the first gardening task of the year.

I can now positively say that spring has finally sprung, and so have my alliums.

Just before I left to visit my mom in Vegas we had several days with temps in the 70’s and it really started to feel like summer is on the way.

Between you and me, I’m taking full credit for the weather warm up.  Every time I plan a trip somewhere warm in the winter, Minnesota gets unseasonably warm temps while I’m away.  As soon as I booked my ticket to Vegas, the forecast went from 1′ of snow to sunny and 75.  You’re welcome Minnesota!

Now that gardening season is upon us, I’m going to resume my ‘Sunday mornings in the garden’ series.  So for those of you who are gardeners, be sure to keep an eye out for Sunday morning blog posts.

The very first gardening task I take on each year is pruning my hydrangeas.  This is a job that can be tackled pretty early on in the season (even late winter if you’re so inclined), but I usually save it for our first warm sunny day when it’s still too soon (and too muddy) to do much else in the garden.

After a long, snowy winter the blooms that I left on for winter interest are looking pretty tired (and yes, that is still a big patch of snow and ice in front of the potting shed, will it ever melt?).

There are a few general rules I keep in mind while pruning my panicle hydrangeas (Limelight, Little Quick Fire, Strawberry Vanilla, etc, etc).

  • reduce the overall height of the shrub by about 1/3.
  • remove any dead, broken or weak branches.
  • remove any branches that are rubbing on other branches.
  • prune just above a leaf node.

All of that being said, in my experience you don’t really have to worry too much about rules when pruning panicle hydrangeas.  A couple of years ago I totally hacked at the Limelight hydrangea in my front garden.  I took it down to about 2′ (from probably about 7′ or so).  I left only the thickest stems, and I didn’t even look for leaf nodes.  Yet it still came back gangbusters, and was right back to 7′ tall two years later.

Since panicle hydrangeas bloom on new wood, pruning them will maximize the number of blooms you get.

  I like leaving a little more height on the hydrangea next to our deck because once it leafs out it creates a nice little privacy screen.  It doesn’t look like much now, but here’s how it will look from this spot in August.

I also prune my arborescens variety hydrangeas (I have Annabelles) in the spring.  They also bloom on new growth, so pruning will encourage blooms.  However, one major downside to this variety of hydrangea is that the stems are often not strong enough to support the flower heads.  The first big rain after they bloom will turn your bush into a floppy mess.

A few years back I read an article that recommended pruning your Annabelles by no more than a couple of inches below the flower heads, leaving the strong old wood stems in place to help support the flowers.  You can also remove weak, broken or dead stems all the way down.

I’ve also given the Annabelle under my kitchen window a little extra support with an old brass headboard.

It was looking quite straggly after the long winter, but I cleaned it up a bit.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend adding an arborescens hydrangea these days.  Even though some of the newer versions claim to have solved the flopping problem, they haven’t eliminated it entirely.

I actually inherited this Annabelle with the house, and since we moved in I’ve divided and moved it.  There is a big chunk of it out behind the carriage house in my cutting garden, which can be another good idea for this variety.  Place it in a spot where you will just be cutting the blooms off, but it doesn’t have to look good in situ.

So now I’ve checked the first gardening task of the year off of my to-do list.

I’m hoping that I don’t miss the blooming of my scilla while I’m out at my mom’s.  The flower buds were just appearing before I left, but they weren’t open yet.  They do usually bloom in mid to late April, and have even been known to be blooming in the snow as they were in 2020.

I think they’ll hold off this year until I get back.  Fingers crossed.

I also have lots of daffodils, tulips and allium coming up.  Luckily they are willing to pop right up through the snow.

You may remember that I put in a lot of bulbs last fall, so I can’t wait to see how they do.

It feels so good to be back out in the garden!  I’m really looking forward to spending lots more time out there again this year, and sharing lots of tips with you guys along the way.

So tell me, are you back out in the garden yet this year?


16 thoughts on “the first gardening task of the year.

  1. I was out pruning our climbing rose yesterday while it was eighty-two degrees here in Wisconsin! According to our weather, you are again receiving snow in Minnesota! Please keep it there!!


  2. I am an avid gardener as well, and living in Florida, makes it easier. I live towards North Central Florida so we did get some freezing temps and frost. I almost lost some of my Red frangipani Plumeria rubra shrubs/bushes. But we pruned them and they are back to growing beautifully. I’ve been trying to grow a hydrangea, not easy in this area, for almost a year now. It is showing signs of life. Can’t wait to see if I actually get some blooms this summer.


    1. My mom (in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas) also had a colder than normal winter. Her bougainvillea lost all of its leaves back in January/February, but it’s coming back now. I have heard that growing a hydrangea in your climate is challenging, and I’ve also heard that you don’t get the deeper colors on the blooms in the fall because your weather isn’t cold enough. Is your hydrangea in some shade in the afternoon to protect it from the heat?


      1. Yes it is, it actually sits in the shade most of the day. I am hoping it actually blooms this year. It currently has some small green leaves.


  3. So happy the gardening posts are back! Lilacs are blooming and hostas and many perennials are up! Spring is here (and so are my allergies). But no complaining here!


    1. My lilacs are just starting to show buds, I’m hoping they all survived the winter. The rabbits were busy chewing away at them (and my clematis) this year, but I’m hoping they didn’t totally kill any of them!


  4. Funny that your pre-planned post about the weather came right after we got about 2 inches of snow in Oakdale LOL I guess your warm weather in MN while you are gone streak got broken!


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