Mid winter is often considered the best time to prune fruit trees:
- the tree is dormant so sap isn’t running;
- the cold means insects and fungal diseases aren’t going to enter the cutting wound;
- there’s no leaves so you can clearly see the branching structure
I only have three fruit trees: dwarf sour cherry (Romeo, Juliette and Crimson Passion, all from the ‘Romance’ series developed by the University of Saskatchewan), now entering their fourth growing season after planting. The first year there wasn’t much growth – I figure roots were getting established. The next year there were a few blossoms and some growth – I cut off two or three small branches last winter. Last year there was a lot of vegetative growth – branches going every which way (maybe that’s why these particular trees are called ‘bush’ cherries) plus a lot of flower blossoms. No cherries though – some started to form but then fell off while still green; I think it was just too wet last spring.
I needed to prune though and Sunday was the perfect day — not too cold and the snow depth had gone down enough to see where I wanted to cut. Plus, I wanted to spend as much time outdoors in the sun as possible. My goal was to leave branches that grow up, not down, sideways and diagonally. Here is the results for one of them – I hope I didn’t cut off too much.
Earlier this year, during a radio interview, the head of the Toronto Botanical Garden described gardening as a type of performance art. He was right, of course. That’s one of the fascinations of a garden – watching it change day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year.
Sure, you can create a space that never changes, using stone walls or pathways to maintain rigid boundaries, pruning hedges and shrubs the same way year after year. But even then, if you have trees, they will grow and conditions will change.
I, like most gardeners, like an evolving space. I enjoy the four seasons, the unexpected seedlings, moving perennials, planting bulbs, deciding whether to keep a growing shrub or prune it back or maybe even remove it.
The largest micro garden on our property is The Island. I’ve documented its changing patterns in 2017 – you can see it by clicking the tab above that says ’12 Months on an Island’ – or by clicking the link below. The Island will keep changing in 2018 and beyond and I’ll keep taking pictures of it. Hopefully my skills with a camera will also evolve!
I’ve noticed that often when someone says the word ‘wasp’ in a conversation or posts the word ‘wasp’ on social media, a general frenzy, almost hysteria, breaks out. Almost immediately stories will erupt about a friend of a friend or a second cousin or a neighbour being stung by a wasp, or by a whole colony of wasps. Tragedy is only averted after swift action possibly involving a trip to the hospital.
I get it – wasps are mean looking beasts with big eyes and a venomous stinger that can deliver pain and cause a few days of annoyance.
Some people (I’ve read perhaps 1% -3% of the population) are highly allergic to the proteins that a wasp injects into the skin when it stings. This could lead to a serious reaction (anaphylactic shock) that requires immediate medical attention.
For me though, fortunately, wasps are merely a nuisance, a flying critter I want to be aware of because a sting will result in swelling, itchiness, a sore spot for a few days.
A wasp nest can be an indicator of a healthy garden – no out of control pesticide use. It also means you’ve got an insect ally hard at work controlling the many unwanted insects in your garden. “Adult wasps typically prey on a wide variety of caterpillars including corn earworms, armyworms, loopers, and hornworms. Adult wasps also utilize beetle larvae and flies as food for their young.”
I’ve found that if I leave a wasp alone it will leave me alone. They’re attracted to sugary things (which is why they always seem to show up at a picnic involving watermelon or soft drinks) so I watch out near the compost pile after adding melon or peach rinds. If one starts buzzing around me I’ll slowly move away or gently bat (if that’s not an oxymoron) it aside – I definitely don’t want to agitate it! There’s all sorts of information out there on how best to move a wasp nest if you absolutely have to (ie if a colony starts to build their own condominium if the beams of your back porch). I’d suggest though, if possible, to let it be until most die off in the winter (generally through starvation).
Is it too early to start thinking about what the garden will look like next year? Sorry (I am Canadian, after all), but I just can’t help it. It’s the hottest week of the year, the garden is lush with annuals and summer blooming perennials, the veggies are starting to be harvested, pole beans and Morning Glory are climbing feet a day but I’m thinking about spring.
Likely because the last of the Narcissus (Daffodil) leaves are finally fading away and I’m remembering all the bare patches from last April, May and June. And I’m thinking – why didn’t I plan ahead. It’s all well and good to wander around in mid spring, thinking to oneself: ‘Self, I should plant more Hyacinth here – there’s lots of room,’ unless you somehow note where exactly you want to dig without damaging the existing bulbs. Can’t do that now, of course, because for the rest of the season that spot of ground is a very full Lupin and Echinacea bed – I’ve no idea where to plant new Hyacinth!
I could have taken close up photos, drawn sketches or developed a really good memory really quickly but no. This past spring, like most springs, I just enjoyed the display. Realizing the folly of my ways last week, I gathered some small stones that appear in abundance (even when I’m not looking) and, before the last of the daff leaves withered, quickly placed small cairns where it will be safe to dig when my bulb order arrives.
Here’s where I’m going to plant more Colchicum bulbs at the end of August, so that this existing patch expands to match the ever widening spread of the Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda Dogwood) on top.:
A few years ago I planted three Fritillaria persica bulbs in front of the fountain – the bulbs have multiplied so that this there there were five stems, but only one bloomed. So this fall I want to plant another 10 or so – and placed individual stones in the general area. Hopefully next April I’ll have a small forest of these purply flower stalks!
Have you started to think about spring bulbs yet? What do you want to plant?
Let me confess first that I should have known better. In fact, I DID know better, yet I did it anyway. I planted something in a spot I knew was just not suitable, a spot that was already getting a tad overcrowded, didn’t have quite the right requirements, a spot that meant something, sooner rather than later, would need to be moved.
The victims are two pots of Silphium perfoliatum (Cup Plant) I started from seed the winter of 2016. I was excited to see the seeds offered at Trenton’s Seedy Saturday that year – I remembered studying this plant at school and seeing pictures of HUGE clumps growing in a moist meadow near Ottawa. Called a Cup Plant because the leaves grow together at the stem to create a cup that catches water, it’s in the Aster family, and the same genus as the Silphium laciniatum (Compass Plant) – another favourite.
Many bee and butterfly species are attracted to the small sunflower-like yellow flowers and small birds gobble up its seeds in later summer into the fall.
But did ya see the word ‘HUGE’ in the previous paragraph? And the words ‘moist meadow’? Four to 10 feet tall!! Clumps six feet across!! What was I thinking???
After starting them indoors in four inch peat pots then transferring them to one gallon plastic pots, I planted them in the Island Bed – about two feet from a prized Paeonia tenuifolia (Fernleaf Peony – given to me by a friend many years ago as a root division with a single eye) and three feet from a joyful Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple – which is itself slated to eventually be VERY tall and wide!). I knew they had to be at the back of something and I didn’t want them to be all by themselves in the middle of the yard, not even the front field where it gets very wet (ie floods) in the spring – something the plant actually appreciates.
In semi-desperation I planted them where I was able, thinking I’d have a few years before they (or their neighbours) would need to be moved. Alas, this year, their first full year in the ground, the clumps are already about seven feet high — that’s with flowers yet to spring forth from the top!
Lesson Learned (yet again…): think of the mature size of a plant before planting!
Late April in the garden means yellow everywhere – Narcissus in all sizes plus Forsythia and the early Tulips. I love it! As a bonus, it looks like the Fritillaria persica will bloom! One of them, anyway…really looking forward to seeing up close and in person what they look like, then putting in more this autumn. The Island project is coming along – go a lot mulched this weekend. Next weekend I’ll start transplanting Echinacea.
It was wonderful to see so many bees out and about this weekend. At one point this small grouping of Hyacinth was covered with thrm – as many as two dozen just going in and out of the flowers. They were also loving all the daffs and of course the Scilla and Chianodoxia. This time next week they’ll be all over the dandelions!