Local Experts Weigh In On Spring Planting

How to prep your garden.

The bitter cold of winter is fading soon the world will be a vision of green buds and spring blooms. If you haven’t started prepping your garden, don’t worry—local experts share their best advice to make your spring garden the envy of the neighborhood.   

Daniel Cleary of EcoLandscapes Design

How to prep: Mulching and composting

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Put down a layer of mulch or compost as soon as possible. Cleary recommends avoiding dyed mulches. Compost is the best option for soil, even though it’s a messier option. Pine needle mulch makes a great alternative to traditional wood mulches. Don’t forget to cover up weed seeds that may have dropped last season. Putting down quality compost or mulch over these seeds will keep the sun from reaching them, preventing them from sprouting.  

What to plant: Canopy trees and low-water plants

“While nearly all canopy trees will provide you with shade in the summer to reduce your energy costs, clean your air, and raise your property values, I am partial to natives that also produce food for wildlife.” He likes the performance of yarrow and black-eyed susans, panicum virgatum and amsonia. 

Nancy Holm of Perennial Gardeners

How to prep: Trimming and pruning

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Now is the time to cut back liriope, epimediums and biddleias. Cut old leaves from hellebores so the flowers can show to better advantage. Prune roses and feed them, preferably with a slow-release organic fertilizer. Don’t prune any spring flowering shrubs at this time. 

What to plant: Bulbs, pansies and hardy perennials

Pansies can be planted as soon as they appear in nurseries, but the best options are bulbs, like tulips and daffodils. Perennials can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked. “Wait until the soil is warm—not until May unless this warm weather keeps up for the next month.” Some of her favorite spring flowers include mountain pinks, Jacob’s ladder and irises of all sorts. 

For the critters: Deer scram

“It’s a granular mixture that’s completely organic, doesn’t smell bad like the sprays, and lasts about a month,” she says.

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Laura Ferro of Giverny Gardens

How to prep: Wait for warm weather

Begin planting a few weeks after the last frost of the season. The warm weather this year could change the planting season, but hold off a few weeks to make sure the soil is ready.

What to plant: Daffodils, tulips and crocuses

“To me, those are kind of the first signs that spring is on its way,” she says. They are easy flowers to keep in your garden, along with azaleas and peonies. 

For the critters: Cat urine

Believe it or not, urine can keep critters away from your beautiful flowers. The critters are very hungry this time of year and deer are especially destructive to flowers like tulips. 

Samuel Hoadley of Longwood Gardens

How to prep: Avoid supplemental watering

Supplemental watering outdoors is not necessary this time of year, unless the weather has been very dry. It may also be necessary for recently planted items. Gardeners can begin planting as long as the ground is warm enough and there is minimal risk of a frost. 

What to plant: Snow Drops and galanthus

“They are some of the first bulbs to bloom and bring some much needed interest to the late winter garden,” he says. Hoadley adds that some of the best garden plants available are galanthus nivalis and galanthus elwesii, which feature masses of pendulous white flowers. He also loves the winter cconite: “This little buttercup relative features a perfect small yellow flower that sits directly on a leaf that resembles a Kermit the Frog Collar.” They will spread and naturalize in lawn areas or garden beds. 

For the critters: Naturalizing plants

Although keeping the critters away from plants can be a challenge, there is an advantage in numbers. Once some plants begin to naturalize, like Tommies, a few will go missing every year, but there will be more to take their place in the future. 

Our Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs Party is July 25!