Welcome back! Garden Time returns for our 15th season and we couldn’t be happier. We are diving head first into a full show of new stories. Some of the topics may seem the same, but the information is brand new! We find that this week we seem to be on the cusp of spring and the change of seasons. It is time to get excited for the coming season of growing beautiful plants. Hang on! The fun is just starting!
This week we featured...
Spring Rose Pruning
Rose pruning time is here. 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 Rachel Burlington 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 we recommend not doing this time of year is fertilizing. You’ll want to wait until mid- April to do that. Don’t forget to mark your calendar for June and the Rose Festival. Then you can stop by the garden and see how those deep cuts of the early spring have resulted in the big blooms of early summer!
Late Winter Bloomers
For a lot of people the late winter is a barren time of year, but doesn’t need to be. The late winter/early spring has a large group of plants that use this time of year to shine. To see just a few of these beauties, we stopped by Portland Nursery on Stark (503-231-5050) and chatted with Sara. She had pulled 8 different plants of all sorts of shapes and sizes to show us the diversity we can find in our local garden center. We started with the delicate blooms of the witchhazel. The one we had to share was the variety ‘Sandra’. In addition to the delicate blooms, this large shrub/small tree has a great fragrance and some incredible fall color too. Magnolias are also starting their annual show and the Star Magnolia is at center stage. This is another small shrub/tree for your garden. The blooms are like small starbursts that cover the plant. Those blooms start as fuzzy little bud and as they get older the trunk also shows a lot of character too. One of our favorites is the Ribes or Flowering Currant. This one was called ‘White Icicle’ because of the pendulous clusters of white blooms. This one is a hummingbird magnet and can get pretty tall. You can also find them in a beautiful dark pink color too. Next was our old favorite, the hellebore. This one was one of the many newer varieties that you can find. The old single bloom types now come in doubles and in a multitude of colors too! Our next selection was one that you probably have seen but didn’t know the name, the Forsythia. These are real showoffs in the late winter garden. This one, ‘Spring Glory’, is typical of most of the varieties with a wave of bright yellow blooms covering almost the entire plant. It is striking in the garden, plus you can cut the branches and bring the blooms indoors to enjoy. The next pant was a shorter one with a softer yellow bloom. The Corylopsis or Winterhazel has clusters of bell shaped blooms that the early pollinators really go for. ‘Pauciflora’ is one of the most common variety and will work in any NW garden. We were nearing the end of our selections and we couldn’t forget the wide range of winter/spring color that the Camellias offer. The one we had was a bright red, but there are many different types and colors to choose from. If you choose different varieties you can have blooms in your garden for up to 6 months or more. Finally, we finished up with the small but hardy standby, the heather. This time of year they can fill in those bare spots in the garden and provide different colors and textures for you to look at while the rest of your garden catches up.
As I said, this is just a small sampling of the different types of late winter plants that really charge up your garden at a time when everything else is sleeping, or just waking up. Check out these and much more at your local independent garden retailer, or either location of Portland Nursery.
Blueberries are a very popular fruit. If you have them in your garden you might notice that they will produce less and less over time. This is because of a lack of pruning. The plant will continue to produce vegetative growth (leaves and branches) as it grows and all the plant energy will go into this ‘green’ growth. By pruning your plant you will focus the plant on fruit production instead. To learn what you should do we stopped by the Smith Berry Barn and talked with Rich, one of the owners, about the steps you need to follow to do it right. First you will need to look at your plant. Take a survey of what you want to do and visualize the end result. How tall do you want the plant and how wide? Then go in and cut out the diseased and broken canes. Next look for crossing branches and remove those. You will need to limit the heavy pruning to 2 or 3 mature canes, they are generally an older brown color. Never remove more than a third of the plant when cutting. Try to keep the base of the plant narrow and open up the center of the plant to promote airflow. This type of pruning will promote new cane growth and more fruit in the future. You can tell these newer canes by their brighter green color.
If you are looking for a little more ‘hands-on’ tutoring you can come to a blueberry pruning class at Smith Berry Barn next weekend, the 14th at their farm in Scholls. Rich will be giving hands on demonstrations starting with fruit trees at 10am and berries at noon. You can check out their website for more details. The class is free and if you attend you can save up to 20% on fruit trees and berry plants. You can also check out their website for more information and a listing of other classes and events.
Spring is the time for dividing your perennials and some of the nicest perennials in the garden come from Sebright Gardens (503-463-9615). This week we found Thomas, one of the owners, working hard in the garden and asked about a very overlooked plant in the spring garden, epimediums. These dry shade plants are great for the early spring garden. A lot of them have striking foliage and almost all of them have incredibly unique blooms. These blooms are delicate but overwhelming! Thomas pointed out that a lot of people simply don’t know how to divide them. That means that they can get pretty big and take over your perennial garden. He gave us some tips for how to divide them correctly. Epimediums are a woody rooted plant and that can make them tough to divide. Look for the small heads of the new growth just starting to pop out when you divide. Once the leaves start to show you will need to wait to divide these plants. The new growth is pretty brittle so you have to wait until it hardens off before trying it later in the season. Start your divisions by cutting from under the plant and then teasing the roots apart. Separate the smaller crowns apart and then replant them in a good soil that is well-drained. If you were really lazy and had a large clump you could just drive a shovel through the clump and cut off large chunks!
Sebright right now carries over 150 varieties of epimediums for sale and Thomas showed us a few that they carry including ‘Making waves’ with wonderful pink blooms and wavy leaves that look great, with or without flowers. So you can see these plants are great in the early spring garden and they can continue to delight throughout the rest of the season as well. Next spring you should try an epimedium in your garden. You can also visit Thomas at the Sebright Gardens booth at GardenPalooza at Fir Point Farms on April 4th.
If you have fruit trees, now is the time to dormant spray before they start to flower. Dormant spraying will help control insects and diseases during the coming growing season. Ryan and Judy showed you the type of spray you can use. Judy used an All Seasons Horticulture Spray from Bonide. This is a spray that is all natural and will smother insect eggs, preventing problems before they start. You can spray now before the flower buds open. Once the flowers are open you can let the pollinators go to work and get your tree pollinated. Once the fruit has formed you can spray again to prevent any other problems. Another product is the Citrus, Fruit and Nut Orchard Spray. This is also all natural and can be sprayed up to the time of harvest. It will also help control fungus and mites too. These products are available at your local independent garden center. Your local garden center is also where you can get all your pest questions answered.
Spring Iris Tips
Spring is a little early for iris, but not if you are a fan of Schreiner’s Iris Gardens (1-800-525-2367). They are starting to sell their iris now! This year they are offering a small iris in a pot. It is ready to go in the ground and it will bloom this spring, just in case you forgot to plant last fall. Ben Schreiner showed us how easy it can be done.
It is also tulip time, one of the first flowers of spring, but if you are an iris lover now is the time to think about those too! Our friends at Schreiner’s shared a tip that helps their iris plants thrive and look beautiful too. Right now is the time to fertilize your iris. They package and use a low nitrogen fertilizer in the garden, that you can get through their website, or you can use a low nitrogen product from your garden center. They also apply a little slug bait now too. As those tender leaves start to emerge, they are a tasty treat for the slugs. Slug bait now and you will have healthier plants with no chew marks on the leaves! For a selection of iris and more iris information, you can check out their website. You will also find their selections of Daylilies and Oriental Lilies as well!
TOW – Trimming Hellebore Leaves
Our tip of the week involves hellebores and cutting the foliage. You can do this in spring once the hellebores starts to bloom. By cutting the old leaves off you can enjoy the flowers without all that beat up and tattered foliage. Don’t worry, in late spring the new leaves will grow in and the plant will continue to grow and be healthy.