pruning shrubsSpring is in the air…but don’t rush it! Find out which gardening activities to avoid in late winter and which are safe to do.

Spring in Western Wisconsin seems to have arrived a month or more early this year.  It is the week of February 20th (that is when I started writing this) and we have had 40, 50 and 60 degree days already, melting most of the snow.  (Now it is February 25th and we have had cold/blowing snow yesterday and ice.  No spring for today anyway.  Everything is covered with snow.  This is normal for the end of February.)

In the picture above, you can see that we have green grass on Feb. 22 here!  This area was under snow cover for the winter months so the grass stayed green.  We normally hear that our last frost date for this zone 4, average is May 15th.  And, we notoriously have frost at least half the years I can remember at the end of May around Memorial Day!

The early warm weather can leave you itching to get out and take a peek at your outdoor plants, but doing so could harm them. Here are gardening activities to avoid in late winter and what you can do instead. Here are some more tips for early spring gardening.

Gardening Activities To Avoid In Late Winter

Leave Your Plants Covered Up

It is not a time to be out in the yard even thinking of uncovering any perennials or raking!  Let things sleep for another 6 weeks.  You don’t want to uncover any mulch even if they are sprouting up. Don’t dig around the roots at all. Let them sleep. They need the rest time.

Perennials that leaf out too early will be stunted by any late frosts and the flower buds are hurt and do not bloom so pretty or as prolific.  We will more than likely have snow a few times again between now and mid April too.

Save Raking For Later

Raking the lawn too early disturbs the roots of the grass and can pull them right out of the ground, ruining your nice lawn.  Not good for sod at all.  Also, stay off the grass when the frost is coming out so as not to disturb the roots either. And, don’t walk through your perennial beds! If the ground is thawing, it will compact the soil by stepping on the beds.  This is not good for the roots of the plants.

What Can You Do In Your Yard or Garden Right Now?

Trim Select Shrubs And Trees

dormant shrubs late winter
One thing that can be done now is trimming shrubs and trees.  Only do the shrubs that are summer or fall blooming however, or you will lose flowers on them. Wait to prune spring flowering shrubs like Bridal Wreath or Lilacs until right after they flower.

Don’t let overgrown, misshapen, poor flowering and unhealthy shrubs ruin the beauty of your landscape. A little careful pruning can turn lackluster shrubs into beautiful plants later in the season.

Removing older stems with renewal pruning (cutting off the oldest stems at ground level) allows you to control the plant size and shape as well as encourage new controlled growth. Use the stems you cut off as vertical interest in your annual container gardens for things like ivy or petunias to climb on.


On the shrub in the picture above, you can see the larger stems that should be trimmed out each year.  This is a Ninebark and can get unruly unless it is trimmed each year.  I have Hostas underneath the shrub so I like to keep the side branches trimmed off too.  About 4 years ago, I trimmed this Ninebark to the ground, to about 4″ tall.

late winter shrubs

This link below to McKay Nursery has great guidelines for trimming Hydrangeas.  There is a listing of named varieties and the different ways you should trim each one.  (This is why it is a good idea to label your plants both outside and inside so you know what you are growing!).

The Tardiva Hydrangea in the picture above will get 1/4 to 1/3 of the largest stems removed later this spring and the old flower heads trimmed off, as well as any unruly branches.

Make Plans For Dividing Perennials

This time is also good for planning (and writing down) what needs dividing in the perennial bed. If the lawn is dry you can walk around the beds and with a notebook, write down areas that need help this spring. You can write down what you remember from last summer, on which perennials were overgrown.

Clean Your Potting Shed, Pots, And Tools

This is also a good time to go through the potting shed or garage and see what pots can be cleaned up that didn’t get done last fall as well as taking stock of tools that might need replacing. Some garden centers aren’t open for the season yet, so check on line to find things you would want to look for when the garden center opens.

If you really feel the need to work in soil, re-pot and or divide some overgrown houseplants! This always makes me feel good to do in February and March.

Visit A Green House

Or, make a trip to a green house and has houseplants and purchase some new varieties that you have been wanting to try. I like to buy smaller sizes (less $$) but love to see them grow into big beautiful specimens over the next couple of years.  I buy some also to put into pots outside in the summer.  It gives them a head start and I can enjoy them for 2-3 months in the house too!  I buy ivies and taller spike like plants that I use in pots in the summer to get a head start on growing.

Last of all, be Patient! Summer will come soon enough and the time between now and then will go fast!

Happy Gardening from Judi at Favorite Perennials.









Astounding Long Living Hostas

by Judi on August 3, 2016

Find top picks for long living Hostas with a minimum of upkeep and fuss. Learn which varieties perform well year after year.

Growing Hostas have been my passion for a long, long time now.  Every spring as they come out of the ground it is so entertaining to watch them unfurl their leaves, (hopefully without any damage from frost) and grow into beautiful specimens for the summer. I have become very patient with some varieties as a few of them take 5-6 years to become that glorious specimen.

Hostas Get Better With Age

Hostas almost always get bigger and better with age.  They don’t ever have to be divided unless you want to and then just by taking a small chunk out of one side in the spring, you will still have a beautiful plant that summer.  (I am talking about large mature plants here).

Last year and this year,  I really limited myself to any new purchases other than a few really striking varieties and tried concentrating on the tried and true varieties for my settings. It is always hard to do, but I have succeeded especially good this year, only purchasing 2 from our Garden Club Plant Sale in early May.

Many of mine are now at the mature stage and are taking up way more room than I had allowed when I planted that small quart or gallon container 5 to 7 years ago.

Culling Less Successful Hostas

I have also started to cull out some of the plants that don’t do so well for me, for whatever reason, to make more room for the tried and true varieties.

Some Hostas get eaten up every year by some sort of insect, not necessarily only the hated slugs, and always looking ratty, and some start shutting down in the heat of August and those are among the ones that I cull out.

Others I cull out are ones that change their colors early in the season.  I only want them to get better as the summer goes along, not fading to another color.  If it starts out bright gold, please stay that same color.  (This is a personal thing for me. Others love the Hostas that change over the summer.)

Keeper Hostas



Emerald Ruff Cut (to the left) has taken many years to get to this point in my garden.  The first two plants I purchased both died over winter because of the location.  The one didn’t have enough time to get established in the fall and the second one, it was just a bad winter, and I had put it in the same spot of course, so again, the location.  Just too harsh for it.  This one in the picture is sheltered and after 4 years is doing fine.

I love the yellow and gold Hostas like King Tut that have the thick corrugated leaves.

The blue of Halcyon just gets better with age, and in August rewards you with beautiful large white flower stalks.  As they get older and much larger, the corrugated leaves offer quite a show in themselves too.

Gazebo Ready Hostas

Montana Aureo Marginata Hosta

Montana Aureo Marginata

Montana Aureo Marginata is glorious on the north side of our gazebo in mid summer.  You can find that pictured many other times on this website.

The elegance of Majesty is really coming into play this spring with it in it’s current place for about 6 years.  Prior to that I had it in a different location for 2 years and it didn’t do so well.

In addition, I also have a Tequila Sunrise that I have had for maybe 6-8 years and this year it has really taken off and is maturing and growing into a beautiful plant. (This one needs more shade to not burn.) Then there is Satisfaction that is enormous after about 6 years.  These are all older varieties that perform really well.

Sun Power Hosta


There is one though, Sun Power, (left) that starts out more green gold and by August is a bright stand out plant.  This one needs some shade not to burn, but still plenty of sun to get the nice gold color.  The picture at the left is Sun Power in early June.

Touch of Class Hosta


Previously I have mentioned Touch of Class in many other articles on this website as one of the best and definitely is one of the best in my yard.  It is a tetreploid form of June, which everyone has and everyone loves.

Once, I saw a June Hosta that was 2 feet tall and 5 feet wide!  It had never been divided and was planted in complete compost.  Beautiful plant to say the least!


Glamour Hosta



Glamour is a pristine version of a unique Hosta. And it holds it color through the season. It is a smaller size so a good one to put near the front of the perennial bed.

Liberty Hosta

Liberty Hosta




There are so many more beautiful Hostas such as Sagae (below) and Liberty (to the left) to name a few. These two take a little longer to get growing, but are superb once they get to maturity.


Sagae Hosta in early June

Sagae Hosta in early June


Sagae Hosta Late September

Sagae Hosta late September











Creative Ideas For Perennial Bed Borders Using Hostas

January 17, 2016

Create natural borders using small and miniature Hosta varieties. Find ideas and recommendations for designing your Zone 4 shade garden. This is a follow-up to a post I wrote about earlier using Hostas as a border. I have been asked many times about some of my perennial beds that have one variety of Hosta planted […]

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Dairy Breakfast Poster

May 23, 2015
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2015 La Crosse County Dairy Breakfast

April 5, 2015

 2015 La Crosse County Dairy Breakfast Date, Time, and Location Information Hosted by Ruedy Farms | Don, Judi, & Ed Ruedy    La Crosse County Dairy Breakfast Century Farm 1915-2015 Date: Saturday, June 20th, 2015 (breakfast served from 6:00 to 11:00 am) Hosted By: Ruedy Farms |  Don, Judi & Ed Ruedy Address W104 Culpitt Road, Bangor, WI  54614  […]

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Tips For Early Spring Gardening

March 14, 2015

We have had some beautiful balmy weather in Western Wisconsin this first part of March and today hit 70 degrees!  The winter came in early this year and was especially cold so nice to step outside without a coat and gloves! Everyone I talk to is getting anxious to be outside and working in their gardens again. […]

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Martagon Lilies for Shade Gardens

June 15, 2014

It is way past the time for another posting on this website! As I worked  at replacing lost plants from the winter in the perennial beds this spring, I wondered what should I write about for the next newsletter.  I thought everyone was probably tired of hearing about the cold wet spring we had and all the plants […]

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Container Gardening for Hostas

March 5, 2014

Find tips and ideas for growing Hostas in containers and keeping them over winter. I have included information on soil preparation and container selection as well. About a week ago I had to get the car serviced and knew it would be at least an hour waiting if not more, so I always take some reading material along and some paper to […]

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More Talk On Hardy Lily Bulbs

January 28, 2014

Find planting ideas for hardy lily bulbs including Sunny After Eight, Sumatra, Strawberries and Cream, and more. Great for Zone 4 northern gardening. You can find other planting ideas for perennials here. Last week I was searching through all the stored pictures on my computer and found the Garden Flower Folder to be of great […]

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The Wonderful Hardy Lilies

November 16, 2013

Hardy Lily Bulbs are a wonderful addition to any garden to say the least! They live for years and multiply until you have enough to divide for other beds, or maybe to give to a friend or neighbor. These perennials can be a great source of color in the garden and fragrance as a cut […]

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