Volume 14, Issue 9 ~ March 2 - March 8, 2006

The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

Invite Spring in for an Early Visit

It’s not too early to have spring flowers in your home

Bring spring indoors by doing some selective pruning of your forsythia, saucer magnolia, flowering crab apple, peach, flowering almond, weigela, dogwood or lilac.

Forcing spring-flowering deciduous trees and shrubs is as easy as cutting the branches and placing them in water. To speed the process, place the stems in 100-degree water immediately after cutting. The branches will absorb large amounts of hot water, which will stimulate the flower buds to begin swelling. Do not sprinkle the branches with water, as this will actually delay flowering because as the water evaporates, the buds are cooled.

It generally takes 10 to 14 days to force these plants into flower as early March harvest. If you can’t wait that long, you can wrap the branches in plastic to increase the humidity surrounding the flower buds. Branches force more slowly in cool temperatures than in warmer temperatures. The presence or absence of light has no effect on forcing.

Pruning an inch from the base of each stem and placing the stems in fresh hot water each day for the first week can also hasten flowering. As March comes to April, forcing time is also reduced.

Begin forcing in the basement. Bring the forced branches out as the petals of the first few flowers unfurl. If you harvest branches at two-week intervals, you can have spring-flowering branches in your home all the way up to the time they begin to bloom outdoors.

Planning a Steep Slope Garden

Q I have a slope too steep to mow safely. It gets approximately six hours of sun in a day. I would like to put in a ground cover in place of the grass. The area is rather large, about 1,000 square feet. I would like recommendations on plant varieties that grow low to the ground, less than 12 inches, and spread easily to reduce initial cost.

—Tom Heath, Chesapeake Beach

A Stop mowing grass on steep slopes. Kill the grass with Roundup this spring after it has turned green and is growing. Allow at least 10 days before digging holes through the dead turf. Plant either liriope or St. Johnswort. If you are going to plant Liriope, purchase it growing in six-inch containers and divide it just as you are planting. A newly divided plant will spread faster than one growing in a four-inch pot and left undisturbed when planted. You can’t do that with St. Johnswort.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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