» Archive for February, 2008

Spring in the Garden

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Primroses, in their rainbow of colors, will light up your flower beds and boxes this winter and spring.
    • Potatoes can be planted any time now. Choose from red, white, yellow and blue varieties.
    • Clematis that bloomed last summer can be pruned now. Wait on spring-blooming varieties until after they bloom.
    • Roses should be pruned if you haven’t done so already. Remove all old leaves on and around the bushes and spray with a combination of lime-sulfur and dormant oil to prevent early pest and disease problems.
    • Bare root fruit trees, grape and berry vines, and ornamental trees and shrubs are still available.

Harbingers of Spring

One of the miracles of nature is the beautiful blossoms that burst out of the bare branches each spring. As the cold wet days of winter give way to an occasional bright sunny day, we know that spring is not far away.

Soon we will be greeted with a burst of yellow out of the drab winter landscape as the forsythia comes into bloom. At about the same time the flaming red bushes of flowering quince will stand out as they come to life once again. Sweet daphne is another early bloomer, perfuming the neighborhood with its lovely, citrus-like fragrance. Odd-looking witchhazel takes it’s place in the landscape and bridalwreath spiraea sprays out in a fountain of white.

Few plants make such a dazzling show as forsythia. The flowers are borne so profusely on the upright to slightly arching branches that from a distance they look like long solid spikes of yellow. Forsythia is an easy shrub to grow. It does best in sun but tolerates light shade. It can grow to eight feet tall so give it room. Thin it out after blooming by cutting older stems down to the ground to keep the bush open and free of dead wood.

Flowering quince is well-liked for its showy spring bloom and it makes a fine hedge plant. They are very sturdy and drought tolerant. The bright red flowers and red-tinged new foliage are very attractive. In addition to the common red variety, there are a number of hybrids that show-off each spring in white, pink, and soft apricot pink. The low-growing types stay in the 2-3 feet range while the tall ones grow to 6-8 feet.

Daphne is certainly a prized plant for those who like fragrance in the garden. This evergreen shrub with glossy green or green and white leaves grows about four feet tall, spreading wider. The pink or white flowers give off a heady fragrance. Give them half day sun and good drainage. They will not tolerate soggy soil.

Another early blooming shrub is witchhazel. Its odd but attractive, spidery flowers give off a sweet fragrance. Overall, the plant has a twisted appearance, with branches veering off in all directions. Forked witchhazel twigs were used, in fact, as divining rods in the practice of “water witching,” hence the shrub’s curious name. Although most witchhazel flowers are a sulfur-yellow, those of the variety ‘Diana’ are a deep, coppery red.

Spiraea prunifolia, or bridalwreath, produces the lacy flowers so often used in old-fashioned wedding bouquets. Blooming just after the yellow forsythia, its tiny, double white flowers are borne on graceful, arching branches for about three weeks in spring. In fall, its slender leaves turn a lustrous orange. This shrub thrives in full sun or light shade and should be planted in well-drained soil.

When these “harbingers of spring” unfurl their pretty blossoms, it means spring is right around the corner.

The Rose Garden

Monday, February 11th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Blueberries are a delicious fruit that can be planted now from bare-root plants. Give them a rich, acid bed prepared with lots of peat moss.
    • Plant seeds of broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and other spring vegetables now.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with copper sulfate. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Plant strawberries now for delicious strawberry shortcake this summer.
    • It’s bare root season, which means you can save money on fruit trees and roses by planting them now. A wide selection is now available.

Training Climbing Roses

Roses give more color in the garden than any other shrub. Climbing roses will brighten up a wall or fence all summer long. Here are some basic tips for growing them.

Climbers can be planted now from bare root roses or any time during the growing season from potted plants. Any structure that will be supporting the rose should be in place before planting. Angle the canes toward the support.

Young climbers, under 2 or 3 years old, should be pruned as little as possible, or not at all. In the first year, a climber will send up 2 or 3 long canes and more in succeeding years. These canes will be left long, not pruned each year. The side shoots that come off these long canes are the flower producers and they will be cut back each year to 2 or 3 buds.

If there is poor branching, the main canes can be tipped to encourage strong side branches to develop, which will become part of the main framework. When old, weak canes need to be removed, cut back to a healthy shoot or bud at the base. This will encourage the growth of a new cane to replace the one removed.

Climbing roses are generally broken down into two categories, once-blooming and repeat-blooming. Once-blooming roses bloom gloriously, but only once a year in the spring, and they bloom on wood from the previous year. Prune these roses right after flowering is finished. Repeat-blooming climbers are pruned in the winter or very early spring when the plants are dormant.

Climbing roses do not really climb. They have no means of supporting themselves, so they must be tied to a fence or a trellis. The most basic method for training them is in a fan pattern. Train the outer stems as near to the horizontal as possible, then fan out the other canes to fill in the rest of the fan shape. Tie them loosely to the support to allow for thickening of the stems.

Arches look lovely clothed with roses. For even coverage, plant a rose at the base of each side. Train them on the outside by fanning out the main stems to cover the width of the arch.

Pergolas (tunnels made out of latticework) are designed for a display of flowers higher up. Plant a rose at each post. Roses can be trained to grow up the post and then horizontally over the cross beams. So prune the side shoots to push the growth upwards, then let the rose branch naturally over the top. Or you can train roses with flexible stems to spiral up the posts.

Climbing roses produce hundreds of flowers every summer bringing pleasure and beauty to the garden.