Has this been the craziest non-winter or what? Yes, it’s trying to snow this morning, and they are predicting some more snow on Monday, but I have trouble believing that anything will come of it. More troubling are the below freezing temperatures predicted over the next few days. Bulbs have already started to bloom, and I’m afraid those will be ruined by the severe cold. Are the buds of your Hydrangea macrophylla nice and plump and starting to push out new growth? If so, those buds are likely to be ruined as well. In years past, I’ve recommended covering these Hydrangeas with a sheet to try to protect the buds. DON’T BOTHER. We experimented with some covered and some uncovered, and there was no difference in the results. The other Hydrangeas should make it through unscathed.
I was surprised to see my Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’ in full bloom. Many Forsythia are in bloom, and the Hellebores look great. This unseasonably warm weather is pushing the new growth, and the weeds are no exception. My Chickweed and Ranunculus are going gangbusters. Don’t know if I’ll be able to stay on top of it this year.
WARNING…The warm weather also encourages us to spend time in our gardens. If you are sensitive to Poison Ivy, treat each outing as though the vines and roots you encounter are actually Poison Ivy in its dormant state. Wear long sleeves, wash with Dawn, and immediately put garden clothing in the wash. Use clean dirt to ‘wash’ gloves and boots.
The DEER will be voracious. Spray everything on the first sunny day we have. Be on the lookout for browsing in case you will need to take more drastic measures. Check your deer netting for holes. In one case, the deer made a slit near the bottom, and came in under the fence.
MARCH IS ALWAYS A BUSY TIME OF YEAR in the garden. In addition to clearing out all of the debris from the winter, it is also time to cut back many plants.
CUT BACK TO 3”- 6” in height any ornamental grasses or perennials that became dormant over the winter. Usually they have turned tan, brown or black. Now is also a good time to prune the old foliage from the Helleborus hybridus, even before it turns black. This will make the blooms even more prominent. Last year, I tried cutting back a few of my Carex, and I was very disappointed by the effort. The old leaves may collapse, but they also do a great job of holding in the moisture around the base of the plant.
SOME TREES AND SHRUBS WILL BENEFIT FROM SIGNIFICANT PRUNING at this time. Annabelle Hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata, Crepe Myrtle, Caryopteris, Hypericum, Nandina, Redtwig Dogwood and Butterfly Bush are among this group. For the shrubs, cutting back to 12 – 18” in height is usually sufficient. For the trees such as Hyd. paniculata and Crepe Myrtle, removing the outer 12 – 36” can usually be tolerated. Over time, you will determine how much pruning suits your style. If you want to encourage your Smokebush to have a more full, shrub-like habit, cut this back to about 3 – 6” in height. This will promote lots of new branches from the base, but may take 2 years before it reaches a 3’ height. You can hard prune Nandina domestica to almost any height, and by the end of April, the new foliage will completely obscure the surgery.
DO NOT PRUNE SPRING FLOWERING trees and shrubs until after they have bloomed.
WRAPPED EVERGREENS…If you have wrapped evergreens to protect them during the winter, do WAIT until the end of March to unwrap. The really wet snows usually arrive in March, and cold winds will bring the Leaf Burn you are trying to prevent.
BOXWOOD, DWF. ALBERTA SPRUCE and ARBORVITAE rarely make it through any winter unscathed. Spreading is the most common problem. Do not waste your time trying to rejuvenate these. The best you can do is to tie them up internally, or simply replace the plant. Some branches have been bent for so long, and are so brittle that they will break when you attempt to tie them up. If this happens to you, make a clean cut near the break. If you can tolerate the plant’s new shape, then let it be. If not, then remove the offensive specimen.
Boxwood will rejuvenate if the wood receives direct sunlight, but the process is slow.
One of the best times to TRANSPLANT SPRING FLOWERING BULBS is right after flowering. With the flowers still visible, you will have a much easier time determining their new location. The only downside is that the blooms this season may not last as long due to the trauma of being moved. Bulbs that have migrated under shrubs should be among the first to be relocated.
!!!!BEWARE OF POISON IVY !!!!
This is one of the most dangerous times for Poison Ivy sufferers. The plant has yet to leaf out, and unless you are looking at one of the distinctive, hairy vines crawling up a tree, you might not know that the vine you are pulling is really Poison Ivy. My recommendation – assume all vines and root masses just below the surface are in fact Poison Ivy. Many find that the rash and welts from a root abrasion is as bad, or worse than contact with the leaves. Wear gloves, long sleeves and long pants. Wash all clothing as soon as you come inside, and wash your body as well. One client has found that Dawn works really well. Be careful of the oils on gloves, shoes and boots, since they remain active for hours. I usually ‘wash’ these items with dirt before coming inside. I also apply Ivy Block to my hands and lower arms before venturing into the garden.
IF YOU NEED HELP, it’s not too late to contact a landscape contractor to help with the spring cleanup. A thorough cleanup, new spade cut bed edges and a fresh layer of mulch greatly improve the ease of garden maintenance throughout the growing months. Be careful not to smother newly emerging bulbs and perennials. If you have a lot of perennials in your garden, postpone mulching until after the foliage has emerged.
IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION about a particular shrub or perennial in your garden, please feel free to send me an e-mail. I will respond promptly. If you don’t remember the name of the plant, send me some photos.
Stay warm, and remember, you can always call if you have any questions.