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Garden Bliss & Blunder, Issue #008
April 07, 2022
It's Spring: Now What?
Welcome back if you are an 'old friend'
and if you are a 'new friend'...I'm glad you're here.
I know I said it is Spring, but as I write this here in Ontario Canada, the wind is blowing snow, it's cold again and the Snowdrops are pouting.
But, we'll wait 5 minutes and that can all change.
“Is the spring coming?” he said.
“What is it like?”
“It is the sun shining on the rain
and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
and things pushing up
and working under the earth,"
said Mary in The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Lights Out...for birds now
"A majority of migratory birds - including many tanagers, warblers, and sparrows – migrate at night, and light pollution can cause these birds to become disoriented, fly into cities and collide with lighted buildings."
Make your environment safer for migratory birds by decreasing light pollution.
Pledge to turn off all unnecessary lights between the hours of 11 pm - 6am, during peak bird migration times: March-May, and August-October.
Tracy Aviary - Thanks to Peterborough Field Naturalists f or sharing this recently!
However, many of us leave our porch lights on for safety - so consider changing the bulb to yellow as shown in the chart.
PRUNING is an ART but there is some science behind that art and there is no reason to start cutting just because your pruners are sharp.
Look to see how the plant grows and blooms and then prune it intentionally so it looks and grows how it wants to -
confusing? a little.
Sometimes we buy a shrub or tree to fit a space and rather than letting that plant grow how it wants and we try to keep it contained with hard pruning
Prune for shape, health (air and light) and for more blooms… and yes, we can keep a rose, or bush smaller, but some shrubs or plants will die sooner if pruned for the wrong reasons;
so we ask: why are we pruning this plant? when is the best time? (summer blooming = spring - spring blooming = 2 weeks after) which tools ? how to prune and where to start? For lots more detail on pruning, look here:
In other words, bad pruning....
Here are some results of “bad” pruning like using a mechanical hedge trimmer instead of the proper pruning tools.
Often bad cuts result from not knowing, or untrained gardeners and landscapers who believe every plant gets pruned the same way.
Below you can see on this Ninebark bush what ragged cuts result from hedge trimmers.
....and below, a split in the cane of a rose also pruned with hedge trimmers will result in serious die-back.
Roses - when can you prune?
Wait till Forsythia blooms… (if there is no Forsythia nearby, this can translate to temps of 13C or 55F and is often early to mid April)
Roses that grow like bushes, form a structure or are climbers are all pruned differently for different reasons and they don’t all want to be cut off at ground level…. no matter what anyone says…for example, if you cut a climber to the ground every year, it spends a whole season trying to grow tall and bloom….
Roses like to be pruned 'how they grow".... see my page here:
See the difference between how these roses grow
and imagine how they need different pruning.
Tree Peony Pruning
Tree Peonies are so gorgeous, they can seem intimidating to prune - they aren’t
Look for reddish buds like these in the photo: start at the base and follow up the stem to the last bud nearest the top of the stem and cut just above that.
Beauty Bush Pruning
Beauty Bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)is glorious in full bloom
- now see what the bush looks like when it is pruned the wrong (uneducated) way.
Not all bushes should be trimmed into round balls. If that is the look you want, then Boxwood or Yew or other evergreens... but not most bushes that bloom this way
When the bush is pruned like this, the result is a tangled mess in the centre where the light cannot penetrate so the centre eventually dies out and the blooms are only on some of the branch tips.
(see next photo the following spring)
After corrective pruning, the following summer, it may not bloom but it will come back to the way it wants to grow and will bloom the following season.
Bad pruning is hard on all bushes and trees and slows the growth and affects overall health.
Let Your Garden Sleep In...
Remember last month I talked about leaving the dead stems in your garden?
Those wee beneficial bugs are still sleeping and even when they wake, they need a place to hide and be safe. Here’s what can happen and what can be inside:
When you cannot wait to clean up your garden because new things are greening up, then cut the stems at random lengths and leave some of them still standing…
New ones will soon grow up to cover the dead stems where wee bugs can still hide out in the summer.
In my garden, there are many Phlox stems that are bend or broken with heavy snow. I can cut those, and leave some of the others standing.
You can take some of the hollow stems and lay them down near a hedge or under a bush out of the way... this will also give them another place to hide.
YEAR OF THE GARDEN-2022
The Year of the Garden
is just beginning..
check out the site below
and get involved,
even if all you do is plant red...
DID YOU KNOW...
This is blue bunny pee!
In the winter rabbits are hungrier
and some will snack on
European Buckthorn bark
(which contains pigments that make
Then when bunnies eat the bark,
they urinate an orange-coloured pee
that can turn blue when the UV light
from the sun hits it.
I’m still looking for blue snow. PHOTO - University of Guelph The Arboretum
WHAT NOT TO DO IN MARCH...
Although it may seem a bit mean,
I’m going to start with what NOT to do in March
- it’s not only the piles of snow,
but the fact the ground is not ready for us
to actually garden yet.
You may see rings around tree roots
that show there is warmth in the roots…
what it actually means is
the snow is melting from below…
creating a layer of ice next to the soil,
under the snow.
Small shoots are a bit flummoxed by this
and hesitant to show their stuff
until there is enough sun to get to them.
I cannot imagine when our snowdrops will poke up.
so here is my sketch from a photo
by Toronto Master Gardener
In some gardens to the west of us, the snow is almost
gone and some spring plants are showing up…
... like Helen’s Snowdrop.
Take your time in your garden - watch
“In days gone by,
it was not uncommon in spring time
to see a farmer drop his trousers and pants
and sit down on the soil.
If the soil was not too cold,
the farmer knew it was time to sow his crop.
If you want to avoid misunderstandings with your
you are better off trying this old trick
with your bare elbow.”
The Curious Gardner’s Almanac
(centuries of practical garden wisdom
A Perigee Book - The Penguin Group - 2006 ISBN 978-0-399-53377-8
It's also not a good time to...
Don’t be too hasty to remove leaf litter just yet…
(assuming the snow is gone).
It protects the soil and the wee insects that are still not
ready to emerge yet…
and many of them are beneficial insects….
so wait a bit…
Don’t cut back all the dead stems of the plants
you left standing last fall.
… there are beneficial insects that live and
lay eggs in those stems until almost summer.
Instead, cut them back a bit randomly…
so some are short and some are taller.
Keep any hollow stems, laying them on their sides
in a pot or other contained area
- out of the way for safe places to shelter.
If spring bulbs are emerging,
pull dead leaves from around the stems
but leave the rest.
DON'T PRUNE... just yet...
early flowering shrubs
like FORSYTHIA, QUINCE,
BUTTERFLY BUSH or MAGNOLIA...
wait till the forsythia blooms and
DON’T remove the compost where you hilled your roses up
in the fall because an early frost
can kill the root as well as any new shoots that come
When Spring brings that annoying "freeze-thaw cycle"
it can create an opening in the soil
around the stem of the rose and
water can turn to ice there and kill the root..
Wait till the Forsythia blooms
and when you see small bud-eyes
beginning to emerge along the sides of the canes,
check my page on rose pruning here for some “how-to”s.
MARCH IS A GOOD TIME TO...
Clean and sharpen tools….
I confess mine are still in the back of the car…
ice, snow, wind along with lots of other excuses -
but once I take them out and get them ready,
it will be time to start cutting some things back
just not roses yet.
DO: trim dead or broken branches….
and last year's lower leaves of Hellebore
DO cut back tall grasses
before there are new green leaves
- tie them and cut below the tie
(and above the new green shoots)
- now they are already bundled…
- leave about a third of the height…
- cut above the green
or the grasses will have cut-off
leaves instead of pointed tips
- Personally, I like
how they look when cut in a rounded shape
instead of flat across the top...
Wait to replant hens and chicks or Heuchera
that lift out of the soil
when it freezes and thaws….
most likely end of April or May in zones 5 or lower
As soon as the snow is gone,
put down a layer of compost… and mulch if you can…
the spring rains will wash the nutrients into the soil
and give the young roots a boost…
. keeps the weeds from growing too.
STILL PLANNNG? Consider this...
If you only add 5% native plants,
you will add 75% of caterpillar food needs
It takes 6-9,000 caterpillars
for a chickadee
to raise just one clutch of baby birds
I still fuss sometimes while planning (or re-planning)
my garden as spring rolls around
but all my blunders are usually pretty good lessons.
"There is no gardening without humility.
Nature is constantly sending
even its oldest scholars to
the bottom of the class
for some egregious blunder."
- best of all,
Spring will come and
we'll be sitting on the deck soon
while still needing sweaters and cuddles
... Lucy looks forward to her garden inspections
along with a little bit
of romping when no one is looking.
Until next time, if you love Spring like I do
and admit to Spring Fever
now and then...remember this...
“ A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for a King.”
Emily Dickinson 1830 - 1886
MY BOOK IS IN ITS SECOND PRINTING...
My sincerest thanks to Mark and Ben Cullen
for this kind review
in their March newsletter:
I am so excited !
This is the story of
a baby bird
who fell from his nest,
rescued by a boy, his little sister,
their Mom-Lady (who decided he would live),
and Nana & Papa who helped him fly into the woods.
I cannot wait to share it with you.
if you would like a signed copy,
please send a note to
OTHER BOOKS to READ ... now or later
Both amazing, intriguing and great reads.....
THE LAST GARDEN IN ENGLAND Julia Kelly Gallery Books - Simon & Schuster - 2021
THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN Kate Morton Atria Books - Simon & Schuster - 2008
I SPEAK FOR THE TREES Diana Beresford-Kroeger Random House Canada
Diana lives near Ottawa and this book is about her
life's journey from ancient Celtic wisdom
to a healing vision of the forest.
She is a remarkable, inspiring,
and passionate person
and if you ever get a chance to hear her speak
or watch her movie,
do not miss it.
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