Moving and Planting Trees and Shrubs
A common problem with almost all landscapes is to have plants installed which outgrow their space and intrude on walks, walls, or windows. January through March is the ideal time to move trees and shrubs while they are dormant. This is the best time to move shrubs which have overgrown their location, but you have another spot with more room. If shrubs are too close together, now is a good time to remove some of them, giving the remaining shrubs enough room to be attractive without shearing them into artificial shapes. Landscape contractors can move quite large trees and shrubs, using a “tree spade”. I am available to help you decide which plants are best to move or prune. There is no charge for a consultation. When shopping for new replacement plants, be sure to check the mature height and width. This is the size the plant will reach in 5 to 10 years. Ultimate sizes (after 12 or more years) can be as much as a third larger than “mature size” in the Pacific Northwest.
Pruning is not Rocket Science
Pruning is the single most misunderstood and poorly performed garden skill by most gardeners. Even gardeners with some confidence in pruning often make serious mistakes. That is why most of my clients call me to do the pruning rather than doing their own pruning or trusting it to typical landscape gardeners who often butcher plants worse than the owners. One of my goals is to teach proper pruning principles to as many people as possible. Whenever possible, I explain to my clients why I am making the pruning cuts as I prune their plants. The best way to learn proper pruning is to practice on your own plants. I can teach almost any one how to prune in an hour or two in their own landscape. Let me know if you would like to acquire the skills to prune your own plants.
Dormant Season Pruning
January through March is an ideal time to prune trees and shrubs except for spring-flowering shrubs. The flower buds for spring flowering shrubs were set last summer and fall and you might as well enjoy the flowers before pruning. It is easier and faster to prune deciduous plants while they do not have leaves. If you want to maintain the natural shape and thickness of shrubs, make individual pruning cuts, rather than shearing. Each time you shear a shrub, you multiply the number of branches by 3 or more. Cutting individual branches back to a side branch or removing them entirely to their origin keeps approximately the same branch thickness. Fruit tree pruning is one of my specialties.
January and February are the favorite months for pruning roses, although I sometimes prune mine in November or December. Except for climbers and tree or standard roses, pruning is quite simple. Pick the height you would like plants to start at and prune all branches down to that level. My preferred height is about 2 to 3 feet. Shorter floribundas get pruned a little shorter. I do not try to make every branch on a plant the same length. Make cuts just above a leaf scar. Try to find a leaf scar facing in the direction you would like the new shoot to grow. Remove dead and weak branches back to their origin. Standards and climbers need lighter, more selective pruning. Thin out some of the weaker growth and shape by shortening extra long branches. Plants which are taller than you want can be shortened.
Winter is a great time to make plans for changes in your landscape. If you have a new home or want extensive remodeling, you may want to consult a landscape architect or designer. You will find landscape design professionals and software products on the internet by googling “landscape design and your city” A number of inexpensive landscape design software products are available on the internet starting at about $100.
Landscape design help is often available from larger nurseries and also from many landscape contractors. Their fees are usually a lot less than landscape architects. Sometimes you can contact a nearby community college or university horticulture department and find landscape design students who are interested in part time work. I do a lot of landscape design and remodeling design and installation.
Books for ideas and graph paper for sketches are useful tools. I like to start by browsing through my own books and make visits to the library and book stores. Most of the books on gardening and landscaping are in one location at bookstores. I check the on line catalog at the library by subject, such as gardening, landscaping, perennial flowers, etc. Then I go to the shelves and browse through the books on subjects in which I am interested. There are several good series of books on specific subjects such as Sunset and Ortho.
Several years ago I was a regional consultant for a series of books on landscape plans published by Home Planners, Inc. I found 3 of these books offered for sale on line as used books for as low as $2.95. Titles are: The Home Landscaper, The Backyard Landscaper, and Easy Care Landscape Plans.
Test Leftover Seeds
Do you have some old vegetable or flower seeds laying around in a drawer or on a shelf? Do you wonder if they are still any good? There is an easy test for seeds to see if they will still germinate before it is planting time. First, check the packet to see if there is a date anywhere. Color packets usually have the date near the top on the back. If seeds are not more than a year or two old, most will still germinate well. I have found decent germination on seeds 5 years old
Count 10 seeds and place them in a row on the edge of a wet paper towel. Even a half a towel may be enough. Roll up the towel with the seeds inside and place it in a shallow pan. I have found that a 9 by 13 inch pan works well for up to a dozen rolled up paper towels. I place a strip of masking tape along the edge of the pan to mark the kinds of seeds. Add a little water to the pan to wet the towels every few days. If the left over packet contains only a few seeds, you can use fewer than 10 seeds. If the seeds are expensive or valuable, you may even want to plant them in a pot after sprouting.
Some seeds will sprout within a week, but some may take 3 weeks or longer. Usually, all the viable seeds of one kind will sprout within a few days of each other. If you use 10 seeds, it is easy to calculate the germination percentage by multiplying by 10. For most seeds, 70 or 80% is normal germination. If a packet only has 30 to 50%, you can still plant extra thick to get a normal stand. Mark the percentage and date on the packet so you will know how heavy to plant.