ANDREW MAY: Don’t rush to checkout line with summer-type plants; instead, pinch, prune

THREE DIFFERENT CONCERNS and/or horticultural alarm bells went off last week, so I thought I’d make this triad a time-appropriate garden column.

First, and as always in early April, my hackles got raised “big time” as I observed people with great delight roll out carts through the plant vendors’ doors with all manner of ill-purchased plants.

As I mentioned the other week, “now is not the time for summer-type plants and flowers.”

Unless you have a greenhouse, hothouse or conservatory, do not buy cool-sensitive plants such as tomatoes, marigold, zucchinis, peppers, geraniums, coleus, begonias, cucumbers, squash, impatiens, zinnias, dahlia plants (great time now for tubers, however!), beans, eggplants, cleome, salvia and basil, to name but a few.

I know it is so confusing.

Why would vendors have for sale plants that will thrive only in warmer weather?

Whatever the reason, be very aware.

All these plants really require soil temperatures in the 50s to flourish.

That will not happen for a while, and if you plant them now, they will “harden off.”

When this occurs, the plant becomes stunted, turns purplish-bronze and produces way fewer flowers and little fruit or produce.

So resist the temptation of all these sensitive, brightly colored flowers as an impulse purchase.

Instead, buy dozens and dozens of cold-tolerant spring plants for sale.

Second, it was just a mere few days ago that I looked at various perennials starting to “break out” and emerge.

But on Friday, the ball-flowering tall sedums, the fall mums and the fall-flowering asters were all up several inches and getting leggy.

I immediately went into panic mode and cut these plants back halfway to a height of 2 inches to 4 inches.

Fall-flowering sedum, mums and asters are all gorgeous, bright-colored plants for your yard, but they all suffer from getting tall, elongated and bent over before flowering.

By “pinching” them back now (cutting them back) and then again in six weeks, this double pinch will produce an eightfold increase in the number of flowers while growing less than half the height.

Double pinch these plants to avoid disaster, and do so soon.

Finally, the third shock was seeing a posted photo of newly bought, desired, painstakingly planted and cherished roses, so why the worry?

Well, to start, they were climbing roses, and good job on that selection.

Climbing roses grow perfectly here on the Peninsula and can sport hundreds if not thousands of blossoms per plant per season.

That is because of how aggressively they grow.

They grow fast, tall and long with flowers following this growth spurt.

My great concern was the fact that 10 brand-new roses were planted in a row along a beautiful trellised fence less than 20 feet long.

There is the rub: 20 feet for this type of plant is very tight indeed.

But most of these climbing-type plants such as clematis, honeysuckle, potato vine and climbing roses are planted in a confined spot for their mature size.

For the past few weeks all over the Peninsula, I have been pruning these plants down to a height of 2 feet to 3½ feet.

But a severe prune is required, or dead wood awaits you just a few years down the road.

Besides, these plants bloom on new wood, and a severe prune like this guarantees all new wood.

And they will grow back to their original “pre-prune” stature by the end of this summer.

Ease my beating heart, control your vines and climbing roses, and prune, baby, prune.

There, I got to talk out my anxiety.

Now, here’s to a hoppy Easter!

________

Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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