February Home Gardening Opportunities
by Janet Woody, Librarian, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
This is the second in a monthly series of things to do in your home garden each month of the year. You might think of them as chores … but why not think of them as opportunities to get some fresh air and make your surroundings look better.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list; that would be too exhausting. Remember, these aren’t chores, they’re opportunities to be one with nature and get out and enjoy your garden
• Mid-February is pruning time. Get your pruning book out and don’t be nervous if this is your first time. Or if that seems to be to intimidating, sign up for our Spring Pruning for Shrubs class here at the Garden!
• Don’t prune anything that blooms on old wood: azaleas, rhododendron, many hydrangeas, forsythia (which may be blooming already), dogwood, camellias. All of these should be pruned, if needed, after blooming, when the blooms are spent. These don’t need hard pruning unless they have completely outgrown their location. In that case you may want to replace them with something better suited to that location.
• Shrubs that need a pruning to look their best when they bloom: Spiraea x bumalda: prune lightly, Buddleia davidii (butterfly bush) prune to 12”, Abelia (prune old plants hard; newer plants may just need a tip trim). Here are suggestions for a few common shrubs in our area.
• Nandina domestica: remove entire cane(s) from the base if these are getting too massive and tall. Nandina can be invasive so don’t let it overrun its space. Dig up any offspring shrubs that have crept away from the parent if you don’t want a thicket. Keeping Nandina domestica under control is a year-round job. Cultivars are usually better behaved: ‘Gulf Stream’, ‘Firepower’, and similar selections don’t try to take over.
• Fruit trees will produce better and more fruit over time if extraneous branches are removed. There are a number of methods to training and pruning fruit trees, depending on the fruit, the planting location, and your goals for the tree. It’s a good idea to do some research before selecting a fruit tree, and before pruning it.
• Perennials may need some clean up, if you haven’t done this already: Agastache (anise hyssop), Anemone, Asclepias (butterfly weed), Astilbe (false spirea), Baptisia australis (false indigo), Boltonia asteroides (snowbank boltonia), Chrysanthemum, Coreopsis, Dianthus (cheddar pinks and other varieties), Digitalis (foxglove), Echinops (globe thistle), Epimedium spp (barrenwort), Geranium sanguineum (hardy cranesbill), Hibiscus moscheutos (rose mallow), Iris bearded hybrids, Ligularia dentata (leopard plant), Liriope muscari (lily turf), Perovskia altriplicifolia (Russian sage) (prune to 6”), Sedum, Stokesia laevis (Stokes’ aster), Vinca minor (periwinkle) (cut back tips), Yucca filamentosa. Note on liriope: some people mow it with the lawn mower on a high setting before any new growth appears, other people never trim it unless it gets burned tips. This is totally up to you, as it will grow vigorously either way.
• Add a little balanced fertilizer, for example, Osmocote 14-14-14: Achillea (yarrow), Actaea racemosa (bugbane), Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian bugloss), Campanula carpatica (Carpathian harebell), Campanula persicifolia (peach-leaved bellflower), Centranthus ruber (red valerian), Convallaria majalis (lily-of-the valley), Euphorbia polychroma (spurge), Hesperis matronalis (dame’s rocket), Heuchera americana (coral bells), Iris sibirica (Siberian iris), Nepeta x faasenii (catmint), Pulmonaria saccharata (lungwort), Veronica spicata (speedwell).
• Clematis: Some bloom on new wood, some on old. It’s very hard to tell the difference by looking at the plant. If you don’t know which cultivar you have, don’t prune at all and see what happens. Then you will know what to do next year. Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, 6th edition, has a good list of each type and how they bloom. SB435.5 .D57 2009.
• Same with Hydrangeas. Mopheads and lacecaps (H. macrophylla) bloom on old wood. Remove only 2 or 3 year old canes and leave the rest; that’s where this year’s buds are. ‘Endless Summer’ varieties bloom on old and new wood. Oakleaf (H. quercifolia) requires very little pruning, only of dead wood. It’s best to get a book on hydrangeas, and to know which kind you have, before doing any pruning. Here are a couple of books in the library: Hydrangeas for American gardens by Michael Dirr (SB413.H9 D57 2004 and Complete hydrangeas by Glyn Church (SB413.H93 D45 2007. To search our catalog for more books, click here.
And have you gotten the lawnmower serviced yet??
The Hort Helpline is here to help with garden and plant questions: 262-9887 x 332