Guest Post by Wendy Kiang-Spray

Usually, when I look out my kitchen window this time of year, I look forward to the delicate, pale purple-topped baptisia that will delight me for a few short weeks, or peony stems poking through whose stunning flowers I’ll stop daily to admire upon walking to my door, and I know I will wonder at those awesome, gigantic, alien-looking shubertii  alliums coming up.

My flower garden is about 10 years old, but in the past few years, though the anticipation of seeing old perennials returning is still exciting, new thoughts have crept into my head. I wonder if the coreopsis is finally going to be the color it was supposed to be (no, for years it has been redder than the catalog showed!), or if those blueberry shrubs are going to produce blueberries (no, I stink at growing blueberries), or if I’ll find a stake tall enough to support the martagon lily in time (no, and why is that darned thing 10 feet tall anyway!), or whether I’ll ever get to see ‘Bela Lugosi’ daylily (no, the deer one-ups me every year). Also, the sinocalycanthus is too big, the Russian sage is too floppy, the lamb’s ear is too much, and the liriope is too worthless.

I remember reading an article about pruning called “The Kindest Cut.” I connected with the message, which started by acknowledging that it’s hard to cut into or cut back a plant, but it’s necessary for the health of the plant. Well, I’m applying that concept to my new project. While I’ve been hesitant to remove any of my precious plants, which, even if I hate them, are still maintaining a life in my garden, it’s JUST GOT TO GO. My new plan is called “No Mercy.” For this project, I will remove, give away or compost all the plants that are just not doing it for me anymore. I shared this plan with my always cooperative husband and he said, “It’s time.” Yes it’s time. It’s been a decade. In that time, I’ve learned what works, what doesn’t, what has winter interest, what birds like, what butterflies like, and what I like. My tastes have changed, not only with color, but with form, design, and spacing. My life has changed in 10 years and what I’m able to put into my perennial garden has changed.

This is why I’m ready for “No Mercy.” My plan is to take out about 70% of the garden and start near tabula rasa. I’m so invigorated by this change, and like 10 years ago, I’m full of creative energy, hope, and can’t wait to see how this year will go. It’s time!

Wendy Kiang-Spray is a freelance writer, speaker, and author of The Chinese Kitchen Garden. She gardens in Rockville, MD and blogs at and GreenishThumb.