UNITED STATES—There is no doubt that frost will return next autumn. It does that every year. Right now, we are more concerned that is should not return prior to that. It is now safe to plant plants that are sensitive to frost. Even if the weather were to somehow get cold enough to necessitate protection of frost sensitive plants, it will not be severely cold, and it will not last long. It is best to start now than to delay.
It is also safe to prune away foliage and stems that were damaged by frost through winter. It was best to leave it in place through winter, both to provide a bit of insulation for undamaged stems below, and to not promote new growth. Pruning it away allows warming sunlight to the undamaged stems, and stimulates generation of new growth. A bit of new growth might already be apparent.
Many leafy perennials can be cut to the ground, or at least just above their rhizomes. The tall vertical canes of cannas can be cut back to the low horizontal rhizomes that creep along the ground. The canes are not really stems anyway, but are merely upright foliar shoots. Any shorter new shoots that are beginning to develop can remain, even if a few outer leaves happen to be damaged.
Zonal geraniums can likewise be pruned almost to the ground, leaving only stubs of lower stems, even if only upper and outer foliage was damaged by frost. Although they do not need to be cut back so severely, they respond to such pruning splendidly, with vigorous new stems and foliage. The fungal foliar disease known as ‘rust’ overwinters in old leaves that get removed in the process.
Lemons, limes and any other citrus that were damaged by frost only need to have their damaged stems removed as far back as viable growth, where new buds might already be visible. However, if more pruning is necessary, this would be a good time to do it. Major pruning should not be done later in summer because the sensitive bark of inner stems can be scalded by sudden exposure to too much sunlight. Small trees that are sensitive to frost become more resilient as the grow larger.
Highlight: baby’s breath
You might think that such a popular flower would be easy to get a picture of. Baby’s breath, Gypsophila paniculata, is everywhere, and almost a standard component of the mixed bouquets found in supermarkets. However, the flowers are so small and so sparsely arranged on thin stems, that they do not look like much in pictures. This picture is a close-up of a tightly bound bundle of bloom.
As common is it is with other cut flowers, baby’s breath is quite uncommon in home gardens. It is not often available in nurseries. Seed should have been sown by about now. Baby’s breath grows something like a tumbleweed about three or even four feet high and wide. The stems look too delicate to stand so tall. The minute flowers are usually white but can be pale pink and slightly fluffier.
While blooming in summer, baby’s breath is so handsome that no one wants to cut the flowers. It is difficult to take just a few good stems to add to other cut flowers without ruining the symmetry of a well rounded plant. Some people who grow it prefer to put it out of the way, or grow it amongst other flowers to hide the disfigurement of harvest. Baby’s breath blooms better if crowded anyway.
Horticulturist Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.wordpress.com.