While I was gardening

The art of gardening and the science of life.

Spring Cleaning


The calendar is wrong – spring is here.  Or, so says my garden.  And accompanying the many signs of spring is a strong desire to ‘clean house’.  In my case, a part of this includes plant shopping!  Surely you feel the same way?  It could be the many colorful varieties of Primrose, blooming bulbs, and early spring ephemerals filling the nurseries.  Could be the many nursery catalogs that arrive almost daily in my mail box offering gorgeous new plants that promise “less money, less work, more blooms!”  I wish these catalogs would offer a gardener accompanying the new plants – “now you really won’t have to work!”   But, I’ll settle for the new, improved plants this year.

One of my gardening tasks that occurs each spring is a walk-through of the beds to look for winter damage.  I decide if a plant should be moved, if a plant should be taken out, or a new variety of an old favorite should be added (almost always yes!).  This is a job filled with mixed emotions; plants I’ve grown tired of but once adored, plants that have outgrown their space and don’t respond well to rejuvenation pruning, plants that re-seeded to the extent that they have become weeds (Nassella tenuissima comes to mind immediately) or plants that haven’t aged well.  In my early years of gardening I had a very limited budget (and limited knowledge) and would buy most any plant that promised to spread.  Certainly, I am dealing with the consequences of that method now.

With each spring, the chore of removing unwanted plants becomes easier.  If the plants are in good shape, they are given away.  If not, the compost pile is nearby.  Cleaning house, as the expression goes.  As spring progresses and the variety of plants at nurseries increases, the empty spots in my garden decrease.  As the weather warms and dries, the workload builds, my time outside increases, and unresolved situations become as apparent as the budding weeds I face.  Problem plants demand to be dealt with; I’ve avoided them far too long.

Cortederia richardii, Toe Toe Grass, is one such plant.  Although it hasn’t re-seeded in my garden or in neighboring gardens, it has become so large – 6 feet in width and 8 feet tall in bloom – that it overtakes surrounding plants even though I had planted it with adequate space.  I have moved most other plants that surrounded it but its blades are cutting and sharp-edged, so the task is not easy.  Although not as belligerent as its relative, it has worn out its welcome and it will be taken out.  Removing it is a decision a long time in the making.  But, the decision is sound.  All that remains is the laborious chore of cutting it down and digging it out.  And much like the decision to remove a troublesome plant is the realization that a troublesome relationship has finally ended.   It is no great insight – this realization that many years of sincere effort to build a good relationship can fail abruptly.  But, when the person you have tried to get along with terminates the relationship, no further efforts should be made.  Even if the termination is based on dishonesty, the only compassionate response is to accept the dissolution.  After all, allowing a lie to stand unchallenged and a relationship to fall away is a small price to pay for the resurrection of peace.

So, 2 persistent problems have been resolved in this pre-spring season of cleaning, and that is a blessing.  And I will celebrate by adding a new, kinder plant to the garden!


Author: dphare2014

Horticulturist, Lead Steward Carkeek Park Demonstration Gardens, Author

2 thoughts on “Spring Cleaning

  1. Yes, it is spring, the moss in my grass is quite happy, well I should say “was” as it does not like the iron in the moss killer


    • And speaking of moss, I am using some of our ample supply to cover the trunk pieces from our Monterrey Cypress that Bill took down. I’ve placed them in some of the beds, added moss to them, and they look ok! Now if only I could think of something creative to do with ivy . . .


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