Already! Underneath last year’s growth, yesterday, I found the unexpected – shoots!

Thick and waxy and with the deep enticing hue of a Malbec, the first tentative hint of my beloved peonies has already appeared.

Peonies, growing again.

This takes us to the question of ‘cutting back’. Removing dead wood and old growth from borders is a task for Autumn or Spring. Although it’s tempting to tidy the garden as soon as possible, leaving it until Spring can provide warmth and shelter for insects. It can make for harder work, if you don’t get to it quickly enough though, as you don’t want to cut through new growth as you take out the old. Deciding when to cut back is becoming more difficult with the unusually warm winters we’ve been seeing recently, which can leave some plants untouched by frost, still green when they should be brown or beginning to grow again before the winter’s through.

I want to encourage wildlife as much as possible in my little suburban garden, so I started cutting back this weekend. It feels wonderful to get back outside into the (decidedly nippy) fresh air and see the first signs of life returning to the garden. It brings a long list of things that need doing, but also the memory of past years and the first steps on the road to summer…

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