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GardenSMART :: A Sunday Afternoon in the Garden

A Sunday Afternoon in the Garden

By Kerry Mendez

Last Sunday was my first chance to putter about my gardens, enjoy the bursting new plant life, and do some spring cleanup. Not only has my schedule been insanely busy, but spring has also been very slow to arrive in Kennebunk, Maine. Even though it was cold (in the 40's) and raining, I still couldn't wait to scurry out and play in the dirt.

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Photograph by Kerry Mendez

I thought it might be helpful to share some of the maintenance chores I did in my Zone 5 garden.

  • I removed the dead wood from my shrub roses and pruned the canes back by about one-half their height (these were NOT pruned in the fall). Then I scratched some organic rose fertilizer into the soil around the base of the roses and watered this in.

  • I dead-leafed all of my coral bells (Heuchera), foamflower (Tiarella) and foamy bells (Heucherella). Translation: I removed all of the scrappy looking leaves on the perimeter of the plants that looked awful after having gone through the winter. I also had to dig up and replant a few coral bells that had popped up quite a bit due to the ground freezing and thawing.

  • I removed the dried blooms from last year's hydrangeas. They looked nice in the winter landscape but new flower buds will soon be the center of attention.

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Photograph by Kerry Mendez

  • I noticed some chipmunk and vole holes in one section of my garden. I have to agree with one friend who called them the Devil's spawn. Harsh, I know…but they have destroyed a number of my plants over the years, some very precious! I raced and grabbed a bag of Plantskydd Vole and Small Critter Repellant and sprinkled it around the 'crisis' zone. That will do the trick!

  • I scratched in some soil acidifier (elemental sulfur) around the base of my bigleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) grown in containers as well as the Mountain Hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata) in my garden. Last year the flowers were too pink for my taste so I am creating a more acidic soil to encourage blue flowers.

  • I lightly pruned my taller panicle Hydrangeas ('Quick Fire') and also removed broken stems caused by a heavy, wet snowfall we received in late March.

  • I hung the natural bamboo birdhouse on my front porch, where it has been a happy nesting place for songbirds. I have already seen a chickadee flutter by for a closer peek. I got this environmentally friendly birdhouse from Gardener's Supply Company two years ago. The tear-shaped house provides nice ventilation due to the woven bamboo. The 1 ¼ inch hole is well suited for nuthatches, titmice and finches. I didn't have a chance to set in place the solar deck lights. That will be next Sunday.

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Photograph courtesy Old House Gardens

  • I planted some dazzling bulbs that I ordered from Old House Gardens. I purchased three Coral Lilies (Lillium pumilum) and 25 Gladiolus 'Atom'. Both arrived in topnotch condition. The glads are annuals in my zone. The Coral lilies should reseed and create a breathtaking display in my back garden.

  • I weeded and cut back ornamental grasses.

I did a few other odds and ends before I finally had to stop and retreat inside. My hands were numb from the damp, cold weather. 

I'm thinking about getting a GoPro camera to wear on my head while out in the gardens. That way I can explain what I'm doing as you watch. You could also see the gardens as they evolve through the seasons.

Kerry Ann Mendez presents webinars on garden design, great plants and sustainable practices. More information at


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