Today I'm mish-mashing about a book giveaway, backyard wildlife, wisteria pruning, and my buckthorn song.
Fun with Winter Seed Sowing
Jane Marie, a fellow Michigan garden blogger at Thyme for Herbs, recently contacted me to see if I would donate a copy of my little book, Fun with Winter Seed Sowing, for a giveaway she wanted to host. Well, of course I was interested, and she quickly got a post together. For details and to enter, just stop by Jane's post, Book Giveaway - Winter Seed Sowing. You have until midnight on Friday, March 5th to enter.
Cooper Trouper (Earworm for ABBA Fans!)
I've been having new wildlife visitors this winter. The other day, I spied with my little eyes what I believe to be a Cooper's hawk sitting on my utility wires. I didn't get a good look because I rushed to get my camera right away.
The hawk saw me approach the window, so this is the photo I got. (Sorry for the grainy quality; it's max telephoto through a thick glass door.)
A few minutes later, the hawk had perched on a tree limb, even farther away. This is the best shot I could get. I used to see Cooper's hawks more frequently two houses ago, where I lived in a more open area. This is the first time (in nearly 8 years) I've seen a hawk at my current location. No other birds or squirrels were languishing at the feeders during the hawk's short visit.
On Thursday, in about a foot of snow, a few intrepid volunteers and I joined Kathy Squiers of Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation to do a little pruning at County Farm Park in Ann Arbor. I don't mind the snow at all and I try to earn most of my master gardener volunteer hours in the off season, so I can spend gardening months in my own garden! The main task was pruning a very overgrown wisteria, which had never bloomed.
The most commonly planted wisterias are Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria) and Wisteria floribunda (Japanese wisteria). It was uncertain which kind is planted at County Farm Park. There's also American wisteria, Wisteria frutescens, which is native to the eastern half of the U.S., including Michigan. That's the one I'd grow, if I had enough sun or something sturdy enough for it to grow on.
Wisteria is a climbing vine that can reach 60 feet. Its base twists around its support (trellis, arbor, house) and then spreads outward. Wisteria grows quickly and can get quite heavy and large over time, sometimes overpowering its support.
This arbor is plenty strong, but the wisterias had too many competing main vines (or trunks)...
...and way too much tangled, or as A Chef in the Garden so aptly put it, Medusa-like top growth.
We started by removing thinner vines that were competing with the main vines (those shown with the horizontal fuchsia mark above), using saws or loppers. If a weaker wine was wrapped around a stronger one, we got rid of that, too. These vines were short and did not yet reach the top of the trellis. We only want them to grow up, not out at this point, so we also cut off side growth (vertical line above).
Then we moved upward, getting rid of weaker vines and cutting off buds that would create lateral growth. We only want lateral growth (or "arms") extending from the trunk once it reaches the top of the arbor.
Next, I got on that yellow 8-ft. ladder, standing on the very top step so my body was up and through one of the trellis squares. I was pruning back all the "arms" (lateral growth) that had reached the top of the trellis. No one else was coming forward to do this bit, and it was admittedly a bit higgledy-piggledy because I had to lean and stretch in somewhat precarious positions, and snow under boots on a metal ladder can be slippery, but, honestly, I really enjoyed myself up there. (I like run-on sentences, too.)
Up there on my sky perch, I cut away more lateral growth, taking out unwanted shoots altogether and trimming back remaining growth to 3-5 leaf buds per "hand" (the structures growing off the "arms," which will eventually also have flower buds). See?
If these wisterias had had flower buds (which tend to be fatter than leaf buds, and are located at the base of the shorter branches or "hands"), we would not have pruned those. There still would have been plenty of shoots with flower buds to remove, however.
Even if your wisteria has previously bloomed, you still want to prune it in winter (February is ideal in Michigan). It's easier to see the vines when they don't have the leaves on (trust me! It was very confusing even in winter to determine where one vine started and another ended) and it's important to open up the canopy so the sun can get in in spring.
These are a small portion of the pruned vines (we had just started loading them up). Clean up is somewhat anticlimactic after the thrill of pruning, I can tell you.
In early to mid summer, the blooms will have died back and the vine will again become unruly and Medusa-like. You can now prune the new growth back to 6 inches to create the short branches that will create next year's hands or blooms. We hope our wisteria will bloom in spring, 2011.
Scorn of Buckthorn Video
And, finally, in case you missed my post on Saturday (I know! I don't normally update so frequently!), check out the video recording of me performing Scorn of Buckthorn. If you dare.
I'm back to using the old Blogger editor. Yay! Spell check rules (even if I do make up words), as does loading five photos at a time.
Happy March Mish-Mash Monday, bloggers and bloggettes!