Gardener's Grapevine 2011.04.27

Written by David Green.

By Jo Erbskorn

Spring brings to mind so many things—sunshine after the gloomy winter, renewed life in our greening plants, and elevated moods due to a feeling of a fresh start. Spring gives every gardener the undeniable urge to play in the dirt.

While starting out at the beginning of the growing season, remember not everything wakes up at the same time. Plants are happy in certain zones, and until temperatures warm up for that zone our plants stay dormant. That is why some trees leaf out earlier than others. My husband thinks it’s so we constantly have something new to clean up.

There are many plants and bushes that mistakenly get ripped out for not budding; there stands this eyesore all dry and ugly. One of these is the butterfly bush. It may have a few small areas were some buds are peeking out and some just look dead. For the most part it is asleep and needs time and a sign that says, “Leave me alone.” Another plant is the hydrangea bush.

At the church we have two very lovely hydrangea bushes that are about three years old. The first year they bloomed a bit, but not a big show. This is normal as they use their old dry stems like a spine to hold up the huge blooms. It is very easy to want to trim these old stems off as they are unsightly long after everything else is waking up. But what was once the plant’s beauty will this season be its strength for a bigger show.

Climbing roses fall into this category of late sleepers. Some climbers leave their long arms looking awful, long after other plants have leaves. So if you are not a master rose gardener, you stand there having a mental fight with yourself—is it dead or is it alive?

To prune or not to prune, that is a gardener’s dilemma. I learned the hard way to give them time. I asked someone I trusted why my climbers did not bloom like they were supposed to and that person said, “Oh, cut off those long stems every fall. They zap all the plant’s strength.” So inexperienced me did as I was told. Wrong! I got excellent stem and foliage growth and no blooms at all.

At a Garden Club district meeting, a master rose gardener spoke and explained why roses should be left alone until late May or even June. I followed that advice, and now my climbers are beautiful.

My point is, clean up but know your plants and don’t be quick to write them off as dead.

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