PRUNING ROSES, HYDRANGEAS, CLEMATIS

If you have not already done so, now is a good time to prune roses, hydrangeas and deciduous clematis. These are all summer blooming plants which will not set flower buds until spring. Evergreen clematis, which blooms in the spring, already has set flower buds and should not be pruned until after it blooms.

The first task with roses is to remove all the dead wood. Live wood has green to bronze colored bark. Dead wood has brown to black bark. If you are not sure whether a cane or branch is dead, break off a thorn or scratch the bark with a knife. If the tissue underneath is moist and green it is alive. If tissue is brown and dry, it is dead.

For hybrid tea roses, I cut all the remaining canes back to about 2 to 3 feet. For smaller roses such as floribundas, I cut canes back to 12 to 18 inches. It is best to cut just above a bud. In some cases no bud is visible. Buds develop at nodes along the cane which are somewhat like knuckles on your fingers. I also remove some of the weak thinner branches.

For hybrid tea roses, I usually remove branches smaller than a pencil. On smaller roses, drinking straw size is my guide. Most rose plants are grafted onto wild rose rootstocks. Sometimes shoots develop below the graft union. These canes are usually more vigorous, more slender and develop few if any flowers. These should be removed as soon as they are noticed. In some cases they originate from below the soil.

I usually cut hydrangea branches by about 1/3. They can be cut back by 2/3 or more if plants have become tall and straggly. Individual branches should also be cut just above a bud.

I remove 60 to 80% of last year’s growth on clematis. This leaves a few of the main vines. New growth from these main vines develop vigorous new shoots which fill the trellis.

FRUIT TREE PRUNING APPOINTMENTS

I have a number of clients who prefer that I prune their fruit trees. Although I do often prune well into March, I prefer to get most fruit tree pruning completed by the end of February. I can also teach you how to prune your own trees and shrubs. Call if you would like to have personal one on one training on your own plants.

WINTER SHRUB DAMAGE

The very cold weather in late November and early December damaged sensitive evergreen shrubs like Escallonia, Viburnum and Choysia (Mexican Orange). Although not as bad as last winter, the earliness of the cold spell surprised many of these plants. It is best to wait until new growth develops in March before determining what is dead and what is still alive. Just like last year, most plants will recover, even if they have to be cut back almost to the ground.

NEW ALL-AMERICA AWARD WINNING FLOWERS

4 New Flowers have won coveted All-America Selections Awards for 2011. Seeds are available now. All 4 flowers could be started from seeds planted indoors. I wouldn’t hesitate to plant seeds of the new perennial Gaillardia ‘Arizona Apricot’ directly outside in April or May. Plants will be available later in the spring from many greenhouses and garden stores.

Gaillardia ‘Arizona Apricot’ has apricot colored flowers, which is a distinct new color for Gaillardias or Blanket Flowers. The 3 inch daisy flowers are deep apricot in the center fading to lemon yellow on the edges. Most perennial flowers do not bloom the first year from seed, but Arizona Apricot blooms the first year and has a long blooming season. Plants are compact and grow about 12 inches high. It is relatively maintenance free and drought tolerant once established. If old flowers are removed it will encourage repeat blooming.

Viola Shangri-La Marina is an early-flowering, mounding viola with a vibrant new color. 1 ½ inch flowers have light blue petals with a velvety dark blue face and a narrow white outer edge. This hybrid variety produces more flowers than typical violas. There is no need to remove dead flowers because the 6 inch plants are self-cleaning. In the Northwest most violas are planted in the fall but are also available for spring planting. Violas do well in both sunny and shady areas of the garden.

Ornamental Kale ‘Glamour Red’ is the first Kale to ever win an All-America award. ‘Glamour Red’ has fringed leaf edges with a unique shine that makes them stand out in beds and borders. Flower heads grow 10 to 12 inches across and about the same height. Ornamental Kale is best planted in the fall because it requires cool temperatures to develop color.

Salvia ‘Summer Jewel Red’ was rated superior because of its early bloom and large number of flowers. Plants bloom continuously from planting time until fall frost. Plants grow about 18 to 20 inches tall at maturity. Red flower spikes are a magnet for humming birds. Birds love the seeds which mature summer to fall. Salvia grows well in areas too shady for other annuals, but also does well in the sun.

ALL-AMERICA VEGETABLES

Two tomatoes and a pumpkin have been selected to win All-America awards for 2011. All were chosen for their improved performance over previously available varieties.

Pumpkin ‘Hijinks’ produces small 6 pound, uniform size fruit. Its uniformity comes because of its hybrid breeding, which most other pumpkins do not have. Its hybrid vigor results in vines which grow up to 12 feet in diameter. You will need a big space for this pumpkin. Skin is deep orange with distinctive groves. Hijinks also has a strong durable stem which makes a great handle. It is perfect for Halloween decorations. Hijinks pumpkin is also resistant to powdery mildew, which causes damage to many other pumpkin varieties.

The two new tomatoes are also hybrids developed by the same seed company. They were developed specifically for container planting, although they will also do well planted in the ground. Tomato ‘Lizziano’ is a semi-bush type variety with vigorous growth. Vines are just the right size for containers and hanging baskets. It produces abundant loads of one inch cherry size fruit. Judges noted better eating quality, higher yield and better plant shape that existing varieties. Although seldom a problem in our area, Lizziano tomato is also resistant to late blight disease. It is an early variety producing plenty of fruit in our short growing season.

Tomato ‘Terrenzo’ has tasty fruit slightly larger and sweeter than ‘Lizziano’. Fruit is more resistant to cracking than other cherry tomato varieties. Terrenzo has the ‘tumbler’ growth shape desired for the long hanging basket containers. It also makes a dwarf, ground hugging plant in the ground.

Seeds of all three varieties should be available from on-line and mail order seed companies. Both tomatoes and pumpkins can easily be started from seed. It takes about 4 weeks to grow small pumpkin plants and 6 weeks to produce small tomato plants. Pumpkin plants do not like to have their roots disturbed, so plant 2 or 3 seeds in small pots or peat pellets.