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  • February garden tips & tasks

    Fight cabin fever by getting on a sunny day to pick up sticks, leaves and other garden debris that has accumulated.

    Keep bird feeders filled to attract a wide variety of winged visitors to your garden in winter.

    Plant a tree if the soil isn't frozen. Dig a hole that is slightly wider than the tree's root ball, but no deeper. Place the tree in the hole; replace the soil and water it well. Add mulch, but don't mound it up around the tree's trunk.

    A Valentine's Day bouquet of roses will last longer if you cut off the bottoms of the stems at an angle bfore you place them in lukewarm water in a clean vase. Remove the lower leaves from the stem before you place the bouquet in water.

    Dig winter annuals out of the garden beds: deadnettle, henbit, chickweed and other unwanted plants before they take over the beds.

    Cut back or mow over liriope (monkey grass) before new growth begins.

    Don't overwater your houseplants. Before you add water, check the soil's moisture level by sticking your finger into the soil.

    Provide nesting boxes to welcome birds to your garden Cavity-dwelling birds may start a family in a simple box with 11/2-inch entry hole.

    Grow your own transplants indoors under lights. Start seeds of cool-weather plants now to have sturdy transplants to set out in a few weeks.

    Save the date - Middle Tennessee garden events

    Planners of the ever-popular Nashville Lawn & Garden Show announce that next spring's show will be March 2 - 5, 2017 at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The theme will celebrate Gardens of the Future with garden displays, lectures, vendors, floral designs, and special features for children. The centerpiece of the all-indoors event is, as always, the walk-through, interactive garden displays from some of Middle Tennessee's top landscape and gardening companies. Free lectures are planned each day on a range of garden-related topics, and visitors can shop the Marketplace with more than 150 vendors. Complete details will be available soon at http://nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com, where you can also sign up for the email newsletter and receive updates.

    The Perennial Plant Society's annual Plant Sale will be April 8, opening at 9 a.m. at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The sale offers newly released and hard-to-find perennials from top local nurseries -- more than 450 varieties of perennials, vines, grasses, shrubs and annuals. The event supports local scholarships for Tennessee horticulture students and monthly gardening programs, open to the public, at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. For information visit www.ppsmt.org.

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Banish the Bradford pear

QUESTION: When should Bradford pear trees be pruned? Is now a good time? How far back should you prune them?

Bradford pear trees are the first to flower in spring, but they are not a good choice for landscape trees.

I’ll answer the last question first, and echo the thoughts of many landscape and forestry experts who believe that these trees should get just one pruning cut – about an inch above the ground.

Seriously, Bradford pears (Pyrus calleryana Bradford’) are not good landscape trees, no matter how lovely they are this time of year. They live fast and die young – a 25-year-old Bradford pear is probably near the end of its life. Because their heavy limbs grow at narrow angles, they tend to split apart. And because they shoot up so quickly and easily, this import from China has been placed on alert as a possible threat by the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council. So, is it time to reconsider?

But back to the question: It’s good to prune trees in late winter, while they’re still dormant. As you are no doubt aware if you’re in Middle Tennessee, “late winter” now seems to mean the same as “spring,” and most things are no longer dormant. So if you need to prune, do it now, before the tree leafs out fully and you can still see the branch structure easily.

Really, though, wouldn’t you rather have something else? Landscape professionals suggest a couple of good native alternatives to the Bradford pear: downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arboria), which has white flowers in spring, dark green foliage in summer and red berries in the fall; and Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus), white flowers, green leaves, small blue-black fruit enjoyed by birds in the fall.

Either would be better than a Bradford pear, guaranteed.

 

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