Garden Makeover


Time for a Garden Makeover?

There are several different reasons why you might consider a complete re-engineering of a perennial garden.


  • it’s been neglected for too long
  • it’s been overtaken by invasive, hard to get rid of weeds
  • your perennials have overgrown their space
  • or maybe you’ve just “gotten over” (as my daughter would say) your original design idea

We move our furniture around and redecorate in our homes – why not carry this same idea into our gardens?

Even if you have carefully tended your garden, over the years the landscape matures and everything changes; sun gardens become shadier, plants mature and overflow their “space” and your garden just doesn’t “fit” anymore.

Overgrown garden

What to do?

There are different degrees of renovation you can take on depending on the state of your bed. If things are really out of hand, you can tear everything out and start from scratch. Sometimes this is really the best/only hope for a badly neglected garden. If your garden is just a little over-crowded and you aren’t up for the challenge of a complete garden overhaul, a partial makeover may be the answer.

A Complete Change

If you decide to completely redo your perennial bed, be prepared to expend a “little bit” of patience and a lot of elbow grease.

  • Evaluate the existing plants and decide on the ones you want to keep.
  • Water the bed well, and then carefully dig these plants out.
  1. Try to remove any weeds that are clinging to the root ball.
  2. Certain perennials, such as hosta, iris, peonies, and daylilies can be shaken and washed to easily remove weeds.
  3. Be sure to check for the optimal transplanting times of the plants you are digging out.
  • Once you have removed the plants you want to save, you can spray a product containing glyphosate (such as Roundup or Bonide KleenUp) to kill the remaining plants and weeds. Always apply according to the label directions.
  1. Glyphosate can be sprayed around and under trees without harming them. Follow the label!
  2. The timing on replanting after spraying varies, so be sure to read the label to find out when it's safe to replant your bed.
  • If you prefer to avoid chemicals, mow or weed-eat the garden as low to the ground as you can, cover the area with several layers of newspaper, and then with a 6-8" layer of clean topsoil.
  • Enrich the soil with the Viette's recommended soil amendments and till these into the bed.
  • Do some research and develop a plan for your new bed. The right plant in the right place will save you time and money.

Partial Renovation: Don’t want or need to do a complete makeover?

There are many things you can do to spruce up and rejuvenate your perennial beds.

  • Prune overgrown shrubs and thin your understory trees. This will make a world of difference in the overall look of the garden. This not only lets in more sunlight but it will increase air circulation which can reduce disease problems.
  • Late winter before growth begins is the best time to do any severe pruning of many shrubs such as hollies, boxwood, lilacs, and yew.
  • After pruning, fertilize your trees and shrubs with Plant-tone or Holly-tone, rock phosphate, and green sand according to the Viette's recommendations.
  • Check our website for tips on pruning different trees and shrubs and don't forget to watch Mark's helpful pruning videos!

Is your bed an overcrowded jumble of plants?

  • Take stock of what’s there.
  • Remove “non-performers” and disease-prone plants to create more room for the plants that are really doing well.
  • Dig and divide perennials that have overgrown their “space”. Plant a few divisions back if you like and move the rest to another garden, create a new garden for them, or give them away to a fellow gardener who may have just the place for them.

Now clean your beds!

  • Get in there and weed, weed, weed!
  1. Be kind to your back - use Andre’s favorite weeding tool, the Swiss-made swing-head hoe, to cut down weeds without disturbing the mulch.
  • Put down a pre-emergent herbicide to thwart the germination of weed seeds (always read and follow the label directions).
  • Add more mulch if necessary. Mulch gives a finished look to your bed while it conserves water, cuts down on weeds, and keeps the soil at a more constant temperature – good stuff!

Whether you completely re-engineer your garden or just do a partial makeover, you will be rewarded in the end with a beautiful new look that is fresh and clean!