Creative clutter

Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem' says it's time for spring already.
Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’ says it’s time for spring already.

I started preparing my garden for spring today. The urge to banish winter and get busy outside comes over me every year around this time — if not earlier — and feels just like all of the times I have suddenly become desperate for a haircut right-this-minute. I can’t stand to look at its mess any more. And just like the time, years ago, that I couldn’t schedule a hair appointment within the hour and begged an unskilled boyfriend to get the scissors out, it was a hack job. I made a mess of my mess. But it’s my mess and I’ve decided to think of it as creative clutter. (I had no such euphemism for the bizarro hairstyle that schooled me once and for all in the virtues of patience and hiring professionals.)

My aim today was to go through as much of the garden as I could, downing stems and seedheads and uncovering bulb foliage before chilly fingers and a forecasted rain sent me back inside. I made it most of the way through the front garden, snapping and cracking stems and seedheads and littering them all in my wake. Winter interest became a debris field. Intentionally. Last year, after watching this video of Chicago’s Lurie Garden being mowed in early spring, and because I hate making endless trips to an already overfull compost pile, I decided that mulching in place was the best idea ever.

The only downside is that it still looks a mess. But like I said, it’s my mess and the clutter is good — creative even — for the soil in the short and long run because it will help retain moisture at least until the plants grow to cover any otherwise bare earth, and will eventually work its way into the soil as organic matter. If I were at work where we endeavor to keep up appearances, or hadn’t been in a rush to get back inside to relax on the couch with a warm dog on my feet, I would at least rake the bits off the lawn and make the edges nice and neat again before calling it a day. But that’s what tomorrow is for, and with any luck spring’s gales might help with the tidying.

Are you getting your garden ready for spring? What do you do with winter’s debris?

4 thoughts on “Creative clutter

  1. Had the cleanup urge yesterday too. The one lenght of the garden exposed from snow got a haircut – debris got tarped to the way back where the hens can scratch around in it…too much even for the compost bin. Maybe when the other side has snow gone, I’ll try the ‘mulch in place’ technique. So good to see green shoots coming. Winter aconite blooming.

    Sylvia, sounds like your spring is a bit behind ours… a little rain and warm nights should get it back on track! I love that you have a “way back” for your compost extras – mine end up in a giant pile in the driveway. Not pretty. I’ll look forward to hearing what you think of mulching in place! -kris

  2. I know! Doesn’t it just eat at you? Same for me. I think what is hardest for me are the gardens and gardeners that rake it out, mulch it, and put it back. But then they are destroying egg sites and dormant insects, etc., etc. Still, it just looks tidier. I just have to repeat the mantra, “my garden is not my front room.”

    Susan, I have to remind myself that my front room is not my garden! Opposite problem. I do worry about disturbing critters so I try not to “un-mess” the leaf litter for awhile except where it might be covering something precious. -kris

  3. Speaking of insects – I’ve spotted about 10 praying mantis egg cases around the garden. What’s your opinion of them? I used to be enthusiastic but then learned that they eat the ‘good’ as well as the ‘bad’ insects. Got especially concerned when I saw an adult mantis on a buddleia and it was quite ready to pounce on a hummingbird. Last couple years I’ve been moving the egg cases to the field.

    Sylvia, No doubt about it, they are indiscriminate eaters, and non-native to boot. But I still get a kick out of seeing them in the garden. They don’t seem to be invasive — probably because they make pretty good bird food. My boss has watched cardinals pick them one by one out of her garden! What goes around, comes around. -kris

  4. I have trouble leaving that debris but then again, perhaps I should give it a go and just cover it with some nice compost. Lots to do and not a lot of energy! LOL

    Layanee, I hear ya. And that’s why I let the plants do the covering up. Won’t take long with weather like this! -kris

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