Last month I directed readers to prune their fruit trees. Not one to give advice I don’t follow myself, I punctiliously headed off to our orchard with my Felcos and folding hand saw in an attempt to continue the process I began last year of bringing our old, neglected orchard back to life. That’s where things started to go wrong.
After making a few get-to-know-you cuts on my sour cherry, I headed back to the shed to get the orchard ladder only to discover that it was gone, on one of my job sites. Settling on a light-weight painter’s ladder and extendable pole pruners, I tromped back out to the cherry. Weary of the instability of the painter’s ladder, I started with the pole pruners, reaching for a skyward-growing water sprout but instead managing to wedge the saw blade between two gnarled branches. Gingerly moving the blade back and forth at first and then with more force as my shoulders cried out with fatigue, I yanked one last time and ended up on my rear end with my boots at a perfect 90-degree angle to my torso while Olive (my canine side kick) curiously tilted her head and let out a sympathetic whimper. A few more attempts led me to abandon the pole pruners in favor of the painter’s ladder. On my fifth or sixth cut, as I reached for a branch that was, of course, slightly out of reach, the ladder’s fourth leg went air born, leaving my two legs grasping for solid ground as I clung to the horizontal branch wedged under my armpits. In need of a third strategy, I settled on what turned out to be the most efficacious: I climbed the tree.
March brings the beginning of gardening season, and with it a natural enthusiasm to take on the needs of your garden. Doing so with reckless abandon isn’t the worst thing that can happen, but consider the value of having the right tools and planning ahead, lest you be left, literally, hanging.
Revive the Vegetable Garden
Plant shell peas, snap peas, fava beans, arugula, kale, and spring garlic. If you planted your garlic in the fall, give it a dose of blood meal early in the month to encourage large, healthy bulbs in June. Mulch any perennial hold-overs, including rhubarb, artichokes, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries (do it now, when you have time, a commodity that will be in short supply next month when the garden is in full swing).
Divide Late-Summer and Early-Fall Blooming Perennials
If you divide aster, helianthus, anemone, acanthus, coreopsis, crambe, and rudbeckia now, they will have the entire growing season to recover and, in most cases, perform quite well. Your reasons for dividing can vary. With the fibrous roots of rudbekia, for example, the plant may be performing just fine, but you simply want more plants. In the case of helianthus, the previous year’s performance may have been a bit lackluster. By lifting it from the ground and cutting the root mass into sections with a sharp knife, you will allow for fresh root growth that recharges the plant. Be sure to neatly cut away any soft or desiccated looking roots and replant as soon as possible.
Cut Back Ornamental Grasses Early this month, cut hakonechloa, miscanthus, calamogrostis, and pampas grass to the ground. By doing so you will make way for the emerging spring growth.
Bring in forsythia branches from the outdoors for a yellow cut flower that precedes daffodils. For more information on how to force forsythia, read Friendly Forsythia Forcing.
Attend to Bulbs
If you haven’t already, take note of the galanthus and cyclamen that are announcing themselves. Later this month, enjoy the early blooming daffodils you planted in the fall and then leave the remaining foliage to wither as long as you can stand it. If you haven’t already, plant summer blooming crocosmia and oriental lilies.
Stop and Smell the Daphne and Sarcococca
If, while on your morning walk, you find yourself stopped dead in your tracks while you sniff the air around you, you’ve most likely been caught in the scent net of a nearby sarcococca or daphne. Folks who have even a distant interest in gardening are led to inquire as to what these plants are once they get a whiff of their heady fragrance. Sarcococca hookeriana humilis is my favorite species of Sarcococca because of its compact growth habit. Add to that its strong performance in dry shade, it’s like pure oxygen-vanilla like scent, and its relatively low maintenance needs and you’ve got a plant worth knowing about. Daphne’s clean, citrus scent has a plumeria finish that stops folks in their tracks.
Send your gardening/landscape design questions, along with relevant photos, to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Friendly Forsythia Forcing
- Small Gas Engines for Dummies: The Agony and Ecstasy
- How Not to Endear Your Garden to Deer
- Happy Hydrangeas: To Prune or Not to Prune
- Glorious Grasses
- Uplighting Your Garden
- Complement Colors with Softer Tones in the Garden
- Ask the Gardener: Slug-Proof Plants?
- Ask the Gardener: Creating Texture
- Ask the Gardener: How Do I Get the Hydrangea Blues?
- Ask the Gardener: Who’s Been Eating My Strawberries?!
- Ask the Gardener: To Grow Great Apples, Talk to the Pros in Puyallup
Featured photo of purple cyclamen courtesy of Ian Kirk. Other photos, in order, courtesy of audreyjm529, elPadawan, Seongbin Im, and Peter Stevens.