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Time to prune, then plant

By MARY COLLISTER
Published March 9, 2007


We finally had some winter weather and most of us experienced a few hours of freezing temperature for two or three consecutive nights. Your plants may have suffered some damage or even loss of plant material. There should be no questions now about what is cold hardy in your yard and what isn't.

I made a quick walk around my yard and it was as I expected. There is damage to my pentas, begonias, lantanas, coleus, vincas and my standard bougainvillea. I am confident that most of the damage is not terminal, but the bougainvillea really doesn't look good. It has frozen to the ground before and I have been babying it to train it back to its standard form. I did cover the head of it, but all the leaves are black and shriveled and will shortly fall off.

The other plants I covered were the three shrub bougainvilleas. They look fine, but are close to the ground and it was easy to cover the entire plants.

I'm curious as to how my peach trees will respond. Both trees already had blossoms and a couple of small, green peaches present. I was concerned before the cold weather that perhaps we hadn't had enough cool temperatures to set the fruit and now I'm worried that the cold weather may damage the flowers.

Some plants that look better after the cold weather include both varieties of spirea I have. The leaves are even more colorful with lots of red. My fringe plant and even the azaleas seemed to have enjoyed temperature dip.

My orchids fared well but I did move them under cover of the lanai. Before I moved them back out into the yard, I removed wilted flowers and yellow leaves. I watered them all well once they were under the trees. Later this month I will give them all a good dose of fertilizer.

By the second or third week in March we have usually seen the end of our cold weather, so by then you are probably safe to do some heavy pruning. This is a good time to get rid of any damaged foliage or limbs. It is also a good time to prune for shaping or size control. I look forward to this time of year, since I maintain that pruning is therapeutic. As long as the weather is still below 80 degrees, it is enjoyable for me. There are very few plants in my yard that will be spared the pruners or clippers, and I end up with quite a pile of clippings and usually a trip to the landfill is necessary. It's just too much for me to compost at home.

After you finish your pruning you may notice room in your garden to add a little spring color. Look at the garden centers as shortly they will be brimming with what seems like an unlimited number of flowering plants. Most annuals you plant now will survive and thrive through May and possibly into June.

You can also add some flower seeds to your garden. I usually receive a few packets in the mail and just sprinkle them in an area that receives semishade. I then cover them with soil, keep the area moist and wait and see what pops up. Often times the seeds I receive are not really suitable for this area, but will give a short show of color before succumbing to our summer weather.

If you buy your seeds in a local garden center, you can be more particular. Marigolds, vinca, sunflowers, and Johnny jumps ups are almost always successful and will reseed themselves year after year. These are also a good choice if you are involving children in the garden. They grow quickly, are hardy, and have colorful flowers.

Whether you are adding to your garden with the planting of spring flowers or pruning your garden into shape, this is the perfect time to get started. Enjoy the weather while we can.