As soon as this last storm is over, you can get started cleaning up your gardens in the Ottawa area. I refer to Ottawa as zone 4 or 5 because it depends on which part of Ottawa you live in, as well as which direction your gardens face. I live up on the hill in the suburb of Kanata, where my front garden faces south and is sheltered by my garage and house, allowing for plants hardy to zone 5. My back and side gardens face north and east, where I have to stick with plants hardy to zone 4.
I spent a few hours earlier this week cleaning up my front garden, as it has been free of snow for a while now. The following is a list of the things you can do to clean up the perennials in your garden when the snow disappears, even though the temperature is still on the cool side:
-cut back perennial ornamental grasses to the ground (this should be done BEFORE new growth starts).
-give tufted grasses (blue fescue, sedges, blue oat grass etc) a haircut, shearing back to approximately 3 inches from the ground, removing any loose and dry foliage.
-remove all stems and leaves from perennials such as coneflowers, hostas, euphorbia, daylilies, sedum, and black eyed susans, cutting them back to their base. (they should be dry and brittle, coming off in your hand).
-remove only the old large leaves and stems from semi-evergreen perennials such as heuchera and hellebores, leaving small leaves at the plant center intact.
-cut back woody perennials such as artemsia, salvia, russian sage and lavender to 6 inches from base.
-prune/trim most roses (except for shrub type that bloom only once; wait until after they have bloomed), as well as sandcherries, spirea, dogwoods, smokebushes, burning bushes, euonymus, and some hydrangeas (PG type only, the rest should wait until summer) Remove all crossing, diseased or damaged branches. To shape or control size, cut back one quarter of old stems to where they meet the central branch or right back to the ground if need be. Then cut all remaining stems back to one half their length. If new growth shoots up too quickly and gets out of shape in summer, cut off the tips.
-empty any pots/containers you had annuals in, dumping the soil into a large garbage can or bucket. Add some peat moss and compost to the bucket, and stir it up. This soil can now be used for your containers this summer. While your pots are empty, clean them out with soapy water and air dry until you are ready to fill them again. Unfortunately, you will have to wait until mid/late May for that.
Even though it is miserable out today in the Ottawa area, with freezing rain and snow pelting my window, next week promises to bring better gardening weather….
Lorieb is the mother of three sons, residing in Kanata, Ontario, Canada. She is the proud owner of GARDENS4U, and spends most of her time designing, planting, and restoring gardens. Her other interests include reading and writing. Please check out her website at www.gardens4u.ca