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What rain? McKinley Park Prunathon goes on

Prunathon volunteers warm up inside Clunie Center
after tackling McKinley Park's rose garden.
(Photo: Ellie Longanecker)
Volunteers brave weather to prune garden's 1,200 roses

Call it the miracle on H Street.

Despite wind, rain and mud, 70 volunteers turned out Saturday for the annual McKinley Park Prunathon and finished the memorial rose garden’s 1,200 bushes by noon.

They got “lots of fresh air,” noted garden coordinator Lyn Pitts, who organized the Prunathon along with Ellie Longanecker. Both women gave their “sincere gratitude” to those who braved the bad weather.

“Seventy wonderful volunteers turned out to make the annual pruning event a success, in some pretty cold wet windy weather,” Friends of the McKinley Park Rose Garden posted on Facebook.

After pruning, volunteers warmed up with lunch at the park’s Clunie Community Center.

“The hot soup from Friends of East Sacramento and Evans Kitchen was appreciated by all,” the post read.

After all that work, the volunteers enjoyed minestrone and clam chowder.

“All the volunteers could not fit in the room,” Longanecker said. “Not a drop (of soup) was left.”

Now freshly pruned and weeded, the McKinley Park rose garden is ready for another year of weddings and other celebrations. Featured in the movie “Lady Bird,” the famous garden is considered among Sacramento’s most romantic settings.

With forecasts for the season’s worst storm so far this winter, organizers had set a Jan. 12 rain date for the Prunathon, usually held on the first Saturday of each new year. But ignoring the weather, volunteers turned out in force on Jan. 5.

“I arrived at 9 a.m. and Lyn Pitts already had all the volunteers at work,” said Dave Coop, president of the Sacramento Rose Society. “Community volunteers, AmeriCorps young people (and more) were busy pruning. While they were working, Lyn was instructing another large group about the (morning’s work) and briefly ‘how to prune a rose.’ ”

Coop led a hands-on pruning workshop for some of the public attendees. “All had good questions and eager to learn,” he noted.

"Yes, it was wet off and on and a bit breezy, but not intolerable,” Coop added. “It even cleared slightly late in the morning.”

All that wet work was worth it, Coop noted.

“It was - as in the past - amazing to see that large garden get pruned by noon,” he said. “But I was happy that we ignored the network weather reports that said this storm was going to 'dump' on us.”

All done: McKinley Park's 1,200-bush memorial rose garden
is now pruned for 2019, thanks to volunteers. (Photo: Lyn Pitts)


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

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

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* 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 help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* 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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