It’s a good thing that the month of February is a short one! We gardeners are often just “itching” to do something outside on those bright, sunny days. The amount of snowfall and the region of the country that you garden in will dictate just how much activity will be possible. Milder and more temperate climes may have very little snow cover, if any, and as such can spend more time outdoors in the landscape. February is a good month to consider pruning both ornamentals and fruit bearing trees and shrubs. Apple trees including Crab Apple are best pruned when they are dormant and well before the spring sap starts to run.
The generally accepted guidelines to pruning apple trees in late January and early February are not that complicated. Overall, pruning is intended to open the tree’s shape up so that light can penetrate the entire plant. Keep in mind that when reducing branch length, the cut should be made so that there is a bud that will have a growth pattern outward, not towards the centre of the plant. With younger plants, new growth will be rampant the season following pruning. This growth is often referred to as “water growth” and should be reduced by about half, keeping the centre of the tree open of course. The following year, reduce this watery growth again, this time by about one quarter. Eventually the new apple tree will have a shape that will carry it well into maturity. New shoots from this point on should be reduced to only six buds, which appears to be rather severe. The thicker, stubby growths are the fruiting spurs and should be left to produce the crop. However, if the tree is heavily laden with fruiting spurs, some gardeners remove a few, very judiciously, to keep the tree youthful.
Weigelia is prone in many gardens, to be overgrown and lacking in a brilliant show of blossoms. February, provided the weather cooperates, is a good time to re-work this shrub. Similar to many sprawling shrubs of this nature, Weigelia is best re-worked over a period of three years. Preferably start pruning from the inside of the shrub, removing the oldest, thickest wood first up to approximately 1/3 of the total being removed. The following spring, the plant will force new, lush growth that will mature and bloom the next season. Year two, remove the largest and oldest wood once again, forcing fresh new growth the spring thereafter. Repeat this process and the plant will be completely rejuvenated and push forth a tremendous flush of flowers. Some gardeners also prune lilacs in February in an attempt to keep the plant under control and increase the bloom for the spring season. A similar approach should be taken over a period of time in order to maximize the blossoming of the lilac. Pruning out too much will cause watery, whip growth and very few blooms as Lilacs blossom on older wood rather than new.
The fact remains that even though the garden appears to be sleeping and you may consider all the chores completed, there is always something to do in the garden, no matter the season.
February 4th, 2018