Gardening is a contact sport. I'd show you my arms, but even I can't stand to look at those candy cane twirls of scratches and painful cuts.
Over the last month I've spent a few hours here and there taking my time cutting down herbaceous perennials--plants that, in 2010, had begun to reach their full potential. As someone who likes tall plants, I was quickly overwhelmed this spring. Plus, I was sad to see a beautiful winter garden end.
I don't know how clean of a practice this is, but for the first time I broke up, by hand, as much as I could of what I cut down and reused it as mulch. This made things last much longer, but also saved me the expense of a mulcher / chipper or paying the refuse company to pick up my plant bits (I don't have a suitable compost area because I'm worried about resale value in a year or two).
So, below are before and after shots. You'll notice that the after are greener--I took too long. Even the butterfly bushes, some 7' tall last year, were already putting out growth all the way up their branches. I cut them down to 12" each year, and assumed I still had some time. Assuming makes an ass out of you and me (and perennials). I---am---tired.
I still have to do the summer grasses, then on to bigger issues in anticipation of the garden tour in late June--replanting stone steppers, patching holes in lawn, deciding whether or not to give up on that weeping bald cypress which grew to 10' in one year, then has slowly died back to 4' over two years. I should just kill it and replace it, shouldn't I? But I love it. But it's just taking up space where I wanted a small tree, not a de-evolving shrub....