What a joy to see our gardens coming back to life. If you are lucky enough to have Edgeworthia chrysantha / Paperbush, you have been treated to a wonderfully, fragrant few weeks. Everything is growing so fast. There’s something new every day. Last year, my Daffodils had a rather poor showing, and I think this may have been due to some unusual fluctuations in temperature during late February and early March. This year, the show has been outstanding. Did any of you experience the same thing?
Now is the perfect time to try transplanting. Know that the roots of the plant generally extend to the drip edge of the plant. It would be great if you could manage a rootball to at least 50% of the drip edge of the plant, but not all of us are strong enough to handle that weight. If roots stick out beyond the limits of the rootball, that’s fine. Just be sure to dig the new hole large enough to accommodate the roots when spread out. Attempt to plant at the same depth that the plant enjoyed before you decided to move it. There are quite a few plants such as Iris that prefer to be very close to the surface. As a rule of thumb, cut back about 1/3 of the size of the plant in order to reduce its stress. Water thoroughly to eliminate any air pockets.
STARTING A NEW PLANT FROM CUTTINGS
We all know stories of folks who are able to take cuttings from a mature plant, stick them directly in the ground, and a new plant is off to a successful start. If the dormant leaf buds are at the perfect stage of development, and the weather cooperates, this method will work. To improve the probability for success, cut a branch with some healthy leaf buds visible, or just starting to break. Make a 1 inch cut vertically through the base of the branch. Plunge into water covering at least 2 leaf buds, and wait a week or two for the branch to start taking in water through the roots starting to grow out of the leaf bud locations. Some people wait until the new roots are clearly visible, and then plant in the garden to the depth of the water line.
SPRING IS A BUSY TIME IN THE GARDEN
DO… spread Holly-Tone within the drip edge of all your BROADLEAF EVERGREENS, and other acid-loving plants.
DO… spread Plant-Tone within the drip edge of all other plants, but I usually limit myself to a liberal broadcast among all of my PERENNIALS.
DO YOU HAVE HOSTAS OR OTHER LARGE LEAF PLANTS?….If you have ever noticed holes in the leaves, this is usually caused by slugs. Ortho makes a product called Slug Bait which you broadcast over the area, and is effective for several weeks before reapplication is necessary. Another good option is to create a continuous ring around the base of the plant with DIATOMACEOUS EARTH. This fine white or off-white powder is the ground fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It causes the slugs to dehydrate and die. I generally find that one application in the beginning of the season is all that is needed. After 1 or 2 rains, the white ring is no longer visible. Be sure to use gloves when handling this substance.
HELLEBORUS… DO remove foliage from last season.
HYDRANGEAS… Folks are always asking when to cut back the Hydrangeas. First, it’s important to know which ones you have. The Annabelle Hydrangea/Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’, blooms in late spring on new wood. This should be cut back to 12-18” HT now in order to encourage the really large flower heads you love. If you forget to cut them back, the plant will be fine, but the flower heads will be a bit smaller. The Oakleaf Hydrangea / Hydrangea quercifolia blooms in the spring, and pruning should wait until after flowering. The Bigleaf Hydrangea/ Hydrangea macrophylla tends to be the most popular since it blooms in the summer and appears to stay in bloom all summer long. The older varieties bloom on second year wood, and I normally prune these in August/September in order to give the plant time to set new flower buds before winter hits. There is an exception to this rule. Wait until the buds start to break in the spring, and then cut back to just before a healthy bud break. A few seasoned gardeners have enjoyed success with this method. The H. macrophylla that blooms on first and second year wood such as the ‘Endless Summer’ cultivars can be pruned now or August/September. PeeGee type Hydrangea/ Hydrangea paniculata is a late summer/early fall bloomer, and is best hard pruned in the early spring. These flower on new wood.
SPRING CLEANUP…. A thorough spring cleanup now will greatly reduce the maintenance all summer long. Freshen up the bed edge, rake, weed and apply 1-2 inches of SHREDDED BARK MULCH. Resist the urge to buy the dye-colored mulch. You want the mulch to decompose over time, and the additional chemicals can’t be good for the plants or the environment.
SPRING FLOWERING BULBS…. When the flowers start to fade, remove the flower stem close to the base (a form of DEAD HEADING). This prevents the plant from spending a lot of energy on the development of seeds. DO allow the foliage to remain for as long as you can stand it so that the plant will be able to manufacture food that will be sent down to feed the bulb for next year. Some people have hundreds or thousands of daffodils and other bulbs which makes it impractical to dead head. In this case, it’s best just to leave the entire plant alone until the foliage starts to turn yellow, and then cut it back to the ground.
POISON IVY…The foliage has yet to appear, but you can get the rash from the root system or vine stems. It’s easy to identify the large, hairy vine climbing up a tree. It’s much harder to identify the small fibrous root system lying dormant just beneath the surface. A good rule of thumb is to assume that some of the roots encountered are Poison Ivy, and act accordingly.
A Poison Ivy Primer is now resident on my website as a sub-heading under Timely Tips. Please consult this for more detailed information.