And so it begins, the glamorous task of removing winter’s leftovers at first signs of spring. Dressed to kill sporting white ankle socks, workout duds, a back brace and a knotted coif, I set out with kneeling pads and clippers to remove dead foliage and occasionally expose new green. We’ll be a site be on the 2022 Madison in Bloom Garden Tour this June, and the countdown has begun.

We started our small urban courtyard garden from scratch in the spring of 2020 as Covid began to rear its ugly head. Working to establish our garden that year gave us an enjoyable quarantine pastime filled with fresh air in our socially distanced world.

We were rewarded with a lovely garden setting in 2021 and spent many hours sitting on the breezeway enjoying the view. Well-spaced chairs allowed us to visit outside with friends as Covid continued to clip our wings.

When I opened the upstairs gallery door yesterday, I saw a beautiful March morning perfect to tackle garden clean up. And as any Hoosier knows, Indiana spring weather is not only fickle, it can be downright life threatening. So before a freak snow or a freaky tornado comes to call, this day had my name on it. If I got my work done, all of the mess would be bagged and ready for the city’s yard waste pickup. Here today, gone tomorrow!

I’m embarrassed to say that I left our alley plants untended last fall, and the narrow strip of perennials was a mess of spent stalks. So my first cleanup task was to remove debris and uncover the new growth of the Sheffield Pink mums from friend Sandy, the Back-eyed Susans from friend Larry, and the Walker Low Catmint recommended by friend Lois. Ken pruned the lone rose (Fragrant Cloud) he donated to the row, and I was happy to see a volunteer hollyhock that must have blown in from across the alley! #ittakesavillage

Ken’s already accomplished several things on his spring maintenance list, cutting back his courtyard hybrid tea roses and potted Knockout Roses as well as my miniature and climbing roses. He also added rose fertilizer. He added fertilizer spikes to the holly bushes, mountain laurels and lilac tree, and used a general flower fertilizer everywhere else. #hesakeeper

Helebores (Lenten Rose) are blooming, and except for a few leaves, I had done a pretty good job of fall cleanup in the stone wall garden. Peony tips are beginning to break through, Russian sage is budding out, iris and Madonna Lilies are three inches high. So far the only disappointment in this area is the headless statue of Saint Francis resulting from a fall against the wall. Finding a replacement is on the list for next week.

I left the dried astilbe flower stalks in place over the winter to provide bird cover, but it was time for them to go. I had purchased a large ceramic cherub’s head on a whim at Muddy Forks Antiques this winter, thinking it could look neat peaking out from the astilbe greens. Ken is horrified and the grandkids are creeped out, so the jury’s still out on whether or not the cherub gets to stay!

I’m sad to report that we lost 80% of the beautiful blue flowering Chocolate Chip Ajuga that lined the sidewalk beds. The shallow-root ground cover plants didn’t survive the days of a heavy ice layer from a recent winter storm. This will require more than cleanup…

I still have work to do in my kitchen herb bed surrounding the mill stone and metal orb, but that will wait until another beautiful March Day. After that, I’ll be combing the plant catalogs getting ideas for annuals and tomato varieties to plant when the danger of frost has passed. I can’t wait to see how the garden will look this year!

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One thing that makes my journey unique is that all of my interests are driven by a joyful and genuine curiosity. I delight in finding less expensive ways to make something or creative ways to enjoy something longer. Finding and creating joy - and sharing it - is core to who I am.