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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of December 4, 2017
  • On younger or smaller plants and, where practical, on older plants, remove spent flower heads on rhododendrons by bending the stalks over until they break away from the stems.  Be careful not to damage the new flower or growth buds at the base of each flower stalk.
  • Mature rhododendrons need little pruning beyond that is necessary to shape or renovate the plant, as well as to remove diseased and dead wood.  Generally, prune right after flowering.  An exception would be R. maximum (Rosebay), which flowers late, after shoots have begun to grow.
  • Pot up bulbs of amaryllis and paperwhites for holiday gift giving.
  • When choosing an orchid as a gift, let the recipient know that orchids need bright light and high humidity.  To ensure moist air, the plants should be kept in a glass case (terrarium) or the pot should be placed in a tray of wet pebbles.  Orchid compost is recommended for most varieties.
  • Plant sugar maples to attract the American Robin, Baltimore oriole and American Goldfinch to your landscape.  They find the canopy of this tree particularly nice for cover and nesting.
  • To prune rigid-caned blackberries and raspberries, cut the canes to the ground as soon as you have harvested the crop.  Leave approximately 5 of the best new canes and cut the rest.  Everbearing raspberries differ in that a light crop forms at the tops of new canes in the fall.  Cut only the portion that fruits; the lower portion will bear fruit the following year.
  • Although a truly graceful species, Maidenhair ferns demand a humid atmosphere to do well.
  • To prevent rabbits from feeding on the bark of trees and shrubs during the winter months, protect susceptible plants by placing chicken wire or heavy screen wire around the trunks.
  • Mealybugs have grayish-white, oblong bodies and are approximately 3/16” long.  Masses of cottony white eggs are usually found on the underside of leaves and in crevices between leaves and stems.  To control an outbreak, touch each insect with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.  Weekly washing with tepid, sudsy water helps too.

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