The slow reveal: cutting back grasses; leaving the leaves

The garden blog is back, baby!

I employ a certain slow rhythm to my spring garden clean-up. It’s not laziness, I don’t think, and certainly not a lack of enthusiasm – it’s the greatest time of year. It simply does not feel right to do it quickly or certainly, hastily. That would be akin to ripping the covers off a waking child or abandoning your winter coat in March, only to then catch a cold.

Emerging palm sedge sprouts

One might think I would just want to get it done…and done now. Winter-interest is a vastly overrated virtue and my garden at the end of winter is beaten down and pretty depressing. But the slow reveal is a joyous process and worth the wait and reconnects the gardener to their garden space.


palm sedge garden drama
Palm sedge is a good filler in the shade garden and self-propogates to beat the band.

The early sprouters are the first to get cut down and cleaned up. Palm sedge (Carex muskingumensis) is #1 on the list. It’s a very early sprouter and tough to get to before the perky, optimistic little chartreuse shoots emerge and though it’s painful to cut the new growth, it’s fine and does no harm. Each spring I vow that this is the year I will cut the sedge back in the fall, but it has yet to happen. I recommend it.

Karl Foerster grass sprouts early.

Next is the Karl Foerster feather reed grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’). Again, this a a tough one to get to before the new growth appears, but you can cut high and leave six to eight inches of old growth that will soon be concealed by the new sprays of blades. When the Karl Foerster grass is gone, the garden is opened up and can breathe and it finally feels like spring has arrived.


My spring garden clean-up tool of choice is the serrated chef’s knife. Give one a try. Any knife with a serrated blade will do. Sawing with the serrated blade goes quickly and is easier on the hand than a pruner or clipper and certainly more peaceful than anything electronic.

I recommend a serrated knife for easy garden clean-up.

This spring I am experimenting with “leaving” as many leaves as I can tolerate in the garden beds, to act as mulch. I’m lucky to have a Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) in the back garden. Well, I planted it 20 years ago and though it’s a pain at times, oak leaves make great mulch – they don’t mat down like others.  I gently clear around emerging pants and lightly chop the leaves on the ground with an edging tool to settle them in and begin the breaking down process.My gardening philosophy has always been to minimize the mundane to free up time for the fun and expressive tasks.




One Comment Add yours

  1. colhclem says:

    So great to have you back! Happy spring!

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