Roses and Winter Vegis

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Q. Last spring, I planted nine shrub roses for a background barrier. They’ve done well and are still blooming, but I’m not sure about how and when they are to be pruned. One neighbor says to prune them back to the second set of five leaves. Is that correct?

A. Shrub roses are very easy to prune. Unlike Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora, or Floribunda varieties, shrub roses are not cut back to the second set of five leaves. Instead, all one does is shear the plants back very much like a hedge to remove the spent flowers and shape the plant. You could use a pair of manual or electric hedge shears to do the job. There is no set amount that has to be removed, as you can remove from one to fifty inches after each flush of flowers. It’s a judgment call on your part. Right now, I’d enjoy the color and wait until late February to prune. This is the best time of the year to cut the plants back heavily as the spring flush of growth is right around the corner. However, they could be pruned now if you so desire. Also, I’d remove or strip off as much of the remaining leaves as you can and clean up all of the debris under the plants. In March, I’d apply Bayer Advanced 3 n1 Rose Care to feed and control the Aphids along with the rose diseases, Rust, Black Spots, and Mildew. Shrub roses; as well as, another type of roses can take a lot of abuse from a pair of pruning shears, so don’t be timid. If you take too much off, don’t worry, it’s like a bad haircut as the plants will grow back.

Q. I’d like to plant a few fruit trees that would be suitable for my yard. I’ve been told that I must have two trees near each other in order to cross-pollinate. Does that mean, I need to have identical trees or will an apricot tree pollinate an apple tree?

A. Pollination concerns are one of the several things you need to consider when planting a few trees or planning a home orchard. This discussion does not apply to citrus and other sub-tropical fruits. Not all deciduous fruit trees need a second tree for pollination. An apple tree can’t pollinate an apricot or any other type of fruit tree, just another apple variety. Many varieties are self-pollinating such as peaches and nectarines. There are self-fertile cherries and those cherries that require a second variety. So, choosing the right varieties can become very confusing. What I would do is make a list of those varieties you’d like to consider. The nursery professional at your favorite garden center is the perfect resource to help you trim the list and suggest some alternatives. Since your books were published, some very good, new varieties have become available. When making up your list, here are some other things you should keep in mind; the ripening dates, the watering needs, and the ultimate size of the trees. The ripening dates should be staggered so you can have a different fruit to enjoy June through September. For today’s garden, a semi-dwarf fruit tree is way too big to plant. They often will reach a height of eighteen feet with a ten-foot spread. Instead, you want to plant Ultra Dwarf or genetic dwarf varieties that stay under ten feet tall. Established Asian pears, pears, and apples need to be watered often while cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, and plums are watered once every three weeks once the rainy season concludes. It also means that the area under the canopy should be kept unplanted. So, you need to group your trees according to they’re watering requirements. Ultra Dwarf or genetic dwarf varieties can be grown in containers, but they’re watered more frequently than those planted in the ground. Now through the end of February is when you’ll find the broadest selection of varieties

Q. Which vegetables can be planted in the shade during the winter months? We’re stuck with a new garden in a new home that all of a sudden has lost all the wonderful summer sun.

A. Exposure, which is sun or shade, is not important at this time of the year. Bright light is all that is required. The sun will return next year as the days get longer. Today, I’d plant any of the leafy type vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, or chard. In mid-January plant garden peas along with potatoes and you can sow the seed for carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips. Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli and Brussel Sprouts are best planted at the end of January or in early February. If the ground is wet, plant them in plastic or wood, rectangular planters. The planter(s) can be moved around, so you get the best light.

Buzz Bertolero is an Advance California Certified Nursery Professional and the Senior Gardening Professional at Sloat Garden Centers. The Dirt Gardener’s website is and questions can be sent by email to

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