JoAnne Skelly: Maintenance is never ending

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Our landscape is fairly wild, partly because we like it that way for the birds, but also because it simply gets away from me. We love the space of our two-and-a-half acres, but sometimes I get discouraged that our yard will never be pristinely groomed. I have to stop and remind myself how much we do accomplish.

We mow lawns and weed-eat weekly. My husband mows the field three times per year. I weed constantly. There’s all the pruning of trees and shrubs. This past week we went to the landfill with our 18-foot trailer of branches and trimmings that have been collecting all year.

I also started cutting back the dead flowers on our 10-plus 8-foot tall lilacs. Of course, I didn’t stop just at deadheading the flowers because lilacs are messy with lots of dead twigs and old growth. One day, after a couple of hours, I had cleaned up only two or three of the lilacs, but also cleaned up an overgrown sumac and golden currant.

Another day, I worked on two more of the oldest lilac shrubs. This started because I was trying to rake the mass of leaves that had collected in one. In order to do that, I had to prune out old dead twigs and low-lying branches so I could rake. Later, as I was hauling the trimmings past the other lilac and saw it was blocking the path.

Naturally, I needed to prune it. While in that part of the yard, I noticed the sumac next to the path also needed pruning and removal of suckers. Obviously, I had to prune that, too.

Suddenly, I had been out working for over three hours and yet, I had only cleaned up six piles of leaves and pruned three shrubs. However, in and among the pruning and raking, I was also hand-watering trees and weeding as I moved sprinklers. No wonder the rest of the acres are never immaculate. There are so many repeat chores.

But then, I stopped and looked around. The flower beds are at their loveliest right now and make me happy. The swallowtail butterflies are back on the catmint. Robin teenagers are everywhere and the bluebirds have fledged. The beaver has a dam on the creek and has pruned the willows there for me.

Yes, our property isn’t perfect. But it is a haven and I am grateful. This is the peace of the gardener.

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


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