Sunday, March 21, 2010

More Pruning

What a difference a week makes! Last week I was out pruning and doing some cleanup and this weekend my poor little crocuses are shivering. It was not so cold out to really hurt anything and I think the crocus will be just fine. The daffodils didn’t seem too bothered either. Freezing temperatures can damage the flowers, but if the bulbs haven’t bloomed the cold will just slow down their growth until warmer weather returns.

So, back to the pruning: If you know what you have, the next thing is to determine what you are trying to achieve with the pruning. Some plants just need to be shaped, or have broken or damaged limbs removed. Some shrubs need a “rejuvenation” pruning.

My sand cherries have been rather weak and spindly, with not a lot of leaves on them. I have pruned some off the top last year just to get it below the window, but all that did was force more growth on the top and the lower branches were practically leafless. So last weekend I took it down to about a foot above the ground. I was ruthless. This should result in some vigorous growth from the ground up. Spireas can generally stand a pretty thorough thwacking as well. Some plants you just can’t kill.

I needed to be a bit more judicious with the crabapple. My goal here is to keep it shaped nicely and not let it get too big so that a major pruning is ever necessary. I cut back the sucker growth (crabs really want to be shrub and will send up little stems from their roots) and the water sprouts. These are the little branches coming at a right angle from the main branches. Then I looked for branches crossing each other and removed them. I also cut back branches that were brushing up against the siding of the house and cut back the branches that were getting too tall.

Neighbor Dave has a few issues also. He has a shrub hedge of some type of spirea, Bridalveil I think, that has been beaten down by the snow. I tell him all the time that after it snows he needs to take a broom or rake and gently, from underneath the branches, shake the snow off. The snow is so heavy it has bent the branches down to the ground. This can be self correcting but sometimes not. Also, heavy snow can break branches, especially on evergreens, when the heavy snow sticks to the needles and adds additional weight. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A New Year

Last weekend I was finally able to get out in my garden and take stock of the situation. There was still snow on the ground but I could definitely see signs of spring. Some daffodils are beginning to poke through the soil and some of the creeping sedum ground cover is beginning to green up, or in this case “red” up since it is the Dragon’s Blood variety. I am looking forward to having the scilla I planted two years ago come up and I hope it has spread a bit more in the lawn this year.  I just love the way those houses on Woodstock street look in the spring when the scilla is blooming.  I’ve also noticed something coming up along the fence, I have forgotten what is there so I hope it’s not a weed.

Now is a good time to look around the garden and begin planning for the coming season. You can really see the framework of the garden and evaluate it with a more critical eye. I already know I want to plant more bulbs out in the back garden, in front of my shrub bed. And I want to find a place for a couple of Fothergilla, a shrub with great autumn interest. I read about them in the trade magazines this winter and I need to do a little more research on how shade tolerant they are.

Today I spent some time out in front looking at how my little casa looks from the street. My street is used as a “rat run,” as they would say in England, so a lot of people see my house. You really need to be mindful of this area of your garden and what is planted there. The plants closest to the house are called “foundation plants,” mostly because they are used to hide the cement foundation and any utility boxes that may be in the front of the house and to help soften the edges of the house and make a smoother transition to the rest of the garden. I like to think of these types of plants as forming the “foundation” or basis of the entire landscape plan. The down side to plants grown so close to the house is they tend to eventually outgrow their space. You need to really keep up on the pruning and shaping and be ready to admit when the plant has outlived its usefulness.

At my house there are two sand cherries on front of the two windows and a crabapple off to the side. The sand cherries have gotten five feet tall or so and cover the window a bit. The crabapple is almost to the roof line, so a little pruning work is in order and now a great time to do it. Before you go overboard on the pruning there are a few things to keep in mind: what types of shrubs do you have and what are you trying to achieve. There are basically two types of shrubs: those that bloom on old wood and those that bloom on new. Lilacs are an example of a shrub that blooms on old wood. Spirea would be shrub that blooms on new wood. Shrubs that bloom on new wood tend to bloom later in the season. If you were to prune a lilac now you would be not get any blooms this year. So if you don’t know what you have don’t prune it now. Wait until it has bloomed and take in some leaves to KC, Kelly, Ed or Elaine and get them to identify it for you and they can give you care and pruning instructions.

In fact, next week (March 20) KC will be giving a seminar on how to prune. Several other Countryside staffers will also be giving seminars or demonstrations that day so be sure to stop on by. And don’t forget Garden Fest this year at MCC.  Kim from the greenhouse staff will be giving a talk on shrubs in the garden and Ann Larson from the flowershop will be giving a talk on house plants.

Next week I will show you how my pruning chores went.