My home garden is in Monroe, Ohio. Officially in USDA hardiness zone 6a, we still, however briefly, have hit zone 5a lows in winters not to distantly past. The soil in my immediate vicinity is Eden silty clay. In many local developments, the good stuff has been scraped away and sold off as topsoil to some other poor schmuck who also had THEIR upper soil horizons scraped away. Whatever we had upon our arrival has been amended with horse manure, coir, and compost. There is no bed in my yard that couldn’t have been amended some more.

19 March 2013

To cut back, or to wait?

Spring IS upon us. As many have undoubtedly noticed, it's quite unlike that of 2012. Dire longterm portents aside, I'd rather have a speedier warmup.

Last Saturday, in those hours when the weather was pleasant, I found the time to cut back the old foliage on the hellebores. By the look of the largest clump (others in the garden have been moved once or twice, which is something one should avoid doing with hellebores), I was a bit on the late side.

Hellebore, partially divested of last year's leaves.

A lot of new growth was six to eight inches tall and had not only buds but open flowers. Taking care to avoid accidentally cutting new stems makes cutting back slow work. But, I think the dense older foliage can provide some needed protection for the new growth from late cold snaps and snow.

Freshly exposed hellebore.

I have some scant evidence in support of this: new shoots of other clumps, their old foliage being less dense, had suffered some light, but still apparent, cold damage. It could be, too,  that they're in a less sheltered location.

Some browning on this year's growth.
Either way, in spite of my annual fretting over whether I've waited too long before cutting, or that I've cut them back too early, they haven't failed to put on a decent spring show.

Now is also a good time to cut back old Epimedium (images of several can be seen here) foliage. That is, it's certainly much, much easier to avoid inadvertently cutting off new growth right now. Now, I just hope it doesn't get too cold over the next few days.

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