Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spring Cleanup in the Cottage Garden

We opened the pond and made a good start at the spring cleanup in the cottage garden. The pond opening, one of our biggest spring tasks, was sizeable this year because I repotted most of the water plants. Although you can't see all of them in the picture (many being under the water's surface) I have a dozen or more plants in there. We began the pond-opening procedure by emptying out some of the water, pulling the crates of plants up from the bottom where they spent the winter, checking pumps and filters, skimming sludge from the bottom, then adding clean water and switching on the spitter and falls. I gave the newly potted plants some food before placing them on ledges at the appropriate depth. I added salt and bacteria to the pond but the water is rather muddy-looking still; I hope it clears soon. I'm adding bacteria weekly to jump start the process. A visiting American robin, however, didn't mind the dirty water.  Soon after H.H. switched on the waterfall and came indoors, the bird arrived to check it out ...

An American robin flies down to a rock near the waterfall.
He looks around to be sure it's safe.
Nimbly, he climbs down to the water's edge.
He launches himself into the water.
He paddles and splashes about for several minutes ...
... before returning to his rock to dry off.

The pond requires quite a lot of maintenance, but the visiting wildlife, including birds, dragonflies and frogs, make it worthwhile. The frogs and toads, in good voice now, produced lots of eggs already and soon we'll have tadpoles. We didn't lose any koi fish this winter and can see some very pretty new ones, including a beautiful red one that I hope to photograph soon.

As well as opening the pond, I've checked off quite a few tasks on my spring to-do list:
  • cut back ornamental grasses and the perennials left standing over the winter
  • weeded, weeded, weeded
  • removed dead wood and suckers from trees and shrubs
  • divided perennials
  • planted some new perennials including two dicentra and a David Austin rose -- all of which I received free from vendors at GWA in Pasadena last year (I'm trialing these and will report on their progress)
  • prepared the kitchen garden for planting
  • started annual and vegetable seeds indoors for planting after the last frost
  • weeded (did I mention that?)
One of the joys of working in the cottage garden at this time of year is discovering new shoots and blooms ...

Creeping phlox Phlox subulata
Primroses and violets
Primrose, Primula vulgaris. Yellow primroses remind me of my childhood in England
Found this little beauty in the Hydrangea Garden
My favorite violet, Viola Sororia 'Freckles'
A volunteer in the horseshoe garden ...
... so sweet.

Actually, I always begin the spring cleanup in the shade garden because this is my view from my favorite chair in the garden room, so need to make it tidy ASAP. I find a shade garden less work than a full-sun garden, so I finished the cleanup there in a day.

The shade garden is greening up. Hosta shoots make an appearance around the birdbath.
Lamium maculatum 'Shell Pink.' Lamium loves the shade.
The common name is Dead Nettle. I prefer Lamium.
Leaves swell on the climbing hydrangeas, Hydrangea anomala, along the fence.
Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' with its first 'forget-me-not' type blooms

One task I didn't list above is to clean out the miniature gardens. When grandson, Jonathon, comes he will add more stone to the path and more glass marbles to the creek.

Pink lamium blooms and miniature hostas make an appearance.
More common blue violets -- in the shade garden -- Viola sororia.

The biggest spring task in the Woodland Walk is to continue the work of removing invasive multiflora rose. H.H. fights this endless battle every year.

Woodland Walk

I'm happy to see a few of the new plantings in the Woodland Walk survived the deer although many didn't. I chose deer-resistant plants, but no plant is truly resistant. They nibbled hellebore and brunera this winter.

Hellebore Helleborus x hybridus untouched by the deer -- hurrah!

When I gave the horse and goat their hay in the paddock this morning, I noticed the white birch tree has lots of catkins.

You can see the beautiful bark of the white birch to the right of the paddock.
Catkins of the white birch.
Beyond the white birch -- blossoms of the old pear tree.

Several jobs remain on the to-do list:
  • Add a good layer of compost to each garden (H.H. has the first load on his truck -- will start spreading tomorrow)
  • Clean out the potting shed and move into it the plants I started from seed
  • Plant, or direct sow, vegetables in the kitchen garden after the last frost
  • Add a new layer of mulch to all gardens
In spite of aches and pains I love this time. The whole gardening year lies ahead, holding the promise that it will be the best one ever.

Happy Gardening,
Pamela x

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I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. Pam, I have a question. I had some of those little lawn type Violet's pop up near the bindweed. I did some reading, and they were saying that they are really invasive no tough to get rid of. They are so adorable, I don't want to get rid of them if it isn't true for this type. Can you shed any light on this for me?

    1. Wild violets often appear in shady areas of thin turf. Some people find them troublesome; others find them attractive. I love them. I don't believe in perfect lawns -- they require too much maintenance -- mine is full of weeds which we just mow. As you agree they are adorable, I would live with the wild violets, Erin. All you may need to do is improve the health of your lawn so the grass can better compete. P. x

  2. Beautiful! I like the water and your primeroses!

  3. Good morning Pamela ~ I thoroughly enjoyed your post and your photos. I'm inspired and I thank you.

    Happy Gardening ~ FlowerLady

  4. I am envious of the progress of your spring cleanup. Mine has been slow indeed, slowed even further by recent storms. Oh, well, it's always something with gardeners, isn't it?

    1. I've found even when I'm late starting my garden, everything catches up eventually, Dorothy.

  5. It is so satisfying helping the garden to look as it should in Spring. Look at that Robin showing its appreciation, fantastic. The Violet, Sororia 'Freckles' is very interesting. Enjoy the season ahead Pam.

  6. Your pond looks great again and that American robin is such a special bird, lovely.

  7. Oh fun times! Your pond looks great. I've been contemplating new plants for our tiny above-ground pond. We have a Water Lily, and I don't want to add too many because the pond only measures about four feet by three feet. It seems to attract birds an butterflies, though. Your garden is lovely!

  8. Pam, everything looks so green and fresh and lovely in your spring gardens! Your primroses are so cute -- I have never been able to get them to come back here, for some reason, but your are romping along. Enjoy being outside doing your spring cleanup. It's work, but so satisfying when it's done. -Beth

  9. Freckled violets - how enchanting!

  10. You've sure been busy! Any time I have a free day to work outside, that's the day it rains. But I'm not too behind actually. Spring came early, and we got a lot of cleanup done ahead of time this year. Now I'm just waiting for our frost free date.

  11. What beautiful pictures!
    I hadn't noticed the primulas before and you give me hope that I can be successful growing my own if I can find the right spot. Yours seem very happy.
    Spring is such a nice time of year :)

  12. Oh Pam, you put me to shame! I thought I was on top of things by comparison to most years, but you are well ahead of the game! American robins look bigger than the bird we call a robin. Is the American robin about the size of a blackbird?

  13. Pam you are way ahead of me....everything looks fabulous. Our pond was opened in early April and had to be closed due to the snow and freezing weather. We did open it again a couple of weeks later. The robins love to sit in our waterfall like a spa.

  14. How nice to visit your lovely garden again, so much has happened since last time I was here. It is lovely to see your spring flowers, although I guess by now your garden has made a big leap forward in the weeks since these photos were taken – things happens so quickly at this time of year! I loved your freckled violets too, will look for them here. Your robin is a totally different bird to our robin – and to make matters even more confusing, there is also an Australian robin – which is different from the European and the American :-)