JoAnne Skelly: Working in the yard

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I’ve been watching the apple buds, waiting to see swelling begin, waiting for color to start showing. Last week, I was excited to finally see a bit of color. Then, snow and overnight lows in the low 20s hit, which is just like last year when we had no apples. I hope the cold doesn’t kill the blossoms and my apple crop again this year.

What a silly little thing to think about when there are the COVID-19 and the economy crises happening. And yet, I find focusing on the normal occurrences of spring allows me to step away from the great worries for a short while.

My cleanup philosophy is to target the areas that are most visible first and work methodically out to the least visible areas. This allows me to have a feeling of accomplishment after laboring for hours. Otherwise, the number of tasks to be done gets overwhelming.

With that in mind, I began on beds near the patio: first getting all the leaves out that were interlocked at the base of plants. I proceeded by cutting back the old flower stems and dead leaves on lavender, catmint, yarrow, penstemon, sedum, iris, hardy geranium and Russian sage.

My next task was to prune out the multitude of suckers on the sand cherries, trying to give them a pleasing form while leaving enough stems for spring blooming. I normally don’t prune spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom, but the suckers were out of control. Two to three hours being bent over is all I can take anymore, so I gradually got myself upright and stretched to appreciate how good it looked.

On the next nice day, I’ll be working on the caryopteris (Bluebeard) shrubs, cutting back and shaping. The vinca will be cut down to the ground; otherwise, the vines will take over the world. I have a lot of mulch from trees that had to be removed to put in all the beds. Finally will be the east bed, the bane of my existence, with its encroaching grass from the lawn, the rampant English ivy and the unruly combination of feverfew, mint and a variety of other problem children.

However, I am not complaining. I am counting my blessings. Working in the yard, pruning, cleaning up, raking and weeding are helping me stay reasonably calm. I wish everyone had a landscape or garden in which they, too, could toil away the hours of isolation. FYI, Greenhouse Garden Center has driveby pickup for all your plant and nursery needs. Call 775-882-8600. Support a favorite local nursery!

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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