Get your garden ready for spring! | THE COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER

This is also a good week to check your overwintering geraniums, dahlia tubers and begonia corms to make sure they aren’t drying out.

Early spring means it is time to prune roses, ornamental grasses and fruit trees. This is also a good week to check your overwintering geraniums, dahlia tubers and begonia corms to make sure they aren’t drying out.

Did you find a paper bag of daffodil or tulips bulbs that you forgot to plant in the fall? Go ahead and plant them as soon as they are discovered.

Sometimes these forgotten spring bloomers will forgive and forget as long as they were allowed to experience the chill of winter in an unheated garage or shed. Once in the ground late planted bulbs may bloom but the flowers that pop up could be months behind schedule.

Q. We have a new home and with it came a whole bunch of rose plants. I have no idea how to prune them or what the names are.  Should I call in a professional or is this something a novice gardener can handle? F.G., Renton

A. Get yourself a pair of long handled lobbers and a pair of sharp hand pruners and take command of the situation. You are not going to kill a rose plant by pruning incorrectly. Many roses grow just fine without any pruning at all. Use the long handled loppers on rose stems or trunks that are thicker than your thumb. The smaller hand pruners can be used on smaller stems. In our mild winter climate you can usually just shorten everything by one third and remove branch that looks dead, diseased or damaged. Try to make an open vase shape by snipping off branches that are small and heading in toward the middle of the shrub. Wear thick gloves, rake up the pruning crumbs and you’re done. If this job still sounds daunting contact a garden coach or a rosarian from a local rose society for one on one instruction. Once your rose plants are in flower they will be much easier for a rosarian or local nursery to identify.

Q. We have a few overgrown clumps of ornamental grass in our landscape. I believe it is Miscanthus grass. Right now the tall grass is dead and brown from winter. When can I safely prune these brown clumps? T.P., Olympia

A. I like to suggest a Valentine’s Day massacre on all ornamental grasses that have gone brown and dormant. Cutting back giant clumps of grasses in early spring cleanup makes room for the fresh new grass blades that are just starting to push up through the old clumps. You don’t have to do the dirty deed on any exact date as long as you cut back the old brown blades before it gets tangled with the new shoots. This means mid-February through the end of March is a good time to trim grasses to within a few inches of the ground.

Q. My beautiful hellebores are blooming. I love this winter flowering perennial but I seem to remember you spoke at a class about removing old foliage before the new leaves come out. I never did that. Now what should I do? P.P. email

A. Hellebores are heavenly plants that forgive most mistakes and they may not mind if you forget to snip off the ratty looking leaves from last summer. The reason to remove the old leaves is so that you more easily see and enjoy the new flowers and to prevent the spread of fungal infections that can grow on last year’s foliage. Black spots and leaf spots won’t spread to the blossoms if you clip off the leaf and the leaf stem very close to the center of the plant.  Fresh new leaves will sprout after the flowers finish near the end of the spring season.  As long as you’re outside nose to nose with your hellebores you might as well snip a few of the open blooms and bring them indoors to float in a bowl or teacup of water.  Floating hellebore blossoms is the best way to enjoy them as cut stems do not hold up well once removed from the plant.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Discussing homelessness on Jan. 9 are, from left, Associated Press Olympia correspondent Rachel La Corte, Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle), Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), Sen. Hans Zeiger (R-Puyallup) and Rep. Morgan Irwin (R-Enumclaw). Photo by Leona Vaughn/WNPA News Service
Senate Republicans propose alternative solutions to WA’s homelessness crisis

One suggestion would empower law enforcement and remove barriers to prosecution.

Photo by Haley Ausbun
                                During halftime, athletes and coaches have individual meetings, while parents watch a video prepared by Highlands Community Church for whatever biblical principle teams are learning about that week at the Upward sports league.
Sports that help kids grow

Local church league gives to neighborhood

Alyx Chamberlain, Jennifer Keil and Mario Pilapil, courtesy of Rotary Club of Renton.
Teachers of the Month for February

As part of their commitment to education, and to celebrate teachers in… Continue reading

Aerial view of the Amtrak Cascades train derailment in 2017 near DuPont, Wash. Courtesy Wikipedia
Amtrak, Sound Transit and the state all named in derailment lawsuit

It was filed on behalf of the family of a teenager who was paralyzed in the 2017 crash.

Needles littered the ground throughout a homeless encampment at Federal Way’s Hylebos Wetlands, which is public property. Sound Publishing file photo
Republican leadership doubts effectiveness of homelessness spending

Democrats propose hundreds of millions toward affordable housing.

Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht gave a response to an Office of Law Enforcement Oversight report on Feb. 25 before the King County Law and Justice Committee. The report recommended ways her department could reform use of force policy and internal investigations. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Council unsatisfied with Sheriff’s response to use of deadly force report

The King County Sheriff’s Office could be required to explain why it didn’t implement recommendations.

King County approves low-income Metro fare waivers

Low-income transit riders could see their King County Metro fares waived beginning… Continue reading

The house purchased by Kvashuk, according to King County parcel records.
Renton resident convicted of defrauding Microsoft

A former Microsoft employee living in Renton was convicted on 18 charges… Continue reading

King County Council has nine members who each represent a district. Courtesy of
Charter amendments could allow King County Council to remove elected officials

The change was recommended by the charter review commission.

Most Read