Tag Archives: pruning tips

February To-Do’s for the Santa Cruz Mountains

Seems to me that I'm still waiting for winter to start. I look hopefully each week at the weather forecast hoping to see a storm developing. The birds in my garden are already starting to pair up, however, and call to each other. They know  a new season has begun. So, as promised, at the beginning of each month, here's your to-do list of what you should be doing in the garden.

Each year the weather is a little different requiring some tasks to be done earlier in the month when it's been a warm winter while giving you a little extra time when it's been cold. This year we've experienced very cold nights since December so plants are still mostly dormant but spring is coming. Be prepared.

Cut back woody shrubs. To stimulate lush new growth on plants like Mexican bush sage, artemisia and butterfly bush cut back to within a few inches of the ground. Don't use this approach on lavender or ceanothus – only lightly prune them after blooming. Prune frost  damaged shrubs if you can tell how far down the die back goes otherwise wait until growth starts in the spring. Prune fuchsias back by a third and remove dead, crossing branches and interior twiggy growth. Container fuchsias can be cut back to the pot rim. Revitalize overgrown or leggy hedges by cutting back plants just before the flush of new spring growth.

Cut back ornamental grasses to within 3-6" of the ground. If  you get very heavy frost in your yard wait until the end of the month. Grass-like plants like Japanese forest grass should have all the old blades pruned off, too. You can divide them, if needed, after pruning to increase the number of plants you have.

Divide perennials before new growth starts. Agapanthus, asters, coreopsis, daylilies, shasta daisy and liriope are plants that tend to become overcrowded and benefit from dividing.

Prune established perennials later in the month if you get frost that may damage new foliage. Giving your maiden hair ferns a haircut now allows the new growth to come out fresh. Prune winter damaged fronds from your other ferns.

Begin sowing seeds of cool season vegetables outdoors. If it's been raining, allow the ground to dry out for several days before working the soil. Plant seeds of beets, carrots, chard, lettuce, peas, spinach, arugula, chives kale and parley directly in the ground. Later in the month start broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. You can also plant starts of many of these vegetables and that stir fry will be on your table even sooner. Indoors, start seeds of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant so they will be ready to transplant outdoors in 8 weeks when danger of frost is past and the soil has started to warm up.

Fertilize perennials, shrubs and trees their first dose of organic all-purpose fertilizer for the season. Wait to feed azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons until the last flower buds start to open. Roses will get a high nitrogen fertilizer to give foliage a boost and later next month, I'll feed with a high phosphorus fertilizer to encourage blooms.

Feed chelated iron to azaleas, citrus and gardenias to green up their leaves. Cool soil makes the leaves of these plants yellow this time of year.  

Apply the last application of dormant spray. Spray with horticultural oil, lime sulfur, liquid sulfur or copper dormant spray. Do not spray 36 hours before rain is predicted. Be sure to spray the ground around each tree.
 

Fragrant Roses & How to Prune Them

I'm daydreaming about the flowers of spring and summer and what could be more impressive than a big, fragrant, jewel-toned rose? There are some great new ones out this year that I have my eye on. Maybe you have room for one more.

Fragrance is a requirement for me when it comes to roses. First thing when we admire a beautiful rose is to bend over and smell it. Sure vase life and petal count are important but who can resist a fragrant rose? With that in mind, several of the new varieties out this year fit my bill. Consider one of these for your garden.

Orchid Romance is a small, medium pink to lavender floribunda rose. It has a strong citrus aroma on warm days. Grown on its own root it has good disease resistance and holds up well in a bouquet. Medium large, very full flower clusters bloom in flushes throughout the season.

Sugar Moon is an elegant pure white rose with huge, full, classically formed buds. Saturated with an intensely sweet citrus and rose fragrance the scent is said to nearly bowl you over. Long cutting stems makes this a perfect addition for the cutting garden. Superior disease resistance is another plus for this new rose.

Cold weather earlier this month has kept roses in the garden dormant but now is the time to prune them before they start leafing out which wastes plant energy. I want them to produce lots of roses on a compact shrub not just a few exhibition size so I prune shrubs moderately.  Heirlooms, however, require less pruning because their open look is part of their charm.  Remember your goal is to keep the center of the plant open for good air circulation.  Aim for a vase-shaped bush with an open center by cutting out crossing canes, spindly, weak, broken or diseased stems as well as dead wood. Cut back the remaining stems by about one-third, cutting canes at a 45-degree angle, just above an outward facing bud.

Don't worry whether you're pruning job is perfect. Roses are super forgiving and you can trim them up again later. I once helped prune the rose garden at historic Gamble Gardens in Palo Alto. To revitalize the old shrubs we sawed out most of the beefy canes. I didn't think they could recover in time for the big May bloom but they did and were spectacular. Roses are like redwoods -you can't kill one- they're the energizer bunnies of the plant world.

Climbing roses require little pruning. Cut out extra stems if there are too many and also cut back long established canes to where they are slightly thicker than a pencil. Then cut each side stem down to several inches. This will cause the cane to flower along its complete length for a beautiful spring display.

Remove any leaves that may still be clinging to the bush. Rake up debris beneath the plant and discard to eliminate overwintering fungus spores. It's a good idea to spray the bare plant and the surrounding soil with a combination organic horticultural oil to smother overwintering insect eggs and a dormant spray like lime-sulfur to kill fungus spores. If you usually only have problems with black spot you can use a mixture of 1 teaspoon baking soda with a few drops of light oil in 1 quart water and spraying every 7 to 10 days.

And that's all there is to it. Email me if you have any questions.
 

Time to Prune Roses, Fruit trees and Flowering Shrubs

I’ll be the first to admit it’s hard to bundle yourself up to go out and work in the garden on a cold winter day. Bright sunshine sure helps but still it’s not t-shirt weather yet. It helps to think how good that fresh air will feel, not to mention that working in the garden relieves stress. And think about all that great exercise you get without getting on the boring treadmill.

Depending on your weight and how vigorous you work, one hour of gardening can burn up about 272 calories. Transplant a shrub, and the number of calories burned could jump to an incredible 340 calories per hour. Just think of that extra helping of potatoes-au-gratin you had over the holidays.

There’s plenty to do this time of year. Neaten things up by removing rotting perennials and sweep the leaves and debris off the driveway and your roof. 

It’s time to prune fruit trees and smother overwintering eggs and insects by spraying with horticultural oil. Combine your spray with lime-sulfur ( except on apricot trees ) to kill fungal disease spores like the ones that cause peach-leaf curl.  has also been shown to supress fungal diseases.You’ll want to do this again when the buds swell but before they open ( about Valentine’s Day )

Control large vines like overgrown honeysuckle, pink jasmine,  morning glory, passion vine, potato vine and trumpet creeper by radically thinning or even cutting back low to the ground if they are a big, tangled mess. Wait until after flowering to heavily prune spring-blooming vines such as wisteria.

Pruning Roses
When buds along rose canes begin to swell, prune repeat flowering roses by removing spindly or diseased shoots and dead wood. Do this before they start leafing out which wastes plant energy. Cut back the remaining stems by about a third, cutting canes at a 45-degree angle just above an outward facing bud. Don’t worry whether your pruning job is perfect. Roses are super forgiving and you can trim them up again later. You want to produce lots of roses not just a few of exhibition size. Aim for a vase-shaped  bush with an open center.

Prune old garden roses that bloom once in the spring after flowering.
Climbing roses require little pruning. Cut out extra stems if there are too many and also cut back long established canes to about the place where they are slightly thicker than a pencil. Then cut each side stem down to several inches. This will cause the cane to flower along its complete length for a beautiful spring display.

If any old leaves still cling to the plant, remove them. Rake up any debris beneath the plant and discard to eliminate overwintering fungus spores. It’s a good idea to spray both the bare plant and the surrounding soil with a combination organic horticultural oil to smother overwintering insect eggs and a dormant spray like lime-sulfur to kill fungus spores. If you usually have a problem only with black spot you can use a mixture of 1 teaspoon baking soda with a few drops of light oil in 1 quart water and spraying every 7 to 10 days.  Thoroughly coat the trunk, branches and twigs.

Other tasks to do in the garden in January:

Cut back hydrangeas if you haven’t already done so. Apply soil sulfur, aluminum sulfate or other acidifier if you want to encourage blue flowers.

Cut back summer flowering deciduous shrubs and vines.  Don’t prune spring flowering varieties like lilac, flowering cherry, plum and crabapple, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, weigela and spirea until after flowering or you can cut some during flowering to bring in cuttings for bouquets.
 

Pruning Roses and other to-do’s for January

I’m beginning to see the stirrings of life on some plants and although I’m enjoying some down time after the holidays there are several tasks that it’s time to do. If we lived where the snow drifts were 10 feet high, we could procrastinate a while but here in California, the game is afoot.

My first priority is to prune the roses before they start leafing out which wastes plant energy. I want them to produce lots of roses not just a few exhibition size so I prune shrubs moderately. Remember your goal is to keep the center of the plant open for good air circulation. Aim for a vase-shaped bush with an open center by cutting out crossing canes, spindly, weak, broken or diseased stems as well as dead wood. Cut back the remaining stems by about one-third, cutting canes at a 45-degree angle, just above an outward facing bud. Don’t worry whether you’re pruning job is perfect. Roses are super forgiving and you can trim them up again later. I once helped prune the rose garden at historic Gamble Gardens in Palo Alto. To revitalize the old shrubs we sawed out most of the beefy canes. I didn’t think they could recover in time for the big May bloom but they did and were spectacular. Roses are like redwoods,-you can’t kill one-they’re the energizer bunnies of the plant world.

Climbing roses require little pruning. Cut out extra stems if there are too many and also cut back long established canes to about the place where they are slightly thicker than a pencil. Then cut each side stem down to several inches. This will cause the cane to flower along its complete length for a beautiful spring display.

Remove any leaves that may still be clinging to the bush. Rake up debris beneath the plant and discard to eliminate overwintering fungus spores. It’s a good idea to spray the bare plant and the surrounding soil with a combination organic horticultural oil to smother overwintering insect eggs and a dormant spray like lime-sulfur to kill fungus spores. If you usually only have problems with black spot you can use a mixture of 1 teaspoon baking soda with a few drops of light oil in 1 quart water and spraying every 7 to 10 days.

Other tasks to do in the garden in January:

Cut back hydrangeas if you haven’t already done so. Apply soil sulfur, aluminum sulfate or other acidifier if you want to encourage blue flowers.
Prune fruit, nut and shade trees and spray with horticultural oil and lime sulfur or copper dormant spray. Don’t use lime-sulfer on apricots, though.
Cut back summer flowering deciduous shrubs and vines.  Don’t prune spring flowering varieties like lilac, flowering cherry, plum and crabapple, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, weigela and spirea until after flowering or you can cut some during flowering to bring in cuttings for bouquets.
– honeysuckle, potato vine, morning glory, trumpet creeper and pink jasmine by thinning now or even cutting back low to the ground if  they are a big tangled mess.