This morning I met with my old pal Susan Sipos, of Distinctive Gardens, to inspect our co-op’s backyard garden. She comes to visit us about this time every year. We walk through several levels of the backyard and inspect the damages that have been caused by the ravages of winter. We are lucky to have her help us with this rite of passage.
Susan is well-known in the West Village as well as other parts of Manhattan but I think her heart is with us West Villagers. I met her through an old friend who has been the guiding hand behind the flora and fauna at Abingdon Park. He introduced me to Susan three years ago and it has been a delight to work with her and map out our garden.
This column, unlike most of my others, is more of a tutorial. So, here are the basics that Susan has taught us: First, be careful in doing a deep dive in assessing your garden areas. Look for damaged trees and plants. Assess their health. Remove what Susan calls the “winter blanket,” which is old leaves, twigs and broken branches, etc. Of course, there must be a general cleanup and pruning. Susan has explained that how and when to prune, and which plants you prune, are critical to the health and look of your garden. Examples: don’t trim forsythia until after it blooms, clear the old blooms off your hydrangeas before the greening begins, and so on. You get the idea—be cautious. Also, I’m told to be on the lookout for pests that can kill plants by eating the root systems as the plants are coming into season. Now that the un-fun work has been completed, the color is about to start. Go to your garden centers or, better yet, the flower market at Abingdon Park, and pick out Johnny Jump Ups and pansies as they are hardy and great for early spring.
Now that your garden is clean and the color is coming back there is still one more step. Susan will be back in May to plant all the really colorful annuals like snap dragons. Now you can sit back in your garden with a light jacket (it’s still a bit chilly on an April morning), enjoying a takeaway cup of joe from Cafe Panino Mucho Gusto, and bask in the colors of the flowers—and as Susan tells me, look for all the many shades of green. You have to look carefully, but once you focus on them you will be delighted. Yes—it’s spring again in the Village. Thank goodness.
—Gordon T. Hughes