Trim grasslike perennials. Low-growing, grasslike perennials such as Acorus and Liriope are normally evergreen to semievergreen throughout the winter. You can usually wait to cut the dieback from the previous growing season after the plants produce new foliage. However, being buried under snow and ice has left most of last year's leaves looking pretty ratty. Give these perennials a good trim with a sharpened pair of pruners or shears. Be careful to avoid nipping the tips of the new leaves just emerging from the soil. Once you've cleared away the winter damage, it won't be long before the plants fill out with new growth.
Mulch trees properly. A pet peeve of mine, shared by at least one reader of this column, is mulch "volcanoes" - cones of mulch material piled up around tree trunks. I'm on a crusade to free the trees from this unhealthy practice. Here's what you can do to help. Use the 3-3-3 rule promoted by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Make the mulch layer three feet in diameter, three inches deep, and three inches away from the trunk (to prevent moisture from rotting the bark). Form the mulch into a saucer shape so that the saucer's lip holds water until it's absorbed into the soil.
Patricia Schrieber is director of education for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) ( www.phsonline.org), and co-owner of Valentine Gardens ( www.valentine-gardens.com).