Spring cleaning for our landscapes can be a tricky undertaking. We want to dive in a trim everything up, dig it out from under mulch and leaves and start planting, but some restraint may need to be shown so that ornamentals don’t sustain damage in the process. There is a rule of thumb that goes “If it blooms before June, don’t prune…”, and while it isn’t hard and fast for all plants, it can be a helpful reminder not to prune at the wrong time.
It is usually safe to prune plants which bloom on this year’s growth in the spring, but plant’s which bloom on last year’s wood (older growth) should not be pruned until after they have blossomed. Species which re-bloom can be safely pruned at any time, with guidance from your arborist. Lilac, forsythia, azalea, rhododendron and some species of hydrangea bloom on old wood. Clematis can be confusing because, depending on the species, it can bloom on either old or new growth.
Some landscape plants are easy to prune and trim on your own, but always ensure you are using the right tool for the job. Hand snips are fine for trimming branches smaller than a 1/2 inch in diameter, loppers or a hand saw will be necessary for anything larger than a 1/2 inch. If your plant or shrub is damaged or diseased make sure you are pruning back to below the damage if and where possible. Contact your arborist for advice on pruning.
While dead foliage, mulch and clippings may not be attractive after been covered in snow, frozen and thawed it is still a good insulator for sensitive roots. Until the temperatures are consistently above 40 degrees try to resist removing mulch and foliage. Once spring has truly sprung, remove mulch and dispose of it properly in case it has any diseased plant remnants in it.
Now is also a good time to evaluate and address any infrastructure issue that have cropped up around your property. Pavers subjected to freeze-thaw events may have heaved or broken and will require adjusting, re-aligning or replacement. Additionally, assess the drainage problems on your landscape which may be more apparent because of snow melt and rain. Spring is a good time to find any place where water is getting into your basement or pooling and install French drains or rain gardens, or both.