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Spring Cleaning

Published as "Spring Grooming" in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on 4 May 2001

There’s no more snow in our yard. The crocus are out, along with the Tete-a-tete miniature daffodils, and the periwinkle is starting to show some bright blue spangles on its evergreen foliage. Spring has begun.

I take a long look at the yard: I see a lot of fallen sticks and branches, dead leaves and pine cones. Time to groom. A couple of my Garden Troopers, with impeccable timing, came looking for work, and I put them to work first on the lawn. It’s greening up fast, thanks to the cold-season grasses varieties we put in, and the fertilizing I did last fall. The reel (human-powered) lawn mower we use will handle some leaves, but not pine cones.

Next the flower beds. Dead perennial tops I didn’t remove last fall need to be carefully cut to the ground. Sometimes they’ll break off cleanly, but pulling damages roots. I have to brush dead leaves aside to cut them flush with the earth. If I leave even an inch sticking up they look strange, stubby and distracting after raking. Can’t rake first; the tall stems get in the way.

With that done, I see new sprouts poking up. They show themselves off against the bare earth, and the bed looks like something is alive, something is happening. For example I just uncovered the pointy, tightly-rolled sprouts of a Happy Hearts hosta. This stage of spring is so exciting; those sprouts will grow noticeably in height every day for the next week or two (unless snow covers them).

Hardest to groom are the evergreen ground covers: English ivy, periwinkles, pachysandra, euonymus — because fallen tree leaves get all tangled into them. Most ground covers are pretty tough, and can stand a moderately vigorous raking. But that only gets most of the dead brown out of the pretty green I want to see. I have to get down on my knees and pick leaves out by hand to have that beautiful, clean expanse of green that looks so rich. It makes all the difference.

The blower/vac works well here, too — but when it starts to get full, the bag hangs heavy on its shoulder strap, and my arm goes numb. I’m looking forward to some bright inventor coming up with a proper garden vacuum, with a nice long hose attached to a bag on wheels (or in the garden cart), so I don’t have to carry the weight.

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© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark