A week or so ago, I went to a rose pruning workshop and learned a vast deal. I would like to care for my roses as organically as possible, but I am also desirous of having more than three roses to cut for the season. Again, the blasted fertilization and water.
I was told at the workshop to spray with lime sulfur at this time of year to control black spot spores overwintering on the canes or in the soil. Typically, one would want to spray in January around here, but January has come and gone. My roses never go fully dormant here, but I learned that they need to be forced into a complete rest in order to perform really well. So I intended to spray as advised with a half-dose on the last day of February.
But rain was in the forecast. So I held off. Hoping to get to it today if I feel up to it (I’m hosting something nasty in my tonsils). I did prune the roses thoroughly, thinning out everything in the middle, the little twiglets that won’t produce anything, removing crossing and dead branches, and cutting back to an outward-facing bud. I was advised to get this done before I spray with the lime sulfur, as (not surprisingly) it stinks and I won’t want to work around it.
Also began to thin out the boxwood hedge on the south side of the property. I have seven bushes whose tags have long been lost. I purchased them about six years ago as 1-quart plants and now they’re three feet high and wide. I’ve pruned them back about twice each year to keep new growth in check and to keep them looking healthy and fat. It’s crucial to prune them in a vague inverted-cone shape, with branches at the bottom of the plant longer than the ones at the top. Pruning in a reverse pattern means the lower branches get shaded out by the upper, and you end up with the ragged bottoms that look so pathetic. I’m very pleased with the boxwoods’ performance, but they’re starting to look a bit stringy on the ends. So I plunged in and thinned out the twiglets in the center, as well as some select larger branches to allow more light to penetrate to the inside of the shrub. I am about halfway through the border now; I hope to finish it by next weekend. The most recent recipient of my barbering looks as if it is entering basic training, having received quite a buzz cut. But I hope it will spring back, bigger and better, ready to serve as the backbone of the border.
I am also in the process of cutting back all of my bearded iris foliage in an effort to control iris borer. I am coming rather late to the party on this one. Ideally, the foliage should be cut back in the fall rather than being left to overwinter. I have always been rather lazy about garden sanitation, excusing it as composting-in-situ, but as I am seeing the rotten fruits of my nonexistent labor, I am pledging this year to get in the habit of cleaning up. A week ago I uprooted the whitish-purple iris at the edge of the scree garden, cut off and properly disposed of all the withered tubers, dunked the salvageable bits into a weakened bleach solution, and replanted them. Slowly progressing through the garden doing the same. I have a lot of iris, so this will take a while. The iris grow like weeds around the property, but they only grow about five inches high. I am fascinated by how this iris surplus might have come to be. I can’t imagine that squirrels dug and divided them, and neither can I imagine that the previous owner of the house, an elderly lady who liked the “natural look,” would have planted several thousand baby iris plants. Perhaps one day I’ll investigate further.
I watered the coral bells (Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’) and bergenias that I bought in my frenzy the other week when I went looking for Sambucus ‘Black Lace’ and dropped $100 on everything but. The Deutzia that I also bought in that frenzy is beginning to leaf out. I am already enamored of this sweet little thing and am looking forward to it blossoming and utterly captivating me. Why didn’t I try it before now?