JoAnne Skelly: A happy gardener’s spring observations

I thought sitting outside in the shade on a beautiful spring day would be a fun way to write my article. Now that I’m writing, I’m not so sure. The temperature is 77 degrees and the birds are chattering and singing. Since my binoculars are right here too, I’m doing more bird-watching than writing. But I couldn’t bear to sit inside on such a perfect day.

I have been observing the plants on our property, both the desirables and undesirables, for a few weeks now as I work in the yard. When the torrential rains and flooding were occurring, I worried that trees and shrubs might have received too much water and that I would lose branches or plants this spring. Fortunately, at our house, the soil is decomposed granite and sand, so even though there was occasional standing water, it never remained for long.

Not all our deciduous trees have leafed out completely yet, but the evergreen trees — pines, cedars and spruces — are looking spectacular. All that winter precipitation made them very happy.

I often write in the fall about the importance of watering trees all winter. Seeing how well not only the trees, but also the shrubs and groundcovers, are doing after what seemed like a life-threatening amount of water, I realize how important winter moisture is to plant health. My dwarf Alberta spruce is almost six inches taller than last year already and is covered with lime-green buds of new growth. The color of my burgundy barberries is practically vibrating with life. The Amur maple’s leaves are so dense, I almost can’t see the wood of the branches. My violets and vinca are blooming prolifically. I can practically measure the growth on the irises each day. Even the dragon’s blood sedum’s succulent leaves are all puffed up and thick over the ground.

Unfortunately, the undesirables are happy, too. I have made a commitment to myself to weed at least an hour every day, just to pretend I’m in control. With two and a half acres, you can see what a myth that is. I’m spotting weed species I have never had on the property before, plus all the others I have battled for years. Weedy grasses are thriving and I suspect the war on weeds will be ongoing from now until fall.

I would love to hear what you are observing as you explore your yard this spring.

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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