February Landscape Activities
28 January 2008
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Charlottesville/Albemarle County Office
460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
phone: 434.872.4580 fax: 434.872.4578
While the snow was providing a nice blanket and water source for our plants it has also given us an excuse to walk around a see what is happening in the landscape and maybe plan for the new season. If you find yourself looking for something to do with your kids while they are home from school try a tour of your landscape.
Trees with large cavities in their trunks should be evaluated yearly as to whether or not they should be removed for safety reasons. When a cavity takes up over 75 percent of a limb or trunk, the wood could give way anytime. If you suspect a problem, contact an ISA certified arborist. Many are listed in your phone book under Tree.
Broadleaf evergreens can be pruned before new growth begins this spring. This will enable new growth to cover the cut surfaces and exposed inner branches.
Shrubs for spring planting should be ordered now. Bare root, deciduous types should be planted while still dormant, about one month before the average date of the last frost - this is usually in late April. Hardy, container-grown and balled and burlapped shrubs may be planted anytime, except during severe, cold weather. It is also time to transplant deciduous native plants if the ground is not too wet or too frozen.
Watch for signs of heaving among your small shrubs. The freezing and thawing of the ground can force shallow-rooted plants out of the soil. Replant any that have been heaved and mulch with 2 inches of organic material to reduce soil temperature fluctuation.
Try forcing branches of some shrubs to bloom during the bleak days of late winter and early spring. Possibilities include winter honeysuckle, fragrant viburnum, Japanese andromeda, mountain andromeda, azalea, rhododendron, and mountain laurel. Buds of native trees such as dogwood, spicebush, serviceberry, and redbud will blossom indoors as well. Make long, slanted cuts when collecting the branches and place the stems in a vase of water. Change the water every four days. They should bloom within three weeks.
Pussy willows that have been forced can be halted at any stage of their development simply by removing them from water. They will keep perfectly in dried arrangements for years.
Check valuable trees and shrubs for tent caterpillar egg masses and bagworms. Remove them to reduce the number of destructive pests this spring. Eastern tent caterpillar egg masses are gray and varnished looking and form a collar around twigs. Their nests are commonly found on wild cherry, apple, and crabapple, but may be found on hawthorn, maple, cherry, peach, pear and plum as well. Bagworms look somewhat like a pinecone hanging at the end of branches and seem to prefer arborvitae and eastern red cedar but can be found on many others.
Prune most shrubs and trees on warm days this month after the coldest weather is past in your area. Wait until after bloom to prune your spring-flowering shrubs in order to get maximum blossoms.
Remove honeysuckle and other weedy vines from deciduous plants while the plants are still leafless and easier to distinguish from the weeds.
Continue to water shrubs in your landscape throughout the winter on warmer days if the soil is dry. Evergreen plants transpire water from their leaves whenever the air temperature is above 40 degrees F.
Late winter is the time to prune many deciduous trees. Look over your plants now and remove dead, dying, unsightly parts of the tree, sprouts growing at or near the base of the tree trunk, crossed branches, and V-shaped crotches. Call your local Extension office if you are unsure when and how to prune each species.
For more information about this and other landscape topics contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office. The local Virginia Cooperative Extension office numbers are Albemarle 872-4580, Fluvanna 591-1950, Greene 985-5236, Louisa 540-967-3422, and Nelson 263-4035.