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McKinley Park hosts annual prune-athon

Volunteers again will gather to prune McKinley Park's hundreds of roses; this photo is from the 2014 prune-athon. The Saturday event is open to all, but be sure to bring pruning shears and work gloves. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)

Dry weather expected for huge event to finish pruning 1,200 roses in one morning

Get out your pruners! It’s time for one of Sacramento’s biggest volunteer gardening events of the winter: The McKinley Park Prune-athon.

Starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 4, volunteers will prune the McKinley Park Memorial Rose Garden. Their goal: To finish pruning all 1,200 roses by noon.

“This fun yearly event will be held in dry weather this year! Yay!” said Lyn Pitts, the garden’s volunteer coordinator. “But it will be cold, so dress warmly!”

Last year, the prune-athon was almost rained out. But 85 hardy volunteers still showed up and pruned the garden during a steady drizzle.

In East Sacramento, the prune-athon has become a New Year’s tradition as the garden community and McKinley Park neighborhood come together to nurture this beloved rose garden. Considered among Sacramento’s most romantic places and a popular setting for weddings, the rose garden was featured in the hit movie “Lady Bird.”

Friends of East Sacramento, which now oversees this public garden and Clunie Community Center, provides refreshments and lunch for volunteers.

“We order minestrone soup and clam chowder from Evan's Kitchen to feed all the volunteers when we're done,” Pitts said. “Everyone is invited and there’s no age limit.”

Minors and their parents are required to fill out a participation waiver, available by emailing .

McKinley Park is in the midst of a two-year construction project to build a 6 million-gallon storm water vault 22 feet underground. Expected to be completed later this year, the vault project has torn up much of the park. When the vault is finished, $1 million in upgrades including a new baseball field and benches are scheduled for the park.

The rose garden is getting some renovation, too. Pitts and her volunteers recently spread around the roses 150 cubic yards of wood chips donated by Florin-Perkins Landscape Materials. (There’s still more wood chips to distribute, too.)

The rose garden is on H Street between Alhambra Boulevard and 33rd Street. Admission is free and no experience is necessary; rose experts will lead pruning demonstrations and offer advice.

Bring work gloves and pruners. And dress in layers; the morning will start in the low 40s before warming into the 50s.

Details: .


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

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

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

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

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

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

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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