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Home / Lifestyle / Gardening / GARDENERS’ Q&AS FOR MARCH

GARDENERS’ Q&AS FOR MARCH

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Last weekend was likely a pleasant and busy one for
most gardeners as they cleaned up landscapes damaged
by winter’s freezing temperatures. Many plants in
home landscapes may appear to be dead at first glance
including Blue Plumbagos. Blue Plumbagos rank as
one of my favorite perennials. Yes, my Blue Plumbagos
looked dead but I know from experience that most plants
would likely produce new sprouts near ground level from
woody stems not damaged from freezing temperatures.
Over the past weekend, I removed the dead branches
on each plant (and I have quite a few plants). All the
plants had new sprouts already budding out. I’m confident
that my landscape will once again be adorned with
a plethora of delicate blue flowers.
I love seeing the color blue in the landscape. During
the scorching heat of our Gulf Coast summer days,
nothing cools us down like the true-blue flowers of Blue
Plumbago. Although blue flowers are a rare occurrence
in the plant kingdom, they are easy to blend with other
colors and go with virtually any color scheme.
The following is a sampling of recent questions asked
by home gardeners:
Question: I have followed your advice to hold off any
major pruning of freeze-damaged shrubs and perennials?
Can I prune them back now?
Answer: Before answering, I should note that the above
question, or variations of said question, was the most
asked question I had to address over the past few weeks.
In previous columns, I advised gardeners to wait a while
before pruning back freeze-damaged plants. I even followed
my own advice as I explained in the opening for
this column.
One gardener relayed a conversation she had with her
husband as he was preparing to practice major pruning
to their home landscape a few days after the last freeze
in February.
She said she explained to her husband that it was not
time to do such pruning because “Dr. Johnson warned
against doing so.” She conveyed to me that her husband
replied that “You mean that all the other neighbors that
are pruning their landscapes on this beautiful day are
wrong and Dr. Johnson is right?” She responded “Yes”,
and the pruning mission was put off!
So, yes it would be far safer for the health and performance
of landscape shrubs to delay pruning by a few
weeks when a cold snap occurs in February.
Waiting a few weeks or so to give the plants time to
seal off damaged tissue and prepare for new growth is
worth denying the understandable urge to prune early.
Pruning too soon also signals plants to send out tender
new growth, which would be even more vulnerable if
subsequent cold temperatures occur.
Pruning away the dead portions too soon after a cold
snap exposes buds that may still be alive. And another
frosty morning could wipe out those survivors. So, I have
recommended keeping the shears in the garage and let
the dead portions of the plants protect the understory.
The threat of another severe cold snap has considerably
lessened. It would be satisfactory to now prune
landscape shrubs and perennials that sustained damage
from cold weather.
As I was surveying the shrubs at my office in Carbide
Park, I noticed that several Esperanza (also known as
Yellow Bells and Tecoma Stans) have produced new
growth at the base of the plants. If your cold sensitive
shrubs have started to put out new growth at the base,
go ahead and prune back the old top growth. Be sure
to be prepared to cover the new growth with a sheet or
blanket as such new growth is particularly sensitive to
cold temperatures.
Question: How can I attract beneficial insects to my
landscape?
Answer: The use of beneficial insects to help manage
their pest relatives has been a mainstay among gardeners
for a very long time. There are several excellent
advantages to this method of insect pest control. Utilizing
beneficial insects requires a minimum of effort by the
gardener and helps reduce the incidence of insect pests
with resistance to insecticides.
Gardeners can attract and keep our natural friends in
their home landscape and gardens by following a few
recommendations, many of which is just good gardening
sense that we use anyway. One way to conserve beneficials
is by avoiding indiscriminate use of insecticides.
While they play an important role in pest control, indiscriminate
and improper use of insecticides can also pose
hazards to ourselves and our environment. For more
information on how to attract and maintain beneficial
insects, visit my website (http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.
edu/galveston/) and click on the link entitled “Beneficials
in the Gardens.”

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