{ Posts Tagged ‘pruning’ }

What a difference a long weekend can make

Despite the rather chilly temperatures this past long weekend, I still managed to get out in the garden and cross a few tasks off my list. It's not very often I have two straight days in a row to get things done. So with a new pink pair of gardening gloves that I got for my birthday, I set out with my basket of tools to weed, plant, prune and dig.

This is what left me with a sense of accomplishment:

  1. We planted two five to six-foot cedars: I bought these about a month ago and have been waiting for a chance to dig them in. Fingers crossed that they make it. They still look lovely and green.
  2. I dug out a ton of dandelions and other annoying weeds that magically appeared after all that rain we got these last couple of weeks. Talk about eco-friendly pest control, it was also a workout!
  3. Give my boyfriend a pair of loppers or pruning shears and I come back to a twig with a root, so I kindly pointed out what I wanted pruned and how. Lorraine Flanigan`s article on how to prune spring-flowering shrubs, was helpful for my forsythias.
  4. I spread around some compost in a couple of my beds to prepare them for the lovely plants I have in store for them.
  5. I'm not sure if it was the fungus gnats or the fact that they'd outgrown the little peat pellets, but all of a sudden, my seedlings were looking sad and limp–and they didn't need water. So I transplanted my seedlings into bigger pots until I'll be able to plant them right into the garden.
  6. I have always felt bad about tossing away those wooden mandarin orange containers, so this winter I kept them because I knew they'd come in handy for something. And in one of them I planted salad greens. Yesterday the squirrels made a couple of holes in it, but if things start to grow, I’ll take a picture.
  7. I had some herb plants I was trying to protect from frost, but I just couldn't wait any longer, so I planted them.
  8. I dug out a ton of lily of the valley and their network of roots–they are so pretty and smell so nice, but they're a pain in the butt every spring when they're in the middle of my garden and I'm wanting to plant things. So I had to be ruthless.

And that sums up my list. A few tasks down, a few hundred to go!

Of miracles and wonder

img_2821The mow, blow and go guys hit our neighbourhood weeks ago now, scraping gardens clean and leaving vulnerable plants naked. Tall brown bags lined the curbs like sentries, filled with leaves, prunings and garden debris. As usual, my garden was the scruffy holdout, because I like to wait until the weather is quite settled before I expose my plants to the unpredictable elements. If you rake with a light hand and judicious eye, little harm is done by waiting, in fact, quite the contrary. So my woodland garden out front remained defiantly covered with leaves until last weekend, when I got out there because around the corner, the neighbourhood’s best bluebell lawn was in full flower (below left). I use that as my fail-safe signal that spring–real spring–has finally arrived.

img_2829Out back, I thinned out the old, silver-edged, redtwig dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’) and the ‘Diabolo’ ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’). It’s much easier to shape these shrubs and remove the wildwood and suckers before they’re covered in leaves. I lightly headed back a few other shrubs, removed old plant stalks and seedheads and spread leaf mould, compost and manure on the beds to add nourishment and texture to my sandy soil. I stashed the leaves I’d raked off the beds in old garbage cans out back, except for some of the ones out front that had been exposed to any salt or chemicals from the sidewalk or road. Some of these leaves will be layered in my composters, while others will become next year’s leaf mould. I have some bags of bark mulch at the ready, but I’ll wait for a bit to allow emerging plants to get more of a toehold and any seedlings and “found” plants to show themselves so I don’t accidentally smother them. Before the mulch is spread, I’ll give the garden a really good weeding and watering, too.

img_2841I also planted up a few spring pots with ranunculus (left), pansies and ivy. The sweetly scented pansies remind me of my grandmother, who planted some every year, too. The Lithuanian name for them is “broliukai,” which means little brothers, and that’s what they look like with their dear little faces.

We gardeners know what the phrase “full of the joys of spring” really means. Every morning yields a new treasure to admire–in my garden, it might be a double bloodroot flower; a bergenia; a checkerboard frittilaria; a species tulip; the signs of life in a dormant clump of ferns. When did that tree peony leaf out? How did the daffodils shoot up and bloom so quickly? And thank goodness the merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora, shown emerging below right) made it through another winter. img_2845

One of the head-turners in the front garden is the gorgeous, intensely blue hepatica (Hepatica nobilis, top), which blooms for weeks and weeks. In the back garden, two fragrant Viburnum carlesii standards are powering up to do their stuff.

I love going for walks to see what’s happening in other gardens as well. The star magnolias and some serviceberries are in full bloom, while the saucer magnolias are just coming into their own. Big-bellied robins strut around, looking very pleased with themselves.

img_2836In his song “The Boy in the Bubble,” the great Paul Simon wrote, “…these are the days of miracle and wonder.” This song is not about spring–in fact, far from it–but to me, these words sum up what happens right around here, right about now.

Next: more reports on spring

My pet monster: My rosebush

I have a little secret. Well it's not really a secret if you step into my backyard because you'll see that my rosebush is like The Hulk. And because of its thick canes and dagger-sharp thorns, it's obvious that I'm rather petrified of it.

Ok, I admit it. I've been a little neglectful. After getting a couple thorns through my garden gloves the first year I was in my house, I have steered clear and focused on other parts of my gardens.

So my question for Anne Marie was whether I can cut back my rosebush this fall without suffering personal injury and without harming the plant.

Here's what she had to say:

The best time is to prune your monster rose is in the spring. This way there's less opportunity for winter damage. When you do prune it, take out the oldest canes, right down to the soil level. This is assuming that there's a good crop of canes to choose from. Only remove one third of the oldest ones this time. Then one third the year after and set up a regular pruning schedule. Removing the older canes will encourage nice healthy, vigorous new canes to form from the base.

With canes that thick, a heavy duty pair of loppers are needed for the four- to five-centimetre diameter canes and you may need a small pruning saw, too. When you get ready to tackle the rose, suit up with a ton of protective clothing. An old jacket, heavy duty leather gloves (preferably ones that go up to your elbow), safety glasses and long pants.

It's very difficult to use pruners with thick leather gloves so try them out first to see if they will work for you. Once you prune a cane from the middle of the plant, use the loppers to grab it and drag it to you for disposal. If you have a choice, prune out the canes from the centre of the rose to allow more light and air circulation to get to the middle.

So alas, I have to let my giant lie dormant for the winter, but I will be sure to tame the beast come spring.

Photo: The blooms pictured above from this past summer on my Hulk junior. It lives right next door.

My sand cherry's a sucker

Ok, I lied. My sand cherry has suckers. Let me explain. I have a sand cherry tree in my front garden. It's very lovely–especially in the springtime, but lately, there is new growth coming up in the form of tiny little trees all around the base. These little guys are very hard to pull out–probably because they're attached to the roots of the existing tree. I turned to Anne Marie to find out how to get rid of my baby trees without harming their mama.

The new growths from the base of your sand cherry are suckers and they are still attached to the roots of the tree. Most sand cherries are shallow rooted and are prone to producing suckers since they naturally have a tendency to grow in dense thickets. They will also sucker, especially if the roots have been damaged from digging around the shrub or tree.

If you want your sand cherry to be a single trunk and not have the suckers, they can be dug up, severed from the mother plant if they have plenty of roots and given away to friends. Or, dig down to where they are attached to the root, grab hold of the sucker, twist and pull. Cutting them off at the soil level or below will not stop them from returning. Like rose suckers, the growing bud must be removed totally by twisting and pulling it out.

While I was on the subject of sand cherries, I thought I'd ask Anne Marie a question a reader had.

“Hello, I planted a sand cherry tree this spring and it's not looking good and has lots of chew holes. What should I do?”

According to Anne Marie, the sand cherry is going through a little transplanting stress and is feeling the effects of either a fungus disease called shot hole or an insect attack by any number of pests; from caterpillars like sawflies to Japanese beetles. Take a look at the leaves and if you don't see any pests on them, this is a good sign and they may have moved on. Also you don't see numerous brown spots on the leaves (the beginning of shot hole disease), Anne Marie recommends focusing on keeping the plant healthy and not worry about what caused the chew holes.

Don't fertilize the tree until it gets a little more settled, but do make sure it has enough water and that drainage is good. Also it should be planted at the same depth as it was growing in the pot, with just a small increase (2.5 cm) for mulch over the root area.