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March 2020
Cleanse & Renew

February 23
They say that spring is the season of renewal. Then late winter is the time for cleansing. Today, I began the rite of cleansing the line of pines by the road. Fallen branches and a multitude of gnarly twigs lay scattered among them, on the roadside shoulder and scattered in the field. This gorgeous day was made for dragging eight-foot branches down to the wild area beyond the field past three newly discovered groundhog holes. I tossed the branches, javelin-style, into the brush.

Iris germanica is looking green. Daffodils and Star-of-Bethlehem rise. When I was five, I lived next to a small patch of woods in a one-road neighborhood on the outskirts of the developing Levittown, Pennsylvania. There, I picked handfuls of Star of Bethlehem and sold them door-to-door for a nickel. Who knew?

March 9
Spring has beat the calendar. My Ballerina rose, unpruned last year for lack of time, is bursting forth with young leaves and red buds. It and my head both need a haircut. Will do on Wednesday, guided by Jeff Van Pelt’s excellent advice from an interview long ago.

Two variegated Daphne odora oreomarginata, spent winter in nursery pots under my deck, found new homes today in huge ceramic pots, soon to be accompanied by either portulaca or other sedum so they can all stay fairly dry together.

Two days later, Ballerina took revenge for my negligence. However, now she stands naked and regal, soon to be a blossoming beauty. I raked my neighbor’s leaves from around the bulbs in the central 9x30-foot garden, removed last year’s flower stalks except echinacea with a few seeds left, and pruned the white buddleia down to the lowest green buds.

March 24
My house, central garden and garage run parallel together down a fairly steep slope. The garden is divided into three 9x10 “squares.” Hydrangea ‘Pink Diamond,’ roughly 9x9 feet, lives in the lowest bed. I bought it 20 years ago to live on my deck and haven’t pruned it since. It’s time, now, for its first pruning – but what the heck to do? Deciding its future size and shape is step #1.

Contemplate: it’s invading a 50+ year old mock orange and shading it out. It's covering tall fritillaria and allium; growing into my cherished Bloodgood maple and has formed a barrier over the slate path through the garden! The decision was easy. The pruning was hard.

Two days later, I took down a bunch of autumn olive and mulberry saplings with hand saws between the row of pines. Beware the thorns of Elaeagnus! Medusa-like, they will find your bare skin! I dragged them down to the cornfield and threw them like spears onto others. Still, several remain for another day with last year’s goldenrod.

I am happy I have this time to take care of my property.

Jeff Van Pelt's rose-pruning advice here.

by Mary Jasch

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