hi Brenda, don’t you love these warm days in January? They let us get some stuff done like cutting, knowing full well that winter is not even close to over. Have fun and I hope you find crocus!
    Frances

  7. Oh, my, I’ve been lolling about…happily dedicating myself to indoor tasks but after reading today’s post, a sense of panic has set in. I suddenly feel like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland singing, “I’m late, I’m late”. I need to make a date with my hellebores so that their much appreciated early blooms can be more easily seen. Yikes, so much to do!

    Hi Michaele, lolling is good too and there is plenty to do inside here, as well. But when I see color on the hellebores and crocus, I too feel like it is getting too late. Next year, if I can remember, I am cutting some things in December.
    Frances

  8. Leslie says:

    You really do have a lot of cutting to do Frances. You are an inspiration! I have so much less space and when I see what you have before you I am in awe of your energy.

    Hi Leslie, thanks, but my energy isn’t what it once was. I have found that a solid week of working outside has helped me get some strength back, however. It was just the exercise I needed. I simply am not happy exercising without also accomplishing something at the same time, and know that I am lucky to be able to do so.
    Frances

  9. My Kids Mom says:

    My hellebores were trimmed yesterday as I browsed for life in my gardens. Many bulbs are showing green tips and I’m inclined to pile leaves over them to keep them hidden for a bit longer. I still expect winter to come, eventually! My winter daphne is about to scent the neighborhood but not much else is popping.

    Hi Jill, thanks for sharing you Altanta situation. I have planted many early bloomers and pay the price by having to cut earlier than many other folks because of it. I am positive we will have more winter, but not sure just how cold it will get. We are feeling more like zone 7b here lately. Love the Daphne, mine is still in bud only, but the Edgeworthia has some flowers open, as do the witch hazels.
    Frances

    Frances

  10. Scott says:

    I’m always unsure when to cut things back…but it usually seems to happen around the last week of January or first week of February…and with our warmer-than-normal winters, that seems to be earlier each year. Seeing those Crocus is so exciting!

    Hi Scott, I know exactly what you mean. When I first started cutting the hellebores here, in 2007 or so, it was late January into February and there was plenty of time. Things are happening sooner each year now, and I need to adjust the timing. Next year the hellebores will be cut in December, I hope.
    Frances

  11. It’s supposed to get up to 59 here today and I think I will have some snowdrops blooming in a week or so, barring a major shift in the weather. Still, I’m going to hold off on the clean up until around the end of February.

    Hi Jason, thanks for visiting and happy blogaversary! It all depends on what you have planted, is my belief. I have many early bulbs, some open right now in fact, and the hellebores are showing color already so need to have their leaves cut. If it weren’t for the bulbs, many of the grasses could remain, and a couple of Miscanthus out front are allowed to stand until March because they are upright and pretty and there are no bulbs there.
    Frances

  12. Lola says:

    It sure is getting that time. Can’t wait but will go slow.

    Yes, do go slowly, Lola. Don’t want anyone to overdo it, especially after some of us have been sitting for too long indoors.
    Frances

  13. Where to start indeed! I got a little off course with the garden, and sowing and planting schedules last year, so much so that this winter I forced myself to sit down and turn my list of garden chores into a giant chart! A little excessive perhaps, but I’m determined to not let the garden rule me this season ;) Although this post reminds me that I still have a little winter pruning to do!

    Hi CV, thanks for visiting. I once made a giant chart of the garden chores to be done by month. Too bad the garden keeps changing as do those chores. Still a good reminder, though.
    Frances

  14. Cindy says:

    Your endeavors have encouraged me to go ahead and start on the pre-spring cleanup here on my corner of Katy. I cut back the Barbados Cherry shrubs in back & discovered Leucojum foliage emerging! Why does it seem like the more I do, the more there IS to do?

    Hi Cindy, thanks for sharing your gardening chores. It does sound like you have started the cleanup in earnest. There is always more to do, it seems to go with the fact that the garden is constantly changing. We can never be done!
    Frances

  15. Sandy & Richard says:

    Oh, your crocus remind me of England, and country lanes, such a variety of flowers grew in the hedgerows way back when I was a small child, they brought back a warm memory for me of ‘Paper Mill Woods’, oak & ash trees, and massive carpets of bluebells.
    Here, in Tasmania, large tracts of land are now blackened by bush fires,but I know what the regrowth looks like, blackened eucalypts sprouting vivid green shoots all the way up their trunks, ferns popping up through black ash covered land, a few showers, then the green fuse is lit, mother nature once more reigns supreme.
    That same magic is at work in your garden, brilliant treasures waiting to show their faces, they know of your admiration of them….look, look I’m here, am I not so beautiful. Warmest wishes Sandra.

    Oh Sandra, I am so sorry about those terrible fires in your part of the world. They are on the news here and seem so scary and fierce, yet your hopeful comment of how nature begins to heal herself fills us with gladness. Thank you for letting us know how things are there, we hold you in our hearts.
    Frances

  16. Gosh, you have a lot of Hellebores! My garden is so far behind yours it isn’t even funny. I won’t be able to seriously think spring until at least early March. Oh well, I’ll just have to make a lot of visits here!

    Hi Beth, thanks for visiting. Things happen early here, even though spring doesn’t come until March there will be blooms that need to be seen better without the old foliage mucking up the scene.
    Frances

  17. Helen Johnstone says:

    I was lucky to have a week off after Christmas and had a good tidy up but I started feeling just like this until I adopted your policy of starting where the first bulbs would appear and ending up in the late summer border. I felt so much better at the end of it. It one of the things I love about gardening, how spending a few hours tidying and weeding can result in a lovely border

    Hi Helen, that is a great time to do the tidy up. It does make us feel better to have a cleared space so the bulbs can take the stage without distractions. You are so right about feeling better, too. I need to squeeze gardening into the holiday time, it is such a good stress reliever.
    xoxoxo
    Frances

  18. gail says:

    Yes, it’s time to cut down the aster stalks, goldenrods and other perennials. I leave the Panicum up a it longer, it still looks lovely swaying in the breeze. Don’t you love the snow Crocus~it makes me smile. xoxogail

    Hi Gail, thanks for joining in the big clean up. I did leave one Panicum standing, it is different than the others and still quite beautiful. Then there are the grasses and everything still standing in the North Carolina house, but there are no bulbs there to worry about, so that can wait until I get over there again. I do love the early crocus, so cheering!
    xoxoxo
    Frances

  19. You mentioned hand-powered hedge trimmers. Is that what you use on the blood grass, too? Do you ever use a string trimmer?

    Hi Kathy, yes, I use the manual trimmers on nearly everything now, rather than the felcos. We don’t even own a string trimmer, but it could be used for cutting down grasses and dried perennials, I would assume.
    Frances

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