Ahhh! It’s good to be back! Welcome back to our 12th season of Garden Time. We have had a full winter with severe storms and a Garden Time tour to Hawaii. It has been a whirlwind. Now we are back and ready to bring you the best topical and timely garden information. The cold weather has everything changing. We talk about winter damage in this week’s show and it looks like it isn’t going away. It looks like our tulips are about two weeks behind where they were last year at this time. Brrrr….
Speaking of Hawaii. It was a great tour with 25 Garden Time fans. We saw tons of cool and exotic flowers and plants. We also saw some whales and even a lava flow. Check out the videos we put together.
We are just starting our planning for the next big tour in the summer of 2018. You have plenty of time to start saving up your money for a trip of a lifetime! Details will be posted as they become available on our ‘tours’ page.
Enjoy this week’s show and lets all hope for a few warmer days ahead.
This week we featured...
Rose Test Garden Pruning
Rose pruning time is here. Yes, we know that it is really cold and that snow is still falling around our area on certain days, but if you look you will see new growth starting on your old canes and so now is the time to really do some cutting so your plants will give you the best blooms in just a few months. We took a trip up to the International Rose Test Garden at Washington Park to talk to rose curator Harry Landers about how they cut the hundreds of roses in the garden. Most people will tell you that you need to cut your roses by the middle of February, usually around Presidents Day, but you can put off the cutting until mid-March if necessary. In the past we have had experts tell you to cut to an outside bud and to clean out the center of the plant to help with airflow, but at the Rose Garden they just cut back all the stems to the same height. They cut away all the small canes, anything smaller than a pencil and they leave the rest. The feeling is that if you have more canes, you have more flowers! In fact some studies have shown that this type of pruning is actually about the same for the health of your plant as the old style of cutting. It is hard to argue with the wonderful display of blooms that they get up at the garden during the spring and summer! The only thing that Harry recommends not doing this time of year is fertilizing. He recommends that you wait until mid- April to do that.
While we were there we talked about the upcoming celebration for the centennial of the Rose Garden. This year is packed full of great events and changes to the garden. Later this spring they will unveil the new ADA changes which will make it easier for the elderly and those with disabilities to enjoy the garden. The Rose Festival will happen in June with all those great activities and then in August they will have a full slate of events planned. Some the events planned are a wine and food event, and the presentation of the new centennial rose honoring the anniversary. In September there is the introduction of new interpretive signage and a basalt column with the names of all the curators of the garden since its inception.
So get out and prune those roses and get ready for a summer of celebration. We will keep you updated on all the events on our Events page of the Garden Time website.
Now is the time to start some of your seeds indoors in anticipation of the coming spring and summer. The basic rules for success include starting with a quality soil and fresh seeds. Sterile soil will help you keep your new plants happy and healthy, because they won’t be exposed to different molds and fungus. We always use Black Gold Seedling Mix for starting our plants. Not only is it free of disease and pests, it is also soft and light so your plants can set roots faster and your plants get a quicker start. Black Gold is also a natural and organic soil since these seedlings were for our veggie garden. You will also need to read the back of your seed pack so you will know how deep to plant your seeds and other care instructions. You can help the seedlings along by using a heating mat and grow lights, but if you have a warm place next to a window with lots of sun exposure, you should be alright. Remember to keep those seeds moist. If they dry out once germinated, they could die and then you would have to start all over. We recommend that you also move and thin your small plant seedlings, after the first month, to bigger pots to give them the best start before they go in the garden. We did this with a natural and organic soil since these seedlings were for our veggie garden. Once you are ready to move them outside, give them a couple of days in a garage or protected area so they can acclimate to the outdoor temps. This would be a great year to start a vegetable garden to save some money; check out your local garden center for a great selection of seeds. For somemore tips on successful seed starting, check out the Seed Starting link on the How-To page.
Winter Plant Damage
We have had a really hard winter and most of your plants have had a hard time. In fact, some of your plants may look like they didn’t make it. But before you whip out those pruning shears, you may want to take a step back and wait. This was one of the many tips that we got from Burl of Rare Plant Research (503-780-6200) in Oregon City. Burl is known for the cool and rare plants he grows and sells but, like the average gardener, he also had some plants that suffered during this past winter. We started at his olive trees. A lot of local gardeners have started to plant olives in their gardens and some hardy introductions have found a home in our yards, but this winter was tough on the hardiest of the lot. Burl noticed darkened tips on the ends of some of the leaves. This is ‘tip dieback’. The leaves that are damaged will show signs of burn and some leaves will fall off all together. Not to worry. Burl said that you should wait for at least a month or so to check for new growth. If you do have dead branches they can be pruned off later with little or no damage to the tree. Other plants, like some perennials will die all the way to the ground. Burl had a dwarf agapanthus which looked like a grey gooey mess on the ground. This plant had very deep and protected roots and, even though it looked bad, it was probably going to come back with no damage at all. The third plant we checked out was a yucca. The top of this plant had a good case of freezer burn happening. Still, the base of the plant had ‘pups’, or baby, plants coming from its base and those had no damage at all. We also saw some palms that were burned. These had been transplanted last year to this garden bed and they had probably not established themselves yet. There was a more mature palm around the corner that was just fine. Next to it were a few agaves. These were mush! They had survived the first frost of the winter, but the severe cold of the second frost killed them completely. Still Burl was going to wait to see if any part of them might make it back.
Across the garden were a few more plants. One was a poppy. This poppy was showing signs of new growth through the blackened foliage of the winter damage. A shrub right next to the poppy had some branches that were burned and others that were not. Burl told us he was going to cut back the burned branches and then, later this spring, prune it some more to help it stay small, more balanced and to maintain its shape. He was waiting, once again to see where the new growth would appear. Finally, we saw a tall yucca with spots on its leaves. Either from the cold or maybe hail, it had spots on its leaves. Though they looked bad it was not going to kill the plant and burl was going to leave it alone.
The key information that we were able to take away from our talk was to ‘wait and see’. If you have plants in your garden that are looking pretty bad, don’t rush to cut them, give them some time to respond. If a plant is dead, it won’t get any deader!
If you would like to take a look at the plants at Burl’s place you can stop by any weekend at his winery, Villa Catalana Cellars between 1-4 on Saturdays. Try a glass of their wine, stroll the grounds and ask a few garden questions.
Forcing Branches Indoors
Everyone can’t wait for the colors of spring, but if your patience is thin from the long cold winter you can ‘force’ the issue by bringing in cuttings from your favorite flowering shrubs. We recommend that you look for fully budded branches from your fruit trees, forsythia or flowering quince. You can lightly tap the end of the stem or cut the bottom of the stem to allow more water uptake and place them in a vase with water. After a few days the buds will pop and you will have flowering stem to enjoy for weeks, until those other spring colors start to show up.
Smith Fruit Pruning
Pruning is one of the hardest jobs in the garden. A lot of gardeners are afraid of cutting back their plants for fear of damaging them or possibly killing the plant. This is especially true of fruiting plants! Some believe that if you cut too much or at the wrong time you can reduce your yield! That’s true, but if you don’t prune, you can reduce your yield as well. To learn some basic pruning techniques we stopped by Smith Berry Barn (503-628-2172) in Scholls and talked with Rich. He is the reason for all the great fruit production they get on the farm. We started off in their raspberry field. Rich told us how they train the green vines that grew last year, off the ground and onto the support wires. These ‘year-old’ canes are the new fruiting canes for the coming season. The old canes that had fruit last year are cut down, cut up and mulched back into the ground. This system is true for most ‘cane’ berries. Cane berries are those that grow on a wire system and get their name from the cane shape they take when you train the branches on the support wires. You will always train the one-year growth on the wires and cutout the old fruit bearing canes from the previous year.
Then we moved on to the pear orchard. Here we saw how the pears also bloom on year old wood. Pruning here is to not only promote the highest quality fruit , but also to increase the size of that fruit. An unpruned tree will produce a lot of fruit, but it will always be small and will probably all mature at the end of the branches creating weight problems and possible damage to the tree. Rich showed us how pruning makes the fruit ripen better (with more exposure to sun) and easier to pick.
If you would like some tips for pruning your fruit you can stop by the nursery for some hands-on training on pruning techniques. Check out their website for dates and times of their annual pruning seminar. Do a little pruning now for the best production ever!