Posted in gardens, loreeebee.ca, weather

Late Winter, Early Spring Garden Chores

photo credit

Spring is here according to our calendars and the nice weather, although I’ve heard rumours the colder stuff will return for a bit soon. There are many garden or yard chores that should be done this time of year and not put off until the last frost date.

Late winter is considered to be approximately 6 weeks before the beginning of the spring thaw, so will depend on where you live. If you are not sure, count backwards from your area’s last frost date. To me (in zone 4 or 5) this means early April is (usually) late winter or early spring. I can always hope earlier.

It is much easier to see the “bone structure” of your trees before they leaf out, so pruning shade trees like oak and maples now, while they are still dormant, is perfect timing.

Pruning is done for several reasons, even cosmetic ones.

Dead, Broken, Diseased or Crossing Branches

Dead, broken, diseased or crossing/rubbing branches can be cut back at any time during the year. This applies to trees and shrubs. Cut right to the next branch, without leaving a stub.

In the case of crossing or rubbing branches, decide which of the crossing branches lends best to the overall shape of the tree or shrub and remove the other. Keep in mind branches should grow upwards and outwards for optimal shape.

Heavy snow falls and winter winds can snap even the healthiest of branches. These broken branches should be removed for aesthetic purposes as well as for the continued health of the tree or shrub.

Although it may be difficult to determine if branches are dead or diseased yet, you can mark any suspicious ones for pruning later if this is the case. There is no wrong time to remove dead or diseased branches.

Shaping or Rejuvenating

Trees and shrubs always look nicer and tidier when shaped properly and not overgrown. Now is the time to do this, before new growth begins blurring the shape. This is especially true if you have a hard time cutting out perfectly healthy branches.

Pruning to enhance the shape will encourage and stimulate new growth in spring, which is when you want to encourage new growth. Pruning in fall however, encourages growth when future cold weather could kill it off.

Overgrown shrubs and trees also benefit from drastic rejuvenating this time of year. Again, this is because the new growth that will be stimulated has a better chance of survival heading into spring rather than winter. I have had particular success drastically cutting back overgrown dappled willows and forsythia in my business. Even though forsythia is on the list of shrubs not to trim back early, this one was so overgrown my client just wanted it reduced in size, willing to sacrifice the blooms that year.

Evergreen Trees and Shrubs to Prune now

If removing the lower branches of evergreens in your landscape is something you have been considering, now is the time to do so. This is a great way to drastically change your landscape and even improve the condition of your lawn that tries to grow under them.

Boxwoods, yews, holly and other evergreen shrubs should be trimmed now, while dormant, and before new growth appears.

Spruce and firs can be trimmed back now, but pruning pines should wait until June or July, after their first growth of what are called candles (new shoots at the tips). No earlier and no later. With pines, prune (delay growth) by cutting back the candles by half or remove dead, diseased, broken (or unwanted lower) branches to their main stem.

Shrubs or Trees You Should NOT Prune Now

There are exceptions to the “most trees and shrubs” that benefit from spring pruning. These would be the ones that flower early and prefer pruning after they flower. They include:

  • Lilac
  • forsythia
  • bridle wreath spirea
  • mophead and oakleaf hydrangea
  • spring blooming clematis
  • rhododendrons
  • magnolia
  • wisteria
  • flowering almond
  • mock orange
  • weigela
  • nine barks
  • viburnum
  • witch hazel
  • spring flowering trees like plum, cherry, pear or dogwood

The general rule of thumb is “if it blooms before June, prune after flowering. If it blooms after June, prune in spring.” That is because spring bloomers do so on older (last year’s) wood, while later flowers come from new (spring generated) wood.

Cutting Back Ornamental Grasses and Perennials

If you left your ornamental grasses to sway in the winter winds, cut them back as soon as you can get to them, even if you have to wade through some lingering snow. Ornamental grasses should be cut back to four to six inches from the ground. It is much easier to do this now than to wait until new growth starts when you will have to pick the dead and crispy brown stalks from the tender new green shoots. I did mine a few weeks ago when I was itching to do something garden related.

This applies to other perennials you left over the winter. Bird lovers often leave seed heads and pods for their fine feathered friends to snack on. Some leave perennial stalks for their beauty when covered in snow or some variation in an otherwise bleak-looking winter garden. For whatever reason you have left yours intact, now is the time to cut (snap off) the brown and crispy stalks down to ground level.

Conclusions

For more ideas on what you can tackle in your garden this early, check out last year’s post at this time of year.

I’ve got my ornamental grasses cut back already and my lawn raked and seeded, with edging next on my agenda. Garden cleanups will have to wait a few more weeks.

Posted in gardens, gardens4u.ca, loreeebee.ca, Ottawa, zone 4

Pruning dormant shrubs and trees

In Ottawa (predominantly zone 4) this is a perfect time to prune dormant shrubs and trees.  The timing is even more perfect if you are out of sorts self isolating or practicing social distancing as currently recommended by our government officials.

The trick is knowing what should and should not be pruned or cut back this early.  Here is a list of plants you can cut back NOW…

  • trees (it is much easier to see branches that need to be cut back before the leaves sprout).  Oak, ash, birch, maple, linden, walnut and fruit trees are on this list.  Beware, some of these trees will release sap when cut this time of year.
  • shrubs that do NOT flower in spring.  Leave the trimming of lilacs, forsythia, etc until right AFTER they bloom.  The shrubs you can prune now include hydrangeas, potentilla,  spirea, (with the exception of bridal wreath variety) smoke tree, butterfly bush, ninebarks, false spirea, and weigela to name a few.
  • shrubs grown for their foliage only (burning bush, willows, boxwood, euonymus, cedars, dogwoods, barberry, junipers, yews, etc)
  • roses, except for the climbing variety.  Cut back to 1/4 inch above an outward facing bud/leaf node, slanting the cut in a 45 degree angle, away from the bud/leaf node. (see picture below)
  • vines, (except those that flower early, like clematis) especially vigorous growers, can be cut back to 5 feet from the ground.  My golden hops falls into this category.  Left unpruned, it will take over my gardens, in one season.
  • ornamental grasses (cut back to 4 inches from ground)
  • stalky perennials (these should snap off easily at ground level) like coneflowers, daisies,
  • perennials that have died back to the ground, leaving mushy mounds, can be tidied up now.  Hostas are an example.  I cut my hostas back in the fall because I can’t handle the mushiness in the spring.

 

Many trees and shrubs do not need to be pruned, unless their growth is out of control or they have diseased, dead or crossing branches.  All such branches should be removed any time of the year, but while dormant it is easier to visualize the crossing or damaged branches.  Cut broken branches back to the closest healthy branch.  Cut diseased branches back to the ground.  Cut crossing branches back to where they no longer cross/touch another branch.  You may have to choose which of the crossing branches is the best one to keep.

Other garden chores to do early

There are several other garden chores you can get done early, as soon as spring fever hits…

  • edging can be done as soon as the ground is thawed enough to get the edger in. The same applies to making your garden larger or changing its shape.
  • perennials can be dug up, divided and/or moved as soon as the ground thaws too.
  • add compost or composted manure around your plants.
  • take cuttings from any shrubs you have pruned.  Dip the end into rooting hormone and put the cutting into a pot of soil.  I make hundreds of new plants this way each year.  They take a few years to reach maturity, but it does work.
  • clean out and disinfect any pots you emptied in the fall that you plan to reuse this season.
  • start annuals or perennial seeds indoors. My granddaughter loves to plant them and watch them grow.
  • clean out and replace bird houses.
  • rake your lawn, hard, but wait until it is no longer soft and soggy.
  • treat your lawn with weed & feed, preemergent crabgrass treatment, or grass seed.  You cannot treat for weeds and spread seed at the same time.  If you treat for weeds now, wait six weeks before adding seed.  Fescue is best in our area, grubs don’t like the roots.
  • powerwash verandas, decks, fences, patios, patio furniture and any other surfaces that get dirty/moldy over the winter.
  • leave the debris in the gardens though, as bees and other beneficial critters are still hiding there.

As new Growth Appears

Some plants, like most varieties of clematis vines, should only be cut back (to 4 inches) when new growth appears.  This happens sometime after the dormant stage and before the last frost date.

After the Last Frost

Some garden chores must wait until the chance of frost is gone.  I rely on the blooming of my forsythia to tell me when it’s time.  Mother Nature is amazing and the forsythias haven’t steered me wrong yet.  Here is a list of garden chores that should wait…

  • pruning climbing roses.  Cut lateral (side shoots emerging from main stem) shoots back to two buds from the main stem.  As above, angle your cuts. As the lateral shoots grow, tuck them into their trellis (or whatever they are growing against) horizontally.  They produce more blooms that way.
  • trim old growth from late bloomers like hibiscus only when new growth appears.  Every year I worry mine did not make it through the winter, then bang, they show up, just as I’m about to give up on them and pull them out.  My advice?  If you think yours has croaked, wait a week.

So, if spring fever has hit you (as it has me) get out into your yard and garden to get a start on things.  Take advantage of the social distancing restrictions to give your gardens some extra TLC!  Later in the season, when we are able to entertain friend and family again, you will be happy you spent the time now.

Just don’t forget to do your stretches first!  Your muscles will thank you.

feature (top) image credit to Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in business, gardening, lorieb.com, weather

Gardens4u season opener

Today was a beautiful sunny day here in Ottawa Ontario, a perfect day to start my GARDENS4U season.  Although 6C (43F) is still a bit cool and the ground is still frozen in some spots, I was able to get some things done.  Here is a list of garden chores that can be done as soon as the snow is gone:

  • cut back ornamental grasses to a few inches from the ground
  • cut off any broken, misshapen or unwanted branches on trees and shrubs.  Before the leaves come out on the trees the shape or framework of the branches is easier to see.
  • cut back any overgrown shrubs that flower in summer.  Even if you do not want to reduce the size of the shrub, old wood that no longer flowers can be removed now
  • cut out old wood that no longer flowers on early spring blooming shrubs back to the ground.  You can tell the old wood from the new wood by its color.  The old wood is usually duller in color and thicker in diameter
  • trim, shape or prune evergreen shrubs
  • cut back group 3 (summer or fall blooming) clematis to 1 foot from ground
  • rake leaves out of garden
  • remove winter covers from shrubs and trees
  • treat lawns with a fertilizer and pre-emergent weed preventer combination
  • rake lawn hard, but be sure to wait until it is no longer spongy to walk on

 

Happy gardening!

 

 

 

 

Posted in gardening, nature, Ottawa

The when and how of pruning perennials

 

Are you confused as to when and how to prune your perennials in your garden?  Follow these simple instructions and guidelines to make the task easier.

FALL 

fall cleanup should include removal of any dead or diseased foliage. Any cleanup you get done in fall makes for less work in the spring and prevents the spread of disease.  Water plants well, especially evergreens, before the ground freezes to ensure they are well hydrated over the winter.  Fall is a good time to add compost around your plants to improve the quality of your soil, especially clay soil.  Mulch can also be added in the fall, preferably after the ground freezes.

anemones:  cut back after frost

daisies: cut back to 6 inches in fall.  

geraniums (perennial):  cut back if frost turns leaves mushy, otherwise leave foliage on over winter.

grasses (ornamental):  can be cut back to ground in fall or left intact over winter.  If left, cut back first thing in spring, before new growth appears.

hemerocallis/daylilies: remove dead leaves or cut back whole plant to 4 inches.  Although these do not have to be cut back in the fall, it will prevent messy/slimy cleanup in spring.

iris (bearded): cut plants back to 6 inches after frost to prevent disease.  Overgrown clumps should be separated in late summer or early fall.

ligularia: remove leaves when frost turns them mushy

monarda/beebalm:  cut plants back to 6 inches to prevent mildew

peony:  cut plants back to 8 inches to prevent mildew

phlox (tall): cut plants back to prevent mildew

poppy:  leave foliage over winter for protection.  Move or divide in August only

queen of prairie/filipendula: cut back in fall after blooming

salvia:  cut back to 8 inches in fall

sunflowers/helianthus:  cut back to 8 inches in fall

AFTER BLOOMING

some plants just need deadheading (removing dead flower heads), others need the long flower stalks removed. Others require shearing back the plant by half of its size. Each of these techniques improves the appearance of the plants and sometimes promotes reblooming…

achillea:  cut flower stalks back to base after blooming

artemsia:  although they do not flower, cut back plant mid May and late July to prevent flopping

asters:  cut back to 12 inches after blooming in fall

astrantia major/widows’ tears: shear back after flowering to promote reblooming.  Leave foliage on for winter protection

campanula/bellflower: cut flower stalks back to base of plant after blooming

coreopsis/tickseed:  shear off flower stems after blooming

daisies:  remove dead flower heads after blooming to promote rebloom

delphiniums: cut flower stalks back to base after blooming

dianthus/sweet william: shear plant back after blooming

digitalis/foxglove: cut back flower stalks to base of plant after blooming

euphorbia:  cut plant back after blooming to prevent flopping

gaillardia/blanket flower: cut flower stalks back to base of plant after blooming

geraniums (perennial): remove flower stalks after blooming to base of plant to promote rebloom

globe thistle/echinops: cut back late July to promote rebloom

hemerocallis/daylilies: remove flower stalks after blooming

hostas: remove flower stalks after blooming

iris (bearded): cut back flower stalks after blooming

lavender:  cut back flower stalks after blooming to promote rebloom

monarda/beebalm:  cut flower stalks after blooming to promote rebloom

peony:  cut off flower stalks after blooming.

phlox (border): shear back after blooming.  Do not cut back in fall.

poppy: plants go dormant after blooming.  Leave foliage over winter for protection

rudebekia/black eyed susans: deadhead after blooming if desired, do not cut back

salvia: shear back after blooming to promote rebloom

sedums:  cut back both fall blooming and ground cover sedums after flowering.  Flower heads can be left on the fall blooming variety if desired for winter interest.

 SPRING

wait until soil is no longer soggy to avoid compacting it or damaging bulbs, but don’t wait too long.  April is usually best in our zone 4-5 area of Ontario.  If plants looks green and healthy, leave them alone. A light cleanup involves removing dead/brown leaves and stems only.

astilbe: foliage protects plant over winter,  needs light cleanup in spring only

bergenia: needs light cleanup in spring only

campanula/bellflower:  cut plant back in spring.  Cut flower stalks after blooming to base of plant

clematis (most): deadhead spent flowers, cut plant back to 6 inches in spring

coreopsis/tickseed:  cut plant back to 6 inches in spring. Shear off flower stems after blooming

crysthanthemums/mums: foliage protects plant over winter; cut plant back in spring.  Remove faded flower heads after blooming

delphiniums: cut plant back in spring. Cut back flower stalks to base of plant after blooming

diantus/sweet william: foliage protects plant over winter, cut back plant in spring

digitalis/foxglove: requires light cleanup in spring only. Cut flower stalks to base of plant after blooming

echinacea and other coneflowers: deadhead after blooming if desired, only requireslight cleanup in spring

globe thistle/echinops: requires light cleanup in spring only, do not cut back in fall

grasses (ornamental):  if not cut back in fall, cut back to ground BEFORE new growth appears in spring

heuchera/coralbells: leave foliage over winter, requires light cleanup only in spring 

hosta: leave foliage over winter, cut back flower stalks after blooming

hydrangeas:  peegee, annabelle and snowball varieties can be cut back to 12 inches if overgrown

iris (bearded): remove dead leaves to prevent disease.  Can be divided in spring if did not bloom previous spring.

iris (siberian): foliage protects plant over winter, cut back in spring to 4 inches

joe pye weed: no maintenance required

lady’s mantle: light cleanup in spring only

lambs ears: light cleanup in spring only

lavender:  do not cut back in fall, wait until new growth appears in spring to remove winter kill.  Shear flower stalks back after blooming to promote rebloom

liatrus/gayfeather: light cleanup in spring only

lupines: foliage protects plant over winter, light cleanup in spring 

red hot poker: foliage protects plant over winter, light cleanup in spring

russian sage: cut back to 6 inches in spring, only after new growth appears

sedum (fall blooming): cut back to 6 inches in early spring if not done so in fall

AFTER BLOOMING 

some plants just need deadheading (removing dead flower heads), and some need the entire flower stalks removed. Others require shearing back the plant by half of its size. Each of these techniques improves the appearance of the plants

achillea:  cut flower stalks back to base after blooming

artemsia:  although they do not flower, cut back plant mid May and late July to prevent flopping

astrantia major/widows’ tears: shear back after flowering to promote reblooming.  Leave foliage on for winter protection

campanula/bellflower: cut flower stalks back to base of plant after blooming

coreopsis/tickseed:  shear off flower stems after blooming

daisies:  remove dead flower heads after blooming to promote rebloom

delphiniums: cut flower stalks back to base after blooming

dianthus/sweet william: shear plant back after blooming

digitalis/foxglove: cut back flower stalks to base of plant after blooming

euphorbia:  cut plant back after blooming to prevent flopping

gaillardia/blanket flower: cut flower stalks back to base of plant after blooming

geraniums (perennial): remove flower stalks after blooming to base of plant to promote rebloom

globe thistle/echinops: cut back late July to promote rebloom

hemerocallis/daylilies: remove flower stalks after blooming

hostas: remove flower stalks after blooming

iris (bearded): cut back flower stalks after blooming

lavender:  cut back flower stalks after blooming to promote rebloom

monarda/beebalm:  cut flower stalks after blooming to promote rebloom

peony:  cut off flower stalks after blooming.  

phlox (border): shear back after blooming.  Do not cut back in fall.

poppy: plants go dormant after blooming.  Leave foliage over winter for protection

rudebekia/black eyed susans: deadhead after blooming if desired, do not cut back 

salvia: shear back after blooming to promote rebloom

Good luck with your pruning.  There are so many varieties of perennials that I have only named the ones popular in my garden zone.  Do not hesitate to ask if I have missed something you have in your garden.

Posted in gardening, nature, Ottawa

Pruning Shrubs

                                                                            

The rule of thumb for pruning or cutting back shrubs is this:  if it flowers before June, cut it back immediately after flowering.  If it flowers after June, cut it back first thing in the spring.  The reason for this rule is because spring blooming (before June) shrubs form flowers on the previous years’ growth, so if you cut it in the spring you will be cutting off the stems that will be producing flowers that season.  Shrubs grown primarily for their foliage (dogwood, burning bush, dappled willows etc) should be pruned in the early spring, before new growth starts.

Spring pruning  (just as growth starts)

  • late blooming (pink) spireas
  • peegee hydrangeas
  • burning bush
  • late blooming clematis
  • holly, very early, while still dormant
  • rose of sharon
  • late blooming heathers
  • cotoneaster (minimal)
  • yew, before new growth starts, then several times during season
  • weigelia
  • late blooming lilacs
  • shrub roses

 
         
             
After flowering:
  • early blooming clematis
  • rose of sharon
  • sand cherry
  • mock orange
  • rhododendrons
  • magnolias
  • early heathers
  • barberry
  • early blooming (bridal wreath) spirea
  • forsythia
  • most lilacs

 
Pruning in the fall can cause new growth that is stimulated by the pruning to be damaged by cold weather. Fall pruning will also remove late forming buds that will produce flowers the following spring.  For these reasons, pruning is best done in spring or summer.   Dead, diseased or crossing branches however, can and should be pruned as soon as they are discovered.
Posted in gardening, nature

What blooms in June in your garden?

Everything is blooming a bit later this season due to the long, hard winter we experienced here in the Ottawa area of Canada, but there is still lots of color this June.

The first clematis bloom has arrived, with many more to come on the six vines I have throughout my gardens.  The lilacs are just about done.  They are the late blooming variety, later than most lilacs.  We pruned them back hard this spring as they were growing sideways due to the overgrown apple trees beside them.  The pruning did not affect the blooms, probably because they are a late blooming variety.

The general rule of thumb for pruning flowering shrubs is:

  • if it blooms before June, wait until after blooming to prune
  • if it blooms after June, prune in early spring

Missing this June are the many roses usually in bloom.  Four of my roses did not survive the winter, so will have to be replaced.  The ones that did not survive are planted in front of the brick wall of our garage.  The snow melts first in this area, and the bed is under an overhang, so with the many freeze and thaw cycles (mostly freeze) we experienced, the roses were often exposed to the cold without the insulation of snow.  I tried to shovel snow on them from other areas of the yard as it melted from the rose bed, but to no avail.   I have a few other roses planted elsewhere in my gardens that survived, but the blooms are still in bud phase.