After the Flood
St. Joseph River flooding, St. Joseph, MI (Photo credit: Nates Dronography via Facebook)
If you're local to Berrien County, you're probably aware of the widespread historical flooding we are currently experiencing. If you're currently experiencing flooding of your landscaping, here are a few tips to get your landscape back into order (after dealing with any structural repairs and restoration, of course):
1. Take photos- you'll want these to look back on someday, both for reference for future garden planning, and because your landscape is going to rebound so well you may not even remember it happened!
2. Don't be in a hurry- I know the mess outside is going to drive you crazy, but you need to let the water drain completely from the soil before you start working in it. If you get out there too soon, you're going to cause compaction and rutting issues that will be difficult to repair.
3. Remove debris- start by picking up the trash, leaf piles, sticks. Gently rake away the debris, without disturbing the plants beneath them.
4. Remove deposited sand & silt- use a garden rake and flat shovel to gently lift and remove accumulated soil from plantings. Take care not to damage the crowns, trunks or branches of plants, but if you do, replant and/or trim away anything broken.
5. Pressure wash your hardscape- this is a great time to clean off your patios, stepping stones, benches, retaining walls, etc. Take the opportunity to examine them for any repairs that need to be done due to erosion or settling.
6. Drain & refill water features- if you had decorative fish in your ponds, I'm so sorry. They're probably down river by now. You'll want to clean and treat your water features, as flood water is almost always contaminated with sewage and surface runoff.
7. Relax- let nature run it's course. Spring is right around the corner, and most plants will come out of their dormancy relatively unscathed by the winter flood.
8. Take inventory- once your garden has greened up and it's obvious what survived (and what hasn't), replace missing plants. Soil testing will help you determine what nutrients remain in your soil, and what you may want to replenish. This might also be a great time to pull out those photos you took of the floods, and consider making some changes to the grades and gardens to help in the event of a repeat.
On a side note, not entirely unrelated to landscaping, PLEASE get your well water tested if the flood water was anywhere near it. You can contact your closest health department for more information.
Many of the early blooming shrubs are showing off their spring finery: forsythia, flowering almond, azaleas and magnolia are a few that come to mind. The fresh bright green of newly emerging leaves on the trees and shrubs in the landscape provide a brilliant backdrop for early perennials and annuals. Accent shrubs such as pussy willow and Japanese Maples really shine right now as well.
As tempting as it may be, though, to grab those hedge pruners and tidy up that messy forsythia or lilac, wait! Spring shrubs bloom on last summer's growth. Wait patiently for the shrub in question to finish blooming, then trim and shape to your heart's content. Once finished, resist any further trimming until the following year. If necessary, use hand pruners to clip a few offending branches any time of the year. Remember though, any pruning in late summer, fall, winter or early spring will reduce the numbers of bloom come springtime!
For many spring shrubs, simply deadheading (removing the old flowers after they've finished) is all the maintenance required. Lilacs, rhododendrons and azaleas all fall into this category. Remember to check the plant tags for growth rate and expected size, and plant them accordingly. You'll never need to trim them to keep them in their place.
Other types of shrubs, such as forsythia, flowering quince and magnolias, will self clean. These shrubs require little to no trimming, just a little cosmetic pruning to keep an eye pleasing shape to them during the summer months. Again, check the plant tags to be sure that you're picking up a variety that will fit the space you intend to plant the shrub.
Still not sure you want to tackle it yourself? We can help! Our maintenance crew has years of experience, and regularly attend classes on proper pruning techniques. Contact us today.
Some additional spring blooming shrubs for your viewing pleasure (click on any photo to enlarge it):
Anna and her husband Todd own Arcadia Gardens, LLC a Stevensville, MI based landscape design and build company. Her degree in Horticulture with a focus on landscape management from Michigan State University allows Anna to select plants specific to on-site conditions and with maintenance requirements that suit the client's needs. She is comfortable designing across a range of styles- from contemporary to classic- and makes a point to include the client's input throughout the design process. She is an active member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and is serving as 2014 President of the APLD-Michigan Chapter. Anna has recently contributed to media such as "The Designer" and Gardendesign.com and is qualified to speak on a variety of topics from landscape design and maintenance to addressing local garden clubs and organizations.
PO Box 88
Stevensville, MI 49127