Getout & growNative plants add magic to garden

Published on Thu, Apr 20, 2006 by Doreen Trudel

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Get out & grow
Native plants add magic to garden

By Doreen Trudel

Spring in Whatcom County is a magical time. Within our boundaries we see the bounty of a Pacific Northwest spring such as daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, ribes and forsythia, cherry and apple blossoms, flowering ornamentals such as Saskatoon berry, (Amelanchier), dogwood (Cornus) and lilacs and wisteria just to name a few. Enjoy a walk through the woods and look for delicate native wildflowers such as camas (Camassia quamash), shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii), pink fawn lilies (Erythronium revolutum), yellow wood violets (Viola glabella) and trilliums (Trillium ovatum).

This is the busiest season in the garden so there is a lot to talk about. Most plants such as perennials and shrubs pretty much take care of themselves or can be fussed over later in the season, when there are some plants that give you this one chance to help them along. If you miss this window of opportunity you must wait until next year or risk losing this year’s blooms completely. The rose is the first to come to mind when I think of a plant that benefits greatly from extra attention in spring. Because I have been asked so many questions about roses let’s spend some extra time on this beloved plant.

In spring, I first prune my roses and then I feed them so I will begin with pruning roses. Common rose wisdom says that when the Forsythia blooms it is time to prune your roses. We are approaching the end of the Forsythia so prune now, do not wait until later in the month.

When you grab your clippers and head to your rose garden it will make the job easier if you understand the why and what you are about to do. The reasons why we prune apply to all pruning jobs. We prune to encourage a healthy plant, eliminating dead and diseased branches. By eliminating crossed and crowded branches we promote good air circulation within the plant structure. We prune to improve the shape and control size according to our aesthetics and space and to keep blooms within viewing level and we prune to encourage and affect new growth.

Before you begin make sure your clippers are sharp and clean. Wipe them down with rubbing alcohol and repeat this at least after pruning each bush, ideally after each cut if there are signs of disease on the plant. Okay – now you are ready to start.

For all types of roses first prune out any damaged, diseased or crossed branches making sure your cut is well below the diseased wood. Also remove any suckers growing below the graft union or around the base of the plant.

For hybrid tea roses now prune for shape, size and blooms by cutting back approximately 1/3 of the length of the canes. Make an angled cut a half inch above an outward facing bud. Prune out some of the canes in the center of the rose bush all the way to the base. Some experts say that you should be able to place a mixing bowl into the inside base of the rose, thus providing plenty of air space within the plant. Finally, step back and look at the shape of the bush and eliminate any errant canes.

Once the stem buds start to develop, finger prune (pinch off) any multiple buds growing from the same eye. Leaving only one bud per eye encourages a single strong cane rather than multiple weaker stems. The same principal applies to flower buds. This trick is used by rose growers for competition to encourage larger blooms.

The most important thing to remember when pruning roses is not to be afraid. Roses are very resilient and respond well to hard pruning. Good luck!