What Is Garden Cleanup, Anyway? (And New Roses)

 Besides rain...

 What actually constitutes "garden clean up"?   The question raised it self, since my posts most of winter seemed to all involve garden clean up.  

Hail melts--nothing to clean up:

Except minor cosmetic damage.  They'll grow out of it:
What, besides pruning roses and trimming/shaping woody shrubs and small trees, have I been doing for weeks?   

Clean up.  Hemerocallis (day lilys) grow in groups of flat fans.  The oldest leaves are on the outside of each fan, the newest, at the center.   Pulling off the oldest yellowing leaves is something I do every few months.


 It's tedious yet satisfying, a rhythmic meditation providing instant improvement.  Most of the day lilys in the garden are evergreen, so the grooming is year round and actually more intensive in the winter, when there is less to distract from yellowing leaves.  Deciduous day lilys need far less attention, but provide no green in the winter (what passes here for winter). 

 Lavenders:  grab them like hair and cut off half, in March and October.

 When you don't grab them like hair and cut off half (in March and October), they tend to split open and display a painfully unattractive bald spot.  


This lavender has gotten the grab-and-cut treatment a couple of times.  It's March, so it needs it again:

Start early.  This lavender seedling was one single stem when it was cut in half.  Still very small, it's growing full and bushy right from the start. 

The tender, ever-blooming Salvias like 'Wendy's Wish' need constant deadheading and pinching back to maximize beauty, but I enjoy doing that, a few minutes at a time, several times a week.  The scent of the foliage is pleasant.  The flowers are gorgeous to look at.  Hummingbirds lurk nearby, waiting for me to leave.   This morning as I groomed one of the 'Wendy's a Hummer came within a few inches of my face, looked me over, and went to feed from the 'Wendy' five feet away instead.  

Salvia 'Amistad' is somewhat different---twice or three times a year I cut the whole monstrous beast to the ground, pull out all the roots I can find--and it grows back afresh, very temporarily not so big. 

For the first time ever, I groomed the Leucanthemum x superbum colony in the entry area.  What was one or two plants a decade ago has become a slowly meandering edging about 2' wide and 5' long.  Though evergreen here, their appearance prompts a cringe all winter:

Grooming helped a little.   They will look better very soon, and perhaps grow better as well.  

 Geranium 'Rozanne' is sooooo easy.  The growth fountains forth from the plant's center such that new stems partially hide the oldest.  The oldest stems eventually dry out, and can be removed with gentle tugs. 

Cleaned up:

Quickly growing back

Garvinea Gerberas get their old leaves and dead flower stems removed frequently.  A favorite well-behaved plant.  The white Drakensberg Daisy version of Gerbera by the driveway was in danger of being composted.  It resembled an old wadded up mass of leaf lettuce about to go to seed--yecch.  

Started pulling...halfway:

There!  Atta girl! 
Now, sunlight can penetrate down to the base of the plant, which may encourage more flowers. (I hope.)

Solitary Aloes need nothing but the dried flower stalks pulled out. Dried, a yank removes them.  Offsetting Aloes--too much work.  I'm getting rid of almost all of them, save those that offset very, very slowly, like 'Hellskloof Bells', or A. rubroviolacea.  One big drawback is, without the mass of 'Cynthia Gitty' and the yellow-flowered one of uncertain heritage, this winter's Aloe flower show was far smaller.   There's always a price.

 The plan was to replace the color provided by clumping Aloes by adding tough ever-flowering plants like Limonium perezii to the front slope.  The purpose of last summer's wrangling with the front slope's irrigation was to keep tough ever-flowering plants alive and flowering.

The garden produces Limonium seedlings, so no need to buy anything.  Well established Limonium plants are very tough.  However, Limonium seedlings are delicate and fussy.  They need to be shaded for a couple of weeks and watered at least once daily to get going.  Portable shade:

 This one, dreadful though it looks, is now going.  It may be flowering in only a month or so. 

This volunteer seedling looked great until it was attacked by a blankety-blank rabbit. I enclosed it in a cylinder of hardware cloth to protect it until the local coyote can eat the rabbit.  

Agaves--there may be an old leaf or two to pull, but only rarely.  Removal after flowering is the maintenance issue.  The arrival of the green waste truck was imminent last Wednesday, and there was still space in the bins, so between light rain showers I cut off the almost-finished flower stalks (which will stay until the bees are finished with them) and trashed what was left.  Trash in the foreground:

Doing cleanup leads to the discovery and transplanting of worthy volunteer seedlings.  It was a hoot to find three Leucospermums spouting!  

One Leucospermum seedling transplanted to a protected spot in Proteana, the other two to a temporary place in the veggie garden. 

The Gaura seedling was deliberate planned.  A white-flowered Gaura was a sparkling touch in the gully garden last spring--until summer heat kicked in and it started looking disgusting.  Pulled and tossed it in an empty spot of ground to dry, the plant left behind a couple of  seedlings to plant this spring.  

And there's the hoped-for seedling!  Moved to Mum-Plant's old spot. 

And oh yes, new mail order roses.   Planting of course gets mixed in with clean up.  I removed a dozen over the winter, and am now adding three. 

There we go.  Two were planted in time for the rain we got over the past week (1.25"/32mm),  one (Ducher) after the rain fell.  Ducher went in front of the tower in the veggie/cutting garden.  GAA went where there was never a rose before.  It took the big 'Platinum Beauty' spot. 

'Savannah' took a spot in the area behind the fountain, replacing a problematic 'Easy Does It' rose.  I removed/replaced a lot of the soil there, and added acid mix to slightly acidify the soil, which may discourage the bacteria that causes root/crown gall.  (So I read somewhere.)  'Savannah' being a potted rose, I was able to plant it without disturbing or damaging any roots.  Root wounds can enable the bacteria to infect the root system.

  The spent Agaves removed, two of the three 'More Silver' Leucadendrons get a place in the soil.  I'm experimenting--planting two adjacent to see if that produces a bigger, fuller look.  

Senecio (Now Curio?) ficoides 'Mount Everest' replaced a failed Verbena 'De la Mina' in the driveway raised bed.  It should provide a vertical feature against the tall retaining wall behind it.  Should this be successful, Snap off rooted pieces can eventually repeat the plant along the wall. 

The impulse-buy Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset' went in a little close to Leucospermum 'Red Ribbons', but Agave ovatifolia on the Leucadendron's left needs room.  I pulled the disappointing lavender 'Silver Anook' to the spot to the Leucadendron, possibly discovering why 'Silver Anook' has been a weak grower.  It was actually four separate plants all tangled together.  I was able to separate them and replanted two in front of 'Red Ribbons'.  They may die; they may live and improve significantly.  Might as well try. 

Considering blank walls, I stuck some black Aeoniums against the wall behind another recently transplanted Agave ovatifolia, to fill the space a bit while the Agave puts on some size.  

One is flopping a bit.  Another pair of conversing plants?  

'Been here long?  How are the growing conditions?"  

Enough.  Enough.  I could go on.  I've been doing a whole lot of gardening, trying to be finished with planting and moving before spring.  Now, it's time to (gulp!) mulch the whole garden...a whole other level of effort.   Beauty shots to end...

Drops of rain created eyeballs on this Iris

Bee bottom in Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon'
Fancy Freesia

 “I want not wealth. I want not power. Heaven is beyond my hopes. Then let me stroll through the bright hours as they pass, in my garden among my flowers.” -- Tao Yuan-Ming (365-427 CE)

"Stroll"?!?!  When did he have the time?  

What does your "garden clean up" mean? 


  1. In a way garden clean up is one of enjoyable aspects of gardening. Okay maybe not too much as it can get tedious too.

    Here loads of bamboo thinning and leaf blowing. Great post, just shows how much care and attention you give to your garden and it shows beautifully.

    1. I admire gardeners who have the courage to grow bamboo. It seems the most challenging plant of all physically--so tall and vigorous! The groves of it at the Huntington scare me to think of the maintenance involved.

  2. Cleaning up and cutting back always gives me a rewarding feeling. I'm just now reaching the point where I find pruning a satisfying experience instead of a scary one. It has only taken 20 or so years. Hooray for the new roses! I had Gruss an Aachen in the last garden and it was a good one.

    1. Pruning--the results are always more satisfying than the process. I've had the pink version of GAA for 20 years---it has always been a gem. Kept wondering why I did not have the original version.

  3. I've been concentrating my garden clean up efforts in the back garden and it's starting to look good. The front garden has only been lightly touched and the next stretch of dry days I need to start out there. Clean up here involves a lot of picking up of material that has ended up in my garden that isn't mine. Debris (branches, needles, cones) from the fir trees behind us. Maple leaves from the next door neighbor's trees, oak leaves that come from who knows where (really, I've looked all over the neighborhood... where are they coming from!?). Then there's the cutting back of last years perennials, all the ferns that need to be cut back before the new fronds push out (which they of course are already doing and unfortunately I've broken off a few). And then the serious pruning of branches broke by ice load, or things that just need to be minimized a bit, lest they take over, or trees that are finally of size they can be limbed up. My garden is so small, yet this time of year it is easy to feel overwhelmed...

    1. Leaves from everywhere, if only you had the space for composing, you would have some great material to work with. Then of course with the cold climate you can grow herbaceous plants that have the last year's dead growth to remove. I think you have a much bigger job than I do, with a smaller garden!

  4. Right now, cleanup mostly means tackling the pruning that I should have finished weeks ago. The big ticket in the mix today is Leucadendron 'Chief', which towers above my head. I live for the day I find a Leucospermum seedling in my garden.

    1. 'Chief' is the very tall one--San Marcos says 10'+. Wowza. Lots of material for vases, though!

      I was really, really surprised to see the 'Yellow Bird' seedlings, but hey you grew the Corsican Peonies from seed! How cool is that? :)

  5. I can't get over how tall those black aeoniums have grown. The blankety blank rabbits tried to take a bite out of the Whales Tongue Agave that I set out to get rained on and it must have gotten a mouth full of sharp stickers because it let go before too much damage.

    1. They need heat and dry to get that tall. And a few years.

      You would think a blankety-blank rabbit would find better stuff to eat than an Agave, but they seem to like to sample everything. Hopefully it has learned its lesson. Here they prefer lawn (they have to go next door for that) and roses. (Grrrr!)

  6. Your post has given me the push I needed to take a more radical approach to lavenders. One of our 'Meerlo' looks particularly ratty. I'll take a deep breath and give it a good trim.

    1. It's hard to cut off the flowers, but it really improves the lavender and extends its lifetime as well. Though...I've never gotten a flower on 'Meerlo'. Have you?


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