Thursday, March 12, 2009

An Early Spring has Sprung in Atlanta

The boxwood flush is loved in March by gardeners around the world. This year the new growth seems to be starting later than most years. Probably due to our numerous hard freezes. Once the flush begins, our gardens and trees turn Atlanta into a green wonderland. Week after week, plants begin to bloom or produce growth giving us here layers of color to enjoy. This year the spring feels early, but in reality its more like the 1990's when we had colder winters, and a hard freeze in the last week of March just about the time the Jap Magnolias started to bloom. This winter reminded me of the severity of damaging cold weather we had a decade ago. I think we are all ready for spring to arrive, so lets hope and pray for late winter and the early spring to pass by without any late freezes which cause all kinds of damage.

As the first decade of the 2000's comes to an end, lets look back and remember the mild winters, and less hot summers we had a few years ago. At least 2002 through 2006 were much easier to cope with than this past summer. The draught and heat beat the fire out of our soil causing much moisture loss and damage to old Oaks and most landscapes. Hopefully we will have more rain this spring and summer.
Boxwood are starting to grow now, and many other plants have blooms and new flushes of green foliage. Pruning continues, but in some areas we will start to cut less. Such as boxwood since most love the soft new growth, and hate to cut it all off since they only grow a couple inches for the entire year. Deadwood can be cleaned at anytime.

Ligustrum, Holly, Osmanthus, Laurels, and bulbs such as Peony, Crocas, Daffodils, and Snowdrops have new growth and blooms.

Many trees are starting to bloom as well. The Cherry trees below are the 'Okame' variety. The first Cherry to burst out in Atlanta. For a couple weeks now, the Cherry trees have been in bloom, and the Yoshino variety started this past week.

For a couple weeks the 'Okame' variety of Cherry trees have been in bloom, and now the 'Yoshino' variety has begun. This tree is my all time favorite blooming tree. I don't advise much pruning on Cherry trees in the spring due to borers which are attracted to the strong sap which runs heavily in late winter and spring. Wait til Autumn for the sap will be dropping and the insects have moved on for the best time to prune your Cherry Trees.

Redbud trees are also beginning to flower in Atlanta. If the temperatures continue to warm up without too many cold nights the Dogwood trees will be blooming soon as well.

Bradford Pear trees have been a tree loved and hated in the South for several decades now. Admired for the pretty white show of color, and hated for the breakage of limbs after 12-15 years. Rarely are these trees pruned properly, so limbs splitting off during heavy wind, rain, snow, and ice are a likely problem as this tree can hardly hold its on weight due to weak wood and a poor crotching structure. I'll show some details of these problems in a later post coming soon. The white blooms will not last long as the new leaves push out and the flower petals cover the ground like snow.

Spirea Dwarf have started to grow. Let them bloom and deadhead as the spring flowers finish up. Don't wait long after the blooms fade, or the deadheading will not produce a good reflush of flowers.

Hyrdrangeas, both oakleaf and macrophylla, have new sprouts starting now.

Clean out the deadwood and take a deep cut as low as possible on an old branch to stimulate more rejuvenating growth from the base of the Hydrangea. Some plants have been damaged by the repeated hard freezes we had in the Atlanta area this winter. Hopefully blooms will prevail this summer. Blackened buds may not bloom on damaged stems and can be removed later this spring. New growth from the base of Macrophylla hydrangae will not bloom this summer, but should bloom in the summer of 2010. Over all cutting back the plant now will also cause bloom loss, so leave most stems untouched until June. The pictures below are an example of what you should not do now... the landscaper who pruned this hydrangea did so 2 months to early which creates new growth too early in the winter. Freezing temperatures in the late winter can cause much damage to the tender new growth.

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