Wednesday, May 11, 2016

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Spring Garden Musings



If you have roses in the upper Midwest one of the first spring garden tasks is taking rose inventory. What survived, what didn't? This is one of those daunting projects undertaken with fingers crossed and a prayer in your heart that winter wasn't as horrible as you know it was. Do you get out your black suit? Are you going to a funeral? Mounding can dramatically reduce rose carnage, but doesn't guarantee 100% survival.

Grafted rose on left, own root rose on right
Courtesy Easy Elegance Roses
Rose winter hardiness has been dramatically, and favorably, impacted in the last decade with the introduction of "own root" versus "grafted" roses. At its most basic roses have been propagated for decades by grafting the desired variety (Ex: 'Peace', 'Double Delight') on the root system of a vigorous winter hardy rose, most often 'Dr. Huey', a rambling climber. The idea is to produce a larger, more vigorous plant in a shorter period of time. The downside is the golf ball-sized graft union where the canes (stems) originate is a point of weakness. Cold temperature damage to the graft and the plant may be toast in the spring. Aspiring rosarians, please heed the warning (regardless of what books may say) that grafted roses must be planted with the graft union 1-2" below the soil surface in northern climes. This is after all Chicago, not southern California.

Hardy and lovely My Girl Easy Elegance rose 
Sound the trumpets, hail the phenomenon of "own root" roses. Many roses can now efficiently be propagated by cuttings, thus surviving on their own biological roots. Upside? These roses are more innately winter hardy and won't produce 'Dr. Huey' suckers. Another difference is a two year "own root" rose will typically have fewer and smaller diameter canes than its same-age grafted counterpart. "Own root" roses can be planted at the level or a little deeper than they're growing in the pot when you purchase them.

Easy to prune clematis Etoille Violettte
Moving on, clematis pruning: The most important thing a gardener should do when buying a clematis is to record somewhere, anywhere, the name of the variety. I guarantee that in the future when you go to your local garden center to ask how to prune your clematis they will/should ask you the name of the variety. Why? There are three different classes of clematis, each with its own distinct method of pruning. Prune at the wrong time and you may be eliminating flowers for the entire growing season.

Group I: Spring flowering types that flower on buds from last year's growth. So, pruning should be minimal until after spring bloom. Any "tidy up" pruning you want to do should be accomplished within a month after bloom.

Group II: Some early through mid-season flowering varieties, that is two potential flushes of flowers.  Bloom on current season's growth from last year's stems and possibly a late summer bonus flowering from current season's growth  So, spring prune dead wood or weak stems to the plumpest, uppermost buds on whatever growth you decide to save. 

Group III: These varieties flower in summer from the growth they made in the spring. These varieties can be cut back within a foot or two of the ground late winter or early spring. Another way to put it would be to prune just above the lowest buds nearest the base of the plant.

If you're like me you'll put the name in at least two places just as insurance. There's nothing more irritating than being the party responsible for turning your clematis into a foliage plant for the year because it was pruned improperly!

Light the dark with Silveredge pachysandra
A plant you may want to know: 'Silveredge' pachysandra. Don't stop reading because you see the word pachysandra, please. 'Silveredge's' height and white flowers are identical to its green parent. The thing that makes it special is the foliage is gray-green with strong, regular cream edges. It will visibly brighten the shady areas it loves to inhabit. While perfectly winter hardy (Zone 4) it's slightly slower to fill than standard pachysandra, so space no farther apart than 6" centers, or 4 plants per square foot. Not appealing to deer- nice!

After rereading and reflecting maybe this post should have been called "mutterings" rather than musings. Just sayin'....












      

1 comment:

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