Count down to Spring

February 24, 2012 at 2:28 am Leave a comment

Most gardeners rest in the winter, I don’t, I play beat the clock to spring from mid- December to March.  A sign I am losing the race is when the spring peepers begin singing their song of love on a warm night in February. If you live near a moist or wet area, even a vernal pool you are familiar with the high pitch call these small male frogs make at night to lure the females to their location.   These frogs are only about 1″ in size but they are among a handful of frogs that have the huge task of calling in Spring.  The first night I hear them I am both pleased and panicked as I realize the days of winter are numbered.  I immediately begin thinking of the primary winter tasks each gardener must complete in preparation for Spring.

1.) Have I removed the English ivy growing up the trees and shrubs in the landscape?  Ivy on trees is very detrimental in that is traps moisture near the bark of the tree causing it to rot which kills the tree.  The vascular system of the tree lies just under the bark so it is important to protect the bark by carefully removing the ivy.  This is best done on a cold day when the sap is not flowing to reduce contact with and the ill effects of a hidden poison ivy vine.

2.) Are the butterfly bushes trimmed down to 1/4 their size?  This shrub blooms on new growth so pruning the bush back to 1/4 if its height in the late winter will stimulate the growth needed to provide a bush covered in blossoms during the summer.

3.) Is all of the Liriope (lir- eye-o-pee) cut down?  This plant is commonly called Monkey Grass.  There are two types, Liriope spicata, which runs around the landscape and spreads quickly to form a nice mat of green or Liriope muscari, which grows in a clump.  Both cultivars need to be trimmed to a height of 2″-3″ each winter.  This is done because winter makes the long green leaves of this plant look messy or tattered.  Cutting the green leaves down to the ground with a lawn mower or weed eater  in January or February will remove the previous year’s growth making way for the fresh new leaves come spring.

4.) Are all ornamental grasses cut as low as possible?  Again, removing the dead beige growth from the previous year allows the fresh green growth to emerge and grow into a beautiful plant in your landscape.

5.) Are the roses pruned appropriately for their growth habit?  Meaning, are the hybrid T, shrub and bush roses pruned to initiate strong new growth that will produce flowers?  This is done by removing 1/2 to 2/3’s of the shrub’s growth at the end of February. Then rake the garden beds clear of leaves to reduce an infestation of disease and insects before mulching.  Do not treat climbing roses the same way or you will cut off their blossoms before they are formed!  Just removed the deadwood from the mass of rose canes and also remove those canes that are not growing in the direction you wish them to.

6.) Finally, have the perennial borders and beds been cleared of last year’s growth.  This is a very important task to keep the garden free of disease and to reduce insect infestations.  Removing the debris from last year will also clear away diseased leaves and overwintering insect cases or eggs.  Raking the garden clean of debris will complete the project.  After applying a slow release or organic fertilizer mulch the beds while they are easy to work in taking care not to step on emerging plants.

With my list fully checked off I can then enjoy the early sounds of spring as the peepers share their nocturnal song with those who are near to hear.  March is just around the corner!

Peggy Singlemann, Director of Horticulture, Maymont

 

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