Perennial Garden Spring Tidy-Up

What a strange winter here in the Netherlands. Almost the mildest on record until the end of January and then more than three weeks of intense cold in February. The result is that my normal plan of tidying up the garden in mid February didn’t happen. Only now are we getting through the work, but it is more difficult with the bulbs already well out of the ground amidst the dead remains of last years perennials.

This was the aftermath of winter that faced me last week:

It is always amazing how quickly the tidy-up gets done once you make a start. I take it calmly; after-all by the end of winter all I have done is sit in front of the computer for three months and the body needs time to get back into the rhythm of gardening.

I always apply a mulch layer to new perennial plantings as this gives them the best chance of establishing as well as suppressing weed seedlings. In subsequent years I simply break/cut up the dead stems and foliage of the established plants and let it lie on the soil around the crowns of the plants. It quickly disappears beneath their new growth and slowly breaks down to return some nutrients to the soil. On my clay soil this is all the feeding the plants need.

I have been planting a lot of shrubs in the garden this spring as although perennials are my passion they are not enough alone to make a garden. Every year I try out something new, but the problem is finding room. The one thing I know, if a plant can survive in the rough and tumble of my garden it is good enough to recommend to others. Time will tell.

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