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Publication: Garden Guides
Step by Step - Putting it Together

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                   GardenGuides Newsletter 
                       October 3, 2006

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Bud Blast

Gardeners in warm, humid climates will soon be fighting bud 
blast. If the buds on your flowers and fruits dry up and 
fall off before they bloom, the fungus Botrytis is probably 
the cause. The disease thrives in warm humid areas where air 
circulation is poor. Here are some suggestions to help combat 
bud blast:

* Remove all affected parts of the plant and destroy them. 

* Clean up any debris that may have fallen around the plant. 

* Remove old mulch. 

* Space and prune plants so that there is plenty of room for 
air to circulate. 

* Spray with a fungicide. 
 
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Step by Step - Putting It Together 
by Carol Wallace

Every year at this time, I find myself singing that song 
from the old Sondheim musical, Company."Step by Step" 

And that's because every fall I leave a lot of dead annuals 
in place, a lot of perennials untrimmed and more. I tell 
myself that, as weary as I am with garden chores now, is 
how excited I will be for any excuse to get out into the 
garden when spring comes. 

Every year, I believe myself. And every spring, I rush out 
to the garden on that first warm, sunny day, to make my 
inspection. At that point, I am usually tempted to go into 
hibernation. The amount of work out there looks insurmount-
able. 
 
It's not. But one would go quietly crazy even considering 
the task as a whole. Instead, we break it down into steps. 
Some people like to approach spring cleanup one chore at a 
time. That way they can set out each day with a tool or two 
- no more - and break themselves in gradually. As I said - 
step by step. 

Others (myself included) prefer to go at it garden by 
garden. That way, at the end of a day's work we can look 
back and get some sense of accomplishment. 

Right now, my gardens are full of dead foliage, worn out 
mulch, and the detritus of hundreds of now dormant perenn-
ials and long-departed annuals. There seem to be hundreds of 
shrubs in need of pruning; climbers in need of restaking and 
more - all of which must be finished before I can take 
trowel in hand and start to dig up, divide and replant. Step 
by step by step. 

The first step should be tiny. 
Our gardening muscles are not yet limbered up. So we need to 
do something satisfying but not too strenuous. Warm-up 
gardening. For me this means pruning the Japanese maples. 
Getting rid of the tiny dead twigs, cleaning up crossed 
branches, opening up the center of each small tree to permit 
the air to circulate. Tiny trimmings pile up around me, but 
they can wait - there is much that will need to be raked so 
I may as well save it. 

With the maples trimmed, I move to other trimming jobs. Many 
of last year's perennials still have dead flower stalks 
pointing skyward. Dead daylily scapes pull out easily, but 
hostas want to play tug of war. I don't fight - I get out my 
pruners and cut those, and the old stalks of Sedum down to 
the ground. Remember - it's early and we are still taking it
easy. 

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Pulling up the dead annuals tends to be easy, too. Things 
start to look a bit more manageable with those added to the 
littered ground. 

And finally, I take my loppers and head for the roses and 
red-twigged dogwoods. 

Work up to something more strenuous.
I am always tempted to do roses before I do anything else - 
they seem to grow tentacles over the winter that will reach 
out and take prisoners of all unwary passers-by. But I don't 
want to have to rake more than twice - after the pruning 
chores, and once more to remove smaller trimmings and
exhausted mulch. One cannot escape the post-rose raking 
because without it we might find ourselves unable to escape
the rose trimmings at all. 

Rose pruning, like the trimming of the Japanese maples, 
would be pleasant work if it weren't for the thorns. The 
principle is similar but at the same time more drastic. When 
I am done pruning roses I always have this lurking fear that 
I have overdone it and shall have only the puniest rose 
display that year. And every year, drastic works beautifully. 

The pruning itself isn't too strenuous - but manipulating 
self and rake so as not to become permanently entangled can 
be tricky and tiring. I suggest a rest and a nice cup of tea 
of coffee while you contemplate what you have accomplished 
so far. And while you anticipate how much better (but more 
bare!) it will look when you have raked all that debris away. 

If you have shrubs grown for their colored twigs, you will 
want to selectively prune these, too. Take out the oldest, 
thickest branches - you will be able to see quite easily 
that these no longer have the brilliant color of newer 
growth. Once again, take out crossed branches and those 
growing toward the center. Open the shrub up for air 
circulation while retaining some good, young and colorful 
twigs. 

If you are lucky, you have a chipper/shredder to feed all 
these prunings to. You can take from the garden and then 
turn your takings into something that will give back to the 
garden - a most satisfying example of recycling. But at the 
least, you will want to somehow drag all the debris you are 
creating to the compost heap. 

Fine Tuning - a Pause that Refreshes
By now you should be able to feel a glimmer of hope. And, 
having raked once, you probably also see a lot of dead and 
dried foliage. Some of it will be attached to green plants 
- this is a good time, for instance, to trim back heaths 
that have been blooming through the winter. Lavender, sage 
and other sub-shrubs benefit from a spring haircut - cutting 
them down to within a few inches of the ground. Don't cut 
into woody, deadlooking stuff - it won't do anything even 
with coaxing. Just remove the dead stuff. 

Continued...

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Then comes a part I truly enjoy. In fall I leave the foliage 
on my daylilies to act as winter mulch. That foliage looks 
truly hideous in spring - but when you remove it you are 
greeted by numerous little spring-fresh green fans, all 
peeking up and ready to spring into action. 

The hellebores are blooming madly now - but the foliage 
surrounding them is all dried and ratty looking. Cut that 
off and you have this amazing cluster of flowers, with 
nothing to impede your line of sight. In fact, take a look 
around you at all kinds of tattered foliage and be ruthless. 
Out it goes! The same goes for Epimedium. 

Most of this work is so easy that it requires only small 
pruning shears - in fact, I've been known to use my kitchen 
scissors for some of this work. 

And then it's time to rake again. This time you want to get 
rid of your trimmings - and also all of the dead leaves and 
other debris that have collected in the beds over winter. 

Then the Fireworks 

Many of you can go this far and declare your spring clean up 
finished. But those of who grown ornamental grasses have one
step left. 

Last year I tied a cord around my grasses to secure it into 
a huge, vertical bundle, and then my husband took the chain 
saw and cut them down to about 1 foot high. This worked 
reasonably well, but the brittle blades of dried grass tend-
ed to shatter, leaving a trail of debris everywhere, despite 
the bundling. This year we are going to do what the local 
nursery does and burn them. (That's why I raked up other 
dead and dried stuff first - I don't want that fire spread-
ing!) Burning will eliminate the dried and dead part of the 
grasses, but leave the new, green growth that is emerging 
alone. 

And that's the show. Step by step, we have cleared away the 
remnants of winter and can now see new growth emerging 
everywhere. We can also see weeds and bare spots - places 
to plant, plants that need dividing and relocating. But 
those are all steps in another process - and I'm already 
exhausted contemplating just this much. 

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