Middle South

February, 2010
Regional Report

Treat Plants for Scale

Examine camellias, euonymous, and other plants susceptible to scale infestation, and spray with horticultural oil as necessary. Treatment is most effective when applied during spells of warm weather, but before spring leaves emerge. Remember, spray the bottom of leaves, as well as the tops, for good control.

Force Spring-Blooming Branches

If you're yearning for spring, try forcing a few spring-blooming branches, such as forsythia, apple, cherry, or redbud. The key to success is waiting until the flower buds begin to swell. Then, bring branches inside, cut the stem ends a second time under water, and quickly plunge them into a vase of room-temperature water. Change the water every couple of days and re-cut the stems periodically. If your timing was right, expect most branches to open within a couple of weeks.

Prune Shrubs at the Right Time

February is the right month to prune some shrubs, but not others. Cut back evergreens such as boxwood, cleyera, ligustrum, and hollies now, or in the next few weeks. Pruning in mid- to late winter means these shrubs will be the right size and shape before new growth emerges in spring. Evergreens that bloom in winter or spring, however, should not be pruned now. Keep clippers away from camellias, daphne, pieris, and rhododendrons until their flowers fade.

Groom Lenten Roses

As soon as new leaves begin to emerge on the Lenten roses, you can safely remove old and tatty leaves. Then, rev up the plant's energy with something delectable, such as mushroom compost or a new layer of rotted leaf mold. If you forgot to lime in the fall, do this now, too. Hellebores like a soil pH that is close to neutral.

Put Up Bluebird House

Mating pairs of bluebirds will soon be scouting for homes for the nesting season. If you're putting up a bluebird house, mount it on a pipe or pole (trees and fences provide easy access to predators), five feet above the ground. The box should face away from prevailing winds and towards an open space, with a tree or shrub within reach of young birds. And, of course, avoid locations where pesticides are employed.

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