perennial borders

Perennial Borders: Spring Tasks

Spring Cleanup for Perennial Borders

Spring is a good time to rejuvenate your perennial borders and gardens. If you’re at all like me, you enjoy the thought of getting out in the cool but pleasant sunshine after a winter away from your gardening. Spring is easily one of the busiest times of the year if you have a garden full of perennial plants.

Not all your plants will have been cut back in the fall. If you’re like me, you’d leave interesting seed heads for some winter interest. Others fare better with some of the foliage left in place to protect the crown of the plant. Spring cleaning of  borders includes removing any of the old dead foliage.

Be careful as you do this. If the ground is still wet, walking on it will compact it and close up the air flow to the roots. It’s better to wait until some growth is visible so you don’t damage the emerging stems. The old growth you remove can be added to the compost pile as long as it is not diseased.perennial borders

If you have mulched your perennial borders in the fall for winter protection, you can remove the protective covering and compost it. For more tender plants, leave the mulch in place until all nights are frost free.

Rockery perennials like aubretia and thyme should be given a haircut, removing any old blooms or seed heads. This shearing back will encourage new bushy growth and later flowering.

Ornamental grasses are becoming a common element in landscaping and perennial borders. The seed heads of the fall blooming ones like Miscanthus should be left to give winter interest.  To rejuvenate these, chop them back before they start their spring growth.

Spring is a good time to divide perennials. Dividing perennials allows the crowded root systems more space to grow as well as giving you new plants to expand your planting or to give away. Each plant requires its own method of division, so know how to divide each type you grow in your gardens.

perennial borders

Clumping perennials like hostas, yarrow, phlox and perennial lobelia are easy to separate into individual plants once the clump is dug up. Replant each section in good humus rich soil and water well as you set it in place. Spring is also a good time to relocate any that may have outgrown their old spot or that require better conditions.

In the case of summer-flowering iris, new fan shaped arrangements of leaves will appear along the rhizome. Dig up the entire rhizome and cut it into healthy sections that contain both leaves and roots. If any roots show signs of iris borer, dispose of them in the garbage, along with any dead foliage, and replant the healthy rhizomes in a new location.

This is a good time also to get rid of the weeds, while they are still small and not deeply rooted. They are much easier to pull when the soil still holds winter moisture.

Before you know it, the weather will warm, and all your perennial borders will be in gorgeous bloom!

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