If you have a question about gardening in the Birmingham area, ask John. John Floyd has been gardening–and learning about gardening–for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience in the garden, John has degrees in horticulture, plant taxonomy, and plant physiology from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.
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Take a look at “Tending the Garden – March 26,” and you will see my thoughts on your hydrangeas. I usually do not prune any stems off mine until late April when I am sure they are dead, because the flowers bloom off the shoot that develop from the old stems.
I always plant pansies in late fall, generally right after the first frost. As for siberian iris, they are tough and can be planted now, as they are just beginning to put up their new foliage. But I think most folks think with iris, the earlier in spring the better. IF you did not put your pansies in last fall, it is too late now, as we are thinking about summer annuals. If you are enjoying blue iris now, it is probably Dutch iris. These are bulbs that need to be planted anytime in this area from November through early January.
I want to answer this in two ways. If the temperature does not fall below freezing a prolonged length of time, the shrubs and trees will probably be all right or only suffer a slight bit of damage. On the other hand, tender annuals and vegetable plants will be severely injured or killed if we hit freezing. About the only protection is covering these plants up and hope. But remember, covering plants protects them from frost, not temperature. I do advise watering plants late in the afternoon before a freeze is predicted for this time of the year. Water is a great insulator. Remember, the last frost date in the metro Birmingham area is April 15. Even if garden centers and big box stores have vegetable plants, like tomatoes and annuals like marigolds, please wait until around April 15 to plant them.
It depends on what you are planting. For vegetables, spinach, lettuce (mine is up), onions, and any of the greens like kale and turnips, plant now. I would recommend that you purchase plants of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, as they need to produce vegetables in the next couple of months. Plant these now. Everything in the vegetable category is fine to plant after the last average frost date in this area–April 15. For trees and shrubs, plant as soon as possible. For hardy perennials and annuals, plant now. For tender annuals and others, plant after April 15.
There are basically three growers I know of in this area, and the most widely distributed in this locale are Bonnie plants. Smaller growers who distribute in this area are Alabama Grown and Young’s. There may be others I do not know about. I buy from them all, but if you want some very unique things I suggest you go to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens plant sale which is April 10-12. Check their website for times and location.
I really do not have a good answer for you, but here are a couple of suggestions. Try the ‘Native Seed Network.’ I am sure they will have a number of milkweed types, and also check with the North Carolina Botanical Gardens. They have an excellent seed exchange program, and most years they have various types of milkweed seeds available, even if they are not listed (might have to call). Let us all know if you find them from another source.
That is a tough question, because there are many types of milkweeds. They scatter their seeds by the wind, so the common type–which is tall–can broadcast seeds far and wide. If you have a big native plant space, I think it would be okay. Most folks who have small spaces grow butterfly weed, and they do not have a problem scattering seeds. I so appreciate your efforts to plant things that attract monarchs.
You are so right. Mine is not as far along as yours, so I expect it to be showing itself around Easter. All of the Viburnums, which is the genus for Snowball, are under used in gardens around Birmingham. And thanks for tagging your viburnum picture with #BHMBlooms so everyone can see it on Instagram!
Yes, use it as if it were a new bag. Most bagged soils can be open, kept, and used for many years.
Normally, I would say prune roses before they leaf out (which is correct), but go ahead and prune your knock-out roses as soon as possible. They are the toughest rose I know, and they are hard to kill. I would lightly fertilize them after pruning with a low-nitrogen fertilizer like 5-10-10 (or a similar formulation). Roses bloom on new growth, so after you have pruned them to the height you want, then I would thin at least half of the tiny little branches.
The homeowner standard is an insecticide product containing triazicide, but there is a new product by Bayer Merit, which is getting rave reviews. I have not tried it, but I know Bayer is an excellent company. Just make sure, when you buy the granular product, that it contains one of these in the ingredient list.
Actually it is too early to prune azaleas. I like to wait until they have finished blooming, and then shape with them hand pruning shears. As for the ones overgrown, you generally can severely prune them at the same time. I do recommend that you fertilize after pruning with a good fertilizer, like 12-6-6, or similar formulation.
There are a lot of ones that will do. I would pick from the list in the ‘Petals from the Past’ online catalogue. While you do not have to buy from them, Arlie Powell, who is one of the owners, is the best fruit grower I know in these parts. Blueberries are one of his specialties.
First, pollen is with us most of the spring, but the heaviest time will be in the next few weeks. I would not worry about the pine straw being put down (because there will be more pollen all spring) unless your yard is full of trees, especially pine. If your straw has a yellow pollen build up, just spray it with a high-pressure garden hose, and that should handle cleaning the pine straw.
You make a good point. More is written about what NOT to do than the right way to handle Crepe myrtles. First, remember, they are trees, and if yours has been badly pruned in the past, I would recommend one of the following:
First remove all crossed or branches that rub against each other.
After that, stand back and look at the tree, and see how many original trunks or shoots the plant had. If is was a multi-stem plant, the goal is to keep that quality of the plant. If at the point where each branch has been pruned, you have multiple branches, I would remove at the break point all but one, three or so branches, and remove all others. This will encourage them to grow and create a nice multi-stem form over a period of years. If you can reach to old seed pod, snip it off, but it is not necessary. Now relax, and enjoy them recovering. They will make nice trees again in a few years. If your trees are in very bad shape and have been cut back to just big trunks, I would cut them to within a foot of the ground and start creating a new multi-stem tree. Once the plant breaks, and starts putting up new shoots, select three to five per trunk, and cut off all others. Allow these shoots to grow, and hopefully in a few years, they will produce a handsome specimen.