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Gardening Q&A: Tips on ornamental, Bermuda grass
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Question: When do you cut back ornamental grasses such as pampas, zebra and fountain grass?

Answer: I usually let my ornamental grasses stand during the winter months. They can create a visually textured element to our dormant landscapes. A good time to cut them back is just before spring growth begins.

Cut them to just below 6 inches to ground level. Pampas grass is very coarse, so I would suggest using a small chain saw and gloves!

Q: I am seeing a lot of browning on the foliage of my shrubs. What is going on?

A: Most likely it is winter cold damage. The plant is still alive in most cases, so don't worry. Combined with eastern and southern exposures to sun and low temperatures with ice and snow, changes in leaf tissue occur.

You can prune the damage off of the shrubs in late winter to early spring to keep new growth from going through the same event.

Q: When is the best time to use a spring pre-emergent herbicide on my Bermuda lawn?

A: You can apply this in February to prevent crabgrass, goosegrass and other summer weed seeds from sprouting. The best month is March.

If you plan on laying Bermuda sod, you can do this in March also. Now is also a good time to apply dolomitic lime to your Bermuda lawn after a soil test evaluation. Ideal pH range for Bermuda is 5.5-6.5.

Q: I have hybrid roses (roses people would call regular roses) and climbing roses. When and how do you prune them?

A: February is a good time to prune "regular roses" and also knockout roses. For hybrid roses, it is ideal to select three to five canes on the bush and prune them back to about 2 1/2 feet tall. Always cut (about a 1/4 of an inch) above an outward facing bud at a 45-degree angle. This should give you a shapely shrub with beautiful blooms starting in June.

For bush roses (knockouts), you can cut them back to about knee level or lower. Climbing roses produce flowers on old wood, so be careful not to prune them until June and July or you won't get flowers this year.

Did you know?

Pine trees are not the only trees that shed needles. Evergreen trees with their many needles often change color or turn brown in the fall and winter. This can be alarming to homeowners. But leaf and needle drop often occur as a natural process of the yearly life cycle. What makes an evergreen an evergreen is that their leaves last more than a year before falling. They are replaced by new green needles.

Try the tropical look this spring!

There are many cold hardy tropicals that you can plant in your landscape. There are new elephant ear varieties and hardy hibiscus that tolerate our cold winters. They love fertile, well drained soil. There is even a new banana plant called Japanese fiber banana that will live in our area. An established plant will clump with several blooms that are hot pink. Plant one around a pool or patio for a tropical look.

Gardening tips for the month

Remember Valentine's Day this Monday. Give a special person a container filled with cut flowers, or pots filled with beautiful spring bulbs. Potted azaleas in red, pink or white make a natural Valentine's Day gift. Plant the azaleas in late May in a partly shaded spot.

Purchase the popular flowering gift plant calceolarias and cinerarias, and watch your significant other enjoy their pouch-like vibrant colored blooms. Water them when their soil begins to feel dry.

Winter months are a great time to plan flower and vegetable gardens. Always select plants that are hardy to our zone 7B. Select flowers that will tolerate heat and humidity well. Go with native plants that are suited for our area. Arrange your plans according to height (taller in the back, short in front) Group in masses that are the same color and type.

We have been teased with a few warmer days, but remember as folklore goes, "If snow stays on the ground for more than three days, it will snow again during the season." The prediction was addressed in the Farmer's Almanac recently. I do not think we can put up the coats quite yet!

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293.