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Spring-like weather brings out the buds

Some roses refuse to quit. This is Pink Promise on Jan. 31. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Some roses refuse to quit during mild winter; prune any way

What do you do when your roses start sprouting new growth before they’re pruned? Prune anyway.

Current spring-like conditions are bringing out fresh and rapid growth on roses – and it’s still January.

Meanwhile, mild winter conditions kept many bushes blooming (and growing) instead of dropping their leaves and resting. For example, my 8-foot-tall Pink Promise just won’t quit.

It’s much easier to prune a bush that’s dormant; it’s already lost its leaves and its naked framework is easier to evaluate.

But it’s also important to remove last year’s foliage before this season’s leaves grow out. The old leaves harbor fungal diseases such as black spot and rust that will rapidly infect that new growth.

In addition, roses tend to sprout new growth at the end of old canes. If you don’t prune back the canes, spring blooms will be way over your head. If unpruned, my Pink Promise soon would be 12 feet tall.

Those little pink points of new growth poking out from the cane
are bud breaks.
Roses are unusual shrubs; they can break buds on old wood. That means they can sprout growth – with a bud eye breaking through the outer protective bark – on almost any healthy cane or trunk.

As days get warmer, more bud breaks appear – even on unpruned canes.

Let those bud breaks be your guide. Prune about ½ inch above the new growth, preferably pointing outward away from the center of the bush.

When pruning, always take out the “3Ds”: Dead, damaged or diseased canes. Then, prune for shape and air flow, eliminating crossing canes.

Concentrate on reducing the overall size of the bush by a third or by half.

Pink Promise, for example, will come down to 4 feet – still a big bush. At that size, it doesn’t have to waste that much energy growing canes from the ground up and get right into sprouting spring blooms.

Judging by how it spent the winter and the bud breaks already appearing on this bush, Pink Promise will have its first spring blooms in six to eight weeks.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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