The entire month of April is wrapped in spring. With March madness behind us and the merriment of May ahead, we feel the need to stop and appreciate our gardens in April.
Our area’s last listed frost date is April 15th. The IRS has made this easy for us to remember! Sure enough, the date has been accurate in my journal for several years, but it is always close. All was fine until April 17, 2007 when we had, not just a late frost, but a killing winter freeze. I don’t recall experiencing anything like it before.
The month of April is full of tulips, daffodils, Virginia bluebells, Youshino cherry, flowering dogwood, crabapple, candy tuff, azaleas, creeping phlox and more.
If you forced paper-white narcissus indoors over the holidays using a soil based medium, they can be planted outdoors for years of enjoyment. If you forced them in the absence of soil, they are spent; compost them!
I know it drives you crazy to see the fading leaves of the daffodil. Yes, it really is necessary to keep the green as long as possible for next year’s food.
Wait until after the last frost before planting tender annuals such as Impatiens and Petunias.
The Cross Vine trellised over my garden gate and up the side of our house is striking in April. Love, love, love this vine. This is why we put up with a ratty looking vine in the winter or at least, this is why I do. The sticks of Miss Huff Lantana left for architectural interest (or should have for the health of the plant) can probably be cut to the ground now. I usually leave mine until the new growth comes in so I can have a visual to remind me of what will come.
Now is a good time to divide Hostas. There is lots of good advice out there on the proper way to do this. I take the in-situ method; i.e. as the green appears, I take a shovel, split the plant while still in the ground, pull half of it up and move it to its new home. Works for me. But in Helen’s Haven, I no longer grow Hostas, which saddens me greatly. The one area where we can grow them is infested with voles. Trying all the usual tricks, none have worked. But I would not longer grow them there even if I didn’t have voles. This area also too dry. When I re-worked Helen’s Haven into a water-wise design, I was no longer willing to bring water to this area. Such is gardening. The real beauty in gardening is the wealth of plants available to fill any niche one door closes with one door opens. I now have a very nice display of hellebores. Hellebores provide year round greenery, flowers in the late winter (wow), are drought tolerant and poisonous to voles, so they stay clear.
TREES AND SHRUBS
The time to prune azaleas is just after they bloom. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to prune most blooming shrubs right after they bloom. If you wait too long, you will cut off next years bloom.
If you have to tame forsythia, do it now. It can be cut back – as much as you need – and still have some flowers next winter.
If you got winter burn on your gardenia, just cut off the burned ends. Or, take the lazy method, which is what I do. Let the new leaves self prune the dead. The dead leaves will eventually drop off. If you see a lot of yellow leaves, test the soil and remember gardenias like acid soil! However, also remember this is part of the plant’s natural cycle. It looses leaves in the spring and then produces new growth. So be patient.
Now is good time to cut back the red-stemmed dogwood branches. The winter red color is on the new growth.
It is normal to see a large amount of Magnolia leaves shed beginning this month. Some find it messy, but if the Magnolia was left to grow properly, the leaves will fall within the drip line and should be of little consequence. By ‘grow properly’, I mean Magnolias are not meant to be limbedup. In fact helping the branches droop is encouraged. In earlier days, it was common to weigh the lower branches down with rope and bricks. By keeping a ‘skirt’ on the tree, it hides the falling leaves and makes the tree very stately from the ground up. Once the limbs are cut, there is no going back. I have friend in Burtee County. Her sister inherited a pre-civil war home with magnificent Magnolias out front. For whatever reason, she limbed them up. Now the beauty of these magnificent Magnolias has gone with the wind.
Plant herbs after the treat of the season’s final frost. Plant annual herbs such as basil, bi-annulas such as parsley, and perennial herbs such as rosemary, chives, thyme, and mint.