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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 April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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