THERE may be some who think it is a little late totalk about winter protection of plants in December, but as a matter of fact,most growers are agreed that the really critical tune for plants which are onthe borderline of hardiness is in late winter when a warm sun, combined withdrying winds, takes moisture from leaves and branches at a time when roots areunable to replenish it owing to the cold or frozen earth. Therefore, if youhave procrastinated do not worry unduly, but on the other hand, do not delaymuch longer.
Pruning. Advantage should betaken of those days when it is comfortable to work out-of-doors to get busywith any pruning of trees and shrubs, which may be necessary. It is especiallydesirable to get an early start on pruning those trees which “bleed” if prunedin late winter or early spring. Although we are told that this bleeding doesnot do any harm, it does prevent one from promptly applying a protective coatof paint to the wound. So, if you have any maples which have to be pruned, doit now or wait until midsummer. Dead and diseased branches should be the firstto receive attention. Whether or not to cut off any of the healthy ones dependsupon the purpose you have in view. If’ it is a matter of improving the symmetryof the tree, that can be done now, but if you have a tree which is growing toovigorously and you wish to restrain it, it would be better to wait until thesummer pruning in winter stimulates vigorous shoot growth, while summer pruningtends to cheek it.
Don’t prune shrubsindiscriminately.
Before pruning shrubs one should havea good knowledge of their flower bearing habits, otherwise harm rather thangood may result. Most of the early blossoming shrubs start the formation oftheir flower buds in the fall and any extensive pruning during the time thatthe bushes are dormant results in the diminution of the number of flower,produced the following spring. A good point to bear in mind when pruning is toprone in such a way that the natural shape of the bash is maintained. Usuallythis means that priming should be a thinning process, restricted to the removalof dead and worn-out brandies.
Before disposing, of the prunings viathe bonfire, look them over with a view to saving any which are likely to be ofvalue next year as a plant support. Many low-growing perennials of sprawlinghabit, such as Veronica, Teucrium, Potentilla, Coreopsis, and Gypsophila, canbe more effectively and artistically supported by means of twiggy growthspushed into the grounds around them before they have completed their growth,than they can be by the more usual method of stakes and twine. If the plantsone wishes to support are to be grown in rows, making fan-shaped supportsdesirable, the prunings selected should be laid on the ground and weighted witha plank to press them to the required shape. If this is done fairly early inthe winter they will retain the desired form when the plank is removed prior tousing them..
Those who live in sections, which arebothered by tent caterpillars, gypsy moth, and tussock moth, couldadvantageously spend a little time during the winter hunting for and destroyingthe egg masses of these pests. The mahogany brown ones of the tent caterpillarare found on young twigs in a band almost completely encircling them. Usuallythe most convenient way of getting rid of them is to clip off the twig with theeggs attached and destroy by burning. Gypsy moths and tussock moths lay theireggs in clusters. The mechanical removal of the eggs, or daubing them with apaintbrush moistened with creosote is a useful winter chore.
Any garden debris which might harborinsect or fungus pests and, therefore, is not suited for the compost pileshould be destroyed by burning. This includes Peony tops, which may carry thebotrytis fungus, and fallen Rose leaves, which harbor the winter spores ofblack spot.
Propagation. It is not too lateto make hardwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs. These, as mentioned in aprevious calendar (October), should be cut in lengths of from 6 to 10 inches,tied in bundles and buried in moist sand or peat moss and kept cold, but notfreezing, during the winter. If a greenhouse has available cuttings ofevergreens such as Arborvitae, Taxus, Juniper, Teucrium chamaedrys, Box andEuonymus, can be inserted in the propagating bench.
Forced bulbs. Bulbs should bebrought in at intervals from the planting pit outdoors for forcing in the homeor greenhouse. Do not expose them to too high a temperature at first. Give thema few weeks at a temperature of 50° and then raise it to 65°.