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 business, gardening, gardens4u

Next Gardens4U Project

My most recent Gardens4U project involved two new garden beds for the back corners of a large, pie-shaped lot. The yard has a large swimming pool so the corner beds were placed far enough way that pool water will not splash onto the plantings. The clients’ own three dogs, so my plans also had to allow for a running area between the flower beds and the pool. Check out the before and after shots…

To save my time (not to mention my back) and the expense involved, the client dug out the beds after I marked them out. I added composted manure to improve the clay-laden soil, then arranged the perennials and shrubs according to their potential sizes at maturity as well as their bloom time and colour.

When the temperatures cooled off a bit, and I was happy with the placement of plants, I spent half a day planting them in their new beds. Note the drain in one corner bed, a low point in the area that rainwater from several adjacent lots drain into. It is imperative that this drainage site not be adversely affected when adding soil and plants. Although this consideration makes the one bed appear oddly shaped and lacking soil, the drain will not be visible when the plants grow to mature size. After planting, the garden beds were then edged to leave a clear demarcation line between the gardens and the lawn…

Once the perennials and shrubs were watered in well, (every day for a week) I added dark brown, cedar mulch for the finishing touch. The plantings may look a bit sparse right now, but in a few seasons from now they will have reached their full, mature size. If I plant too many plants and too close together, I will have unhappy clients in a few years…

I also talked the clients into outlining the perimeter of their above-ground pool with river rock. They did this project themselves; I think it looks great!

pool edged with river rock

You can see the one corner garden at the back left, peeking out from behind the pool. Onto the next project! Now that the weather has cooled off I can get more done before garden fall cleanups start.

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 gardening, gardens4u.ca

Chewed bark on shrubs and trees spells trouble

Have you noticed chewed bark on the branches of your shrubs and trees this spring? That’s not good and signifies that they are in trouble. Those adorable rabbits, majestic deer and their furry friends can cause lots of damage to your garden plantings. Even death.

If the tree or shrub has the bark chewed all the way around the branches or trunk, the plant will most likely not survive. However, if only a portion of the trunk or branch circumference reveals chewed bark, you may be able to salvage the plant. Cut the plant back severely, almost to ground level and wait.

For example, this shrub rose had lots of bark missing from its lower branches, but there were patches of healthy bark still intact…

chewed bark
shrub rose with some chewed and some intact branches

To rectify the damage, I cut all branches back to 8 inches from the ground. Three weeks later, this is the result. Isn’t nature amazing?

chewed bark
rejuvenated shrub rose

Other similarly damaged shrubs I encountered in this same client’s garden were this weigela and ninebark. The stems of the weigela were almost totally stripped of their bark, you can see how white the stubs are. I am pleasantly surprised to see they are both showing signs of recovery:

chewed bark
weigela recovering from chewed bark
chewed bark
recovering ninebark

If you live in a rural area where furry critters visit your garden searching for food in the winter, consider wrapping the tasty trunks and stems of your plants next fall, before the snow falls. There are many products available for this purpose.

You don’t have much to lose if your shrubs or trees have suffered a similar fate this past winter. Cut them back and cross your fingers!

Posted in gardening, lorieb.com

How not to plant shrubs

One of the garden projects I have been working on lately reminded me how not to plant shrubs. These shrubs were not planted deep enough so the root balls heaved out of the soil this past winter.  As a result, the row of shrubs were all dead, and very unsightly. When I dug them up (didn’t even require a shovel, they came out quite easily) the root balls were still in the shape of the pots.  So were the holes.

 

 

 

The correct way to plant a shrub (and most perennials and trees too) is to:

  • dig a hole twice as wide as the pot the shrub came in and the same depth
  • remove the shrub from the pot and loosen the root ball
  • if the shrub is very root bound, use a sharp knife or trowel to scarify (gently scrape/loosen) the roots
  • add water to the hole before and after planting the shrub
  • water daily until shrub is established, (one week) preferably in the morning
  • ensure plant crown is neither too deep or too far above ground.  Roses do prefer their crown just below soil level

 

 

Posted in gardens, loreeebee.ca

Which plants you should prune back in the fall

For some reason, the fall season is when many gardeners get the itch to prune back plants in their gardens.  The guidelines are as follows, at least for our zone 4 to 5 gardens here in Ottawa, Ontario:

  • if a shrub blooms early (before June) wait until after flowering to prune.  Some examples of early bloomers that need that old wood to bloom on are lilacs, forsythia, bridal wreath spireas, sand cherries, weigela, ninebarks, rhododendrons, viburnum, cranberry bushes, flowering dogwoods, and magnolias.
  • if the shrub blooms after June, it can be pruned back in the fall or in the early spring when new growth is visible.  Examples include Snowball and PeeGee Hydrangeas, spireas (except for bridal wreath), Butterfly bush, smoke tree, hibiscus (rose of Sharon), and red-stemmed dogwoods.
  • woody shrubs like boxwoods, junipers, and cedars can be trimmed back in the fall too, but also throughout the growing season (spring and summer)
  • some shrubs are best pruned while dormant (late fall to very early spring, late February to early March)  These include barberries, smoke bush, crepe myrtles, spireas (except bridal wreath variety), dogwoods, and cotoneasters.
  • to rejuvenate shrubs that flower poorly, are overgrown or straggly, cut them back to just above the first bud above the soil while the plant is still dormant.  Shrubs that do well with this drastic treatment include spireas, lilacs, ninebarks, forsythias, barberry, weigela, blue mist, forsythia, honeysuckle, and potentilla (cinquefoil).  You may sacrifice the flowers the first season after this rejuvenation, but the plant will be healthier.
  • deciduous (non-evergreen) trees are best pruned when dormant (late winter) as well.  It is much easier to see the structure of the tree before the leaves come out.  Winter pruning also prevents the formation of bacteria and disease in the cuts. The wounds will heal quickly as new growth starts shortly after pruning.
  • dead branches can be cut off any time in the season.
  • after the first frost, remove any leaves from roses and apply mulch to the crowns. This prevents the plants from heaving from the ground during freeze/thaw cycles. You can cut the longs stems of the most tender floribundas, hybrid teas, and grandifloras back to 20 inches before winter too to prevent them from breaking off under a heavy snowfall.  Another tip for tender roses is to apply a collar around the bush and fill it (loosely) with leaves.  Wait to prune others back until daffodils start to bloom in the spring to ensure the ground temperature is sufficiently warm.  Dead or broken branches can be cut off in the fall or any other time of the season.  Suckers can also be removed in the fall, cutting them out as close to the base of the plant as possible.

rose-1744950__340

Perennials can be, but do not have to be, dead-headed (remove dead blossoms) and cut back in the fall.  Remove sturdy flower stalks (coneflowers etc) right back to the foliage at the base of the plant.  Some gardeners like to leave these stalks on the plants over the winter for birds and their snow-covered beauty.  On softer plants simply remove the browned and dead looking, limp, or soggy foliage (daylilies, peonies, bleeding hearts, etc) and cut back their stems to six or eight inches from the ground.  I like to do everything I can in the fall because spring seems to be so short-lived these days and I run out of springtime hours in the gardens.  Whenever you clean up your gardens, remember to harvest the seeds for future (freebie) plants as I did for my cottage garden.

Posted in gardening, lorieb.com, nature

Mirror mirror on the wall…

Instead of “mirror, mirror on the wall”, I should say “gardens, gardens on my route,  who’s the fairest of them all?”  I know that “all” does not rhyme with “route”, but let me ensure you get the picture, literally…. Continue reading “Mirror mirror on the wall…”

Posted in gardening, lorieb.com, nature

The reason you should not prune some shrubs in the fall

In a recent post I listed many shrubs categorized by when you should prune them.  The reason you should not prune many shrubs in the fall is because you will remove most of the buds that will turn into flowers the following spring.  Examples of these buds are shown here in magnolia, rhododendron and forsythia shrubs…

 

If you must prune these shrubs to control their size, wait until after they bloom in the spring to do so…

please be sure to visit my slightly more humorous blog YOUR DAILY CHUCKLE  It is guaranteed to make you LOL.

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

Plants of the week from Gardens4u, take five

These are my favourites for this week…

Traditional perennials: hostas

hostas are great at the front of a border or bed and thrive in deep shade through part sun.  Most hostas prefer shade, but those with yellow leaves or fragrant flowers prefer more sun.  They come in many colours and sizes these days from miniature to huge.  If you do plant the large ones, be sure to give them lots of space as they do not look their best when crowded.

Modern perennials:  geraniums, not the red annual type your grandmother planted, but the perennial variety

Perennial geraniums also look great at the front of borders or beds.  They tolerate shade and part sun.  I love them because they are the first to green up in the spring, offer some colour with the blooms, but look great even when not in bloom.  They come in many colors and sizes.  Some of the larger ones can tend to be floppy, so I stick to the smaller ones.

Shrubs: Black Lace Elderberry

The deep wine colour of Black Lace Elderberries look wonderful mixed with all of the shades of green in your gardens.  They die down to the ground each winter in my area, and are often slow to come back in the spring, but can grow to heights of six feet or more. This spring was so late and the winter so cold, I thought my black lace had died.  Thankfully I decided to give it another week, and sure enough, one week later it was one foot tall!  The pale pink flowers are pretty but I consider them a bonus as they don’t last long.  The dark coloured lacy foliage is the reason I love this shrub.  This season it is a great backdrop for my lily trees featured in the third picture.

Vines:  Silver Lace

Although the Silver Lace vine blooms in the fall and so not blooming this week, I am always suggesting it to my clients.  It is quick growing, covering any structure very fast with white lace like flowers, a beautiful sight in September through November.  Unfortunately I lost mine this past winter due to the severe cold weather we experienced.  It is only hardy to zone 5 which is pushing the envelope for my Ottawa garden.

Annuals: Coleus

Coleus are great for filling in blank spots and contributing splashes of colour in shady spots of your gardens.  I never used to like them, but after seeing them tucked in among perennials in a client’s garden, I’ve changed my mind and added some to my own gardens this year.  Coleus come in many combinations and shades of pink, red and green; all make vibrant additions to a garden or container.

Stay tuned for next week’s choices…