March Landscape Activities
10 March 2008
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Charlottesville/Albemarle County Office
460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
phone: 434.872.4580 fax: 434.872.4578
It is almost spring. What do you want to get done in your landscape?
When pruning or cutting roses, cut all flower stems 1/4 inch above a complete (5 leaflet) leaf, leaving two complete leaves below the cut bud. Always use sharp, pruning shears and cut on a slant.
After pussy willow catkins have passed their prime, prune the plants drastically to encourage long branches and large catkins for next year.
Hedges can receive their first pruning this month. As you prune, be sure to leave the base of the plant wider than the top. This allows sunlight to get to the bottom of the plant, creating a full, dense hedge.
Be sure to employ properly trained tree trimmers. Pruning is not a particularly difficult job. However, it does require an understanding of the growth habit of the plants and the form needed to secure the desired landscape effect.
Do not leave stubs when pruning. Stubs usually die and are entry points for disease. Cut just outside the branch collar, the slightly thickened area at the base of the branch. Pruning should never be done in damp or wet weather when the fungal spores and bacteria that infect plants through fresh wounds spread easily.
Trees that bleed, such as birch and maple, should not be pruned until after their leaves are fully developed.
Once new growth begins on trees and shrubs, cut back winterkilled twigs to living, green wood.
For more compact pyracanthas without the risk of losing berries, pinch back new growth now.
Prune evergreen shrubs before growth starts. Prune spring-flowering shrubs after flowering is completed.
Boxwood should be pruned by thinning the outer foliage of the plant and cutting back the branches to retain desired height.
If you are not sure when to prune a particular plant, ask us for a pruning calendar.
Plant new rose bushes in properly dug beds. Fertilize established roses after pruning. It is wise to have your soil tested about every two years. If black spot or powdery mildew has been a problem, start applications of a recommended fungicide. Contact your local Extension agent for current recommendations.
When transplanting dogwoods, it is best that the trees be small (2 to 3 feet tall) and dormant. These do better than larger ones. The larger the tree, the greater the risk of death due to transplant shock since more roots are removed during digging. Dogwoods and magnolias should only be moved in early spring. Always move magnolias with a ball of dirt.
Research has shown that young trees allowed to move with the wind develop greater trunk strength than trees rigidly staked.
Plant roses and bare-root shrubs while they are still dormant, about four weeks before the average date of the last frost. This is around May 1 in central Virginia but you might wait until Mothers Day to be sure.
When transplanting a young shade tree, it may help to orient the tree in its new location the same way it was in its old home. This will prevent previously shaded bark from suddenly being exposed to afternoon sun and causing injury. When not possible or desirable, or if the original orientation is unknown, wrap the trunk in biodegradable tree tape or coat the sunny sides with white, exterior, latex paint for one growing season.
Synthetic materials enclosing the roots of trees and shrubs must be completely removed to ensure success of the transplants. If you purchase balled and burlapped plants, to be on the safe side, remove the material covering the soil. If the tree is very heavy, peel the burlap down to the bottom of the hole if you cannot remove it completely.
If you are buying bare-root trees, look for ones with a large root system in relation to the top growth. It is not necessary to purchase a very, large tree to get a quality plant.
If you are planning to plant a rhododendron, consider the planting space. A good rule of thumb for planting rhododendrons is to put them in an area that is slightly shaded and protected from wind. Also, the smaller the leaf (i.e., R. carolinianum, R. laetivirens), the more tolerant it is of winter sunlight. Large-leaf rhododendrons, such as R. catawbiense or R. maximum, have more winter injury when planted in bright locations.
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.