Mid-Atlantic

March, 2006
Regional Report

Hail Your Hellebores

Walk slowly through your shade garden and keep your eyes open for the Lenten rose (Hellebore orientalis) and the hellebore 'Early Purple' (Hellebore atrofubens). Large cream to pink to rose to rich purple, wine-spotted flowers bend nodding heads under notched evergreen leaves. It's okay to clip off brown, scraggly leaves to better see these elegant flowers.

Easy Does It

Ease into spring gardening. After an inactive winter, warm up those muscles with slow stretches before jumping into garden cleanup. Work in 10- to 20-minute segments, and alternate tasks to use different muscle groups. For example, prune for awhile and tie the branches. Then do something less strenuous at waist level such as organizing tools or planting seeds.

Dress for the Weather and the Project

Spring often means chilly mornings and warm afternoons, mucky mud, and all sorts of debris. Save the new gardening duds for another day. Here's an opportunity to layer and recycle clothing near its end. Wear old T-shirts under worn sweaters, pants, or sweats. Nothing lost if they get too soiled or torn to be revived by a spin in the washer.

Prune Twig Dogwoods

To keep red-twig and yellow-twig dogwoods (Cornus spp.) and colored-stemmed willows (Salix spp.) looking full and colorful next winter, prune in early spring. Remove only the old, thick stems. Leave the spindly, thin stems to grow through the gardening season, advises garden curator and author Michael Buffin at an event at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.

Prune Witch Hazels

After the witch hazels (Hamamelis) have bloomed, thin the interior branches and remove vegetative branches (long, whiplike, nonflowering shoots). This selective pruning will encourage abundant flowering next winter. Shaping this way also will keep the witch hazel at an attractive, compact, 6-foot spread.

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