Forsythia Abloom; Roses to Prune
When the forsythia blooms, it's time to prune the roses. Disinfecting pruners, saw, and loppers with alcohol reduces the chance of carrying fungi, insects, or diseases from one rose to another. I carry the alcohol in a small spray bottle and use a piece of rag to wipe blades clean. Dab pruning cuts with glue (white or wood glue) to keep insects from entering and moisture from evaporating.
Welcome the Roses
Carefully remove heaped mulch and winter debris from the base of each rose. Watch for and don't disturb green, tender new sprouts that will grow into new canes. Fertilize with well-aged manure, compost, and a slow-release fertilizer. Topdress with fertilizer as directed and amendments in an 18- to 24-inch area on the soil around the base.
Tidy and Feed Rhodies
While you've got those pruners in hand, clip off dead twigs and branches from azaleas and rhododendrons. Tidying the shrubs will eliminate distracting brown sticks -- all the better to enjoy bright spring flowers. Feed rhododendrons with a slow-release acidic fertilizer. Used coffee grounds are acidic and contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, so sprinkle them on the soil too.
Remove Dead Rhodie and Rose Leaves
Rake out the dead brown leaves under the roses, azaleas, and rhodies. Dead, furled leaves may harbor various fungal spores and insect eggs. Put debris in the trash, not the compost pile. Remove dead flower trusses (brown seedpods). Prune them off or carefully break them without damaging the new buds just beneath.
Keep an Eye Out for Insects
Examine stems and leaves, top and bottom, for emerging insects, galls, and white azalea bark scale. Identify the invader before applying any insecticide. If you're not sure what it is, take a sample to your local plant clinic, state Extension service, or garden center for assistance. Or contact a professional arborist, such as Bartlett Tree Experts, for diagnosis and treatment.