The fourth week of April is the time to start feeding your vegetables, roses and flower beds, because plants that you want to produce need energy now. Liquid plant foods work the fastest, but don’t last as long in the soil. Slow-release and organic plant foods such as blood meal or alfalfa pellets (rabbit food) give plants a lower and slower dose of nitrogen, but continue to feed plants over an extended time.
This also is a good time to add more perennials, groundcovers and climbing vines to the garden. Buy wisteria and clematis vines now while they are in full bloom so you can see what the blooms will look like and to be sure that you are purchasing a plant old enough to flower. A big reason for “wisteria hysteria” when this vine doesn’t bloom is because it is not fully mature.
The end of April is also the season for buying blooming trees. Dogwoods, flowering cherries, magnolias and crabapples all will be blooming at the nursery and it is quite okay to take trees home now and plant while still in flower.
Q. I have a shaded area on the north side of my house. I have removed all the overgrown junipers and cut back some overgrown rhododendrons. Now I want to add some flowering plants that will come back each year. What do you recommend? S.S., Orting
A. Congratulations on ripping out the overgrown and overused. Plants are not children and when they get too big or misbehave you can get rid of them. Plants that come back year after year are called perennials and my favorites for the shade are bleeding heart, brunnera, hellebores or Lenten rose, coredalis, and the colorful foliage of heucheras. You can research each of these plants to see if you like them or just visit a nursery, head for the perennial section and check out the plant names. By mixing leaf shapes, blooming times and growing heights you’ll have it made in the shade with an easy-care flower garden.
Q. Please recommend a flowering vine that I can grow in a container. I had a pink clematis in our old house that bloomed each spring, but it become so large we had to cut it down. I want a vine that stays under control. P.S., Renton
A. Consider the container clematis from a grower named Raymond Everson if you want a well-behaved clematis. These reblooming vines have huge flowers and come in different colors with names like Cézanne and Monet.
You can even grow them as hanging baskets because the more you prune them, the more flowers you get. Another flowering vine is the Thunbergia or Black-eyed-Susan vine. This is an annual that will die in the winter but these summer bloomers will climb up a tee pee of poles in a pot to create wonderful blooming towers of flowers.
Q. I forgot to prune my roses. Now they have lots of foliage and are growing new buds but are very tall. What should I do? Prune off all this great new growth or just let them go? D.T., Puyallup
A. To prune or not to prune: that is the question that only you can answer. Roses do not need to be pruned for their general good health, so if you decide to enjoy super-sized roses this summer, don’t feel like they will be enduring extra pain and suffering. Many of the new shrub roses and landscape roses have been bred with a bushy habit so that they don’t even need regular pruning. But if you’re short and the roses are tall, you might want to get tough and prune back the top one third of your rose bushes now, even though you’ll be cutting off lots of new growth. After the initial shock and awe your rose plants will adjust to the indignity and still be blooming by June.