And remember, poet T.S. Eliot reminded us that April is the cruelest month. We are not out of the winter woods yet, and the best advice is to be patient and wait for the "real" spring.
Experience teaches that spring and her accompanying steady temperatures do not really settle in here until after Easter Sunday, which, in the natural cycle (not calendar date) is always at the same time - the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (March 21).
And do not be misled by the early appearance of any summer annuals at the local market. Summer annuals require steady night temperatures of 50 degrees.
It May Feel Like Spring - But Wait!
Helleborus will "take a hit" and "go limp" but will revive with warming temps; the same goes for the other early flowering plants. Snowdrops and glory of the snow (chionodoxa sardensis) (both bulbs) can easily withstand a cold snap. (I have bleeding heart showing growth; this is not good as this plant is easily damaged by freezing temperatures. It is also not a good sign in terms of how far along the unseasonable temperatures have brought plants.)
To Trim or Not to Trim???
Trim off the old, leathery leaves of helleborus, so the flowering stems can be seen amidst the new leaf growth. Dead head (remove the spent flowers) pansies and trim off any winter kill as the weather allows. Pansies, planted in the fall, benefit from a light dressing of fertilizer now if the ground is not too wet to work. Cold weather makes the pansy put its energy in the roots and the plants revive well with warming temperatures. It is important to keep your pansy plants deadheaded and trimmed for continuous bloom.
Hydrangeas might be damaged by this recent warm spell as some of the buds are showing green. Do not do any pruning to hydrangeas until the plants leaf out and the temperatures settle; only then remove any dead wood.
A General Rule on Pruning
The general rule of thumb for pruning flowering shrubs is (1) prune any shrub which blooms before May 15 AFTER it flowers (azaleas fall into this category); and (2) prune summer flowering shrubs (flowering after May 15) in early spring. Early flowering shrubs bloom on last year's growth, and summer flowering shrubs (hydrangeas are an exception) bloom on new growth. The butterfly bush (buddleia) is a good example of a shrub blooming on new growth and as such needs to be severely pruned in the spring to encourage strong growth and summer flowers.
Keep up with the tidying chores as a clean garden is a happy and pest-free garden!
For Your Interest FYI - Gardening Educational Events
FYI - Some New Plants for 2006
FYI- Recommended Catalogues (as plant guides)
FYI - Gardening Magazine
The English Garden, Editor Janine Wookey, Website: www.theenglishgarden.co.uk
Fairlington Historic District Links