Many gardens are at their peak of flower bloom in the month of June. This is the time of year when every nursery and garden center across the land draws us in with sheer flower power. With a bit of effort and some good advice from fellow gardeners, even the beginning gardener can have a blooming perennial border in one weekend. For those of us with a compulsion to collect plants, summer is the heyday of our gardening year.
Every day, I ask myself if it's going to continue raining.
Because I keep a garden journal, I'm often reminded of certain garden principles and personal garden tenets that I might forget over time. For example, in the beginning of May I looked back through journal entries from past springs and find this entry.
Instead of tearing out that overgrown rhododendron, this may be the year to practice your pruning techniques. Established rhododendrons can be quite lovely plants, especially when trained as a small tree. Take the time to limb branches from the bottom up. Limbing simply refers to cutting the branches off with a pruning saw where they connect to the trunk or another main branch. Thin out higher branches for an open, airy look.
Every year there comes a point in time when we find ourselves juggling an endless list of garden chores. Mine seems to have come early this year. As the growing season kicks in, there's always the need to deadhead spent flowers, fertilize perennials and roses and fill gaps in planting borders with annual bedding plants.
I woke up to sunlight this morning. What a joy it is to feel the sun on your face as you step out into the garden. It's May and it's springtime and my garden is alive with activity. I could hear the bees humming as I began my garden walk this morning. They swarm the shrubby, floriferous Mediterranean heathers. They hang onto azalea blossoms and make the twiggy branches arch and sway under their weight. They rise up slowly and then buzz off to search for more May flowers.
May certainly seems like the busiest time of year in the garden. All of a sudden, the once-dormant lawn needs regular mowing. Letting it go another week is no longer an option. Weeds that were nonexistent two weeks ago are now ready to set seed. The rhododendron began to bloom a couple of weeks ago. Within the next couple of weeks, we need to remove its sticky, spent flower heads. At this time of year, one garden chore leads to another.
The key to understanding how to prune is to answer the question, "What is the purpose for pruning this particular plant?" The most effective reasons for pruning are to help establish the shape of a plant along its natural lines; to improve flower or fruit production; to control the time of bloom, as in pinching back chrysanthemums, and for espalier and hedge shaping. These are all methods of seasonal pruning that enhance a plant's best qualities.
Everywhere I go, there is talk of spring, yet I find myself inside looking out more than outside working in the garden. If I remember correctly, I've employed this approach to the season before, reveling in the rites of spring while putting off the task of daily garden maintenance. I know what I have to do and I will ultimately do the work that needs to be done. Just give me a few more days to get started.
I can never say exactly what stirs my emotional awakening to spring each year. It seems to be something different from year to year. I do know that it's more than just a date on the calendar. It's a feeling I cannot shake, a sense that something I've been hoping for is within my grasp. I'm not the only one who feels this way. All of my gardening friends have a certain glow about them, as if they have come upon a secret windfall.