March into spring with blooming colors

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By Susan Brown, County Extension

Look at what is blooming now! The Brunswick County Botanical Garden is starting to come alive with color.
The saucer magnolia is blooming and the forsythia is covered in bright yellow flowers. The daffodils have finally pushed their heads above ground. The purple leaf plum is covered in what looks like cotton candy and the winter Daphne fills the air with its ever, so sweet scent.
The gardens are always under a lot of reconstruction partly because we use this landscape as a learning tool. One thing I have finally learned is a garden is always a work in progress. It is forever changing an evolving.
Even in the winter months, it is refreshing to see signs of spring. Early indicator bulbs such as daffodils, hyacinths and crocus, as well as shrubs like forsythia, spiraea and quince, help to bring new life into our late winter landscapes. This is when spring fever sets in. It is still too early to plant annuals. I usually use tax day as my deadline for the last frost. Of course there are never any guarantees.
This is a great time to plant containerized or bare-root roses, as well as any perennials, ornamental trees or shrubs. They will require supplemental water this summer during dry spells. Prune deciduous spring flowering shrubs after flowers fade; quince, spiraea and forsythia all bloom on old growth. Do not prune shrubs that have not bloomed, yet such as azaleas and Indian Hawthorn or hydrangeas. Prune roses back to the second lateral bud, before the bud break. It is also a good time to remove any limbs encroaching on the interior of the plant. Heavy pruning and rejuvenation pruning of summer blooming shrubs can be done now. I would hold off on pruning gardenias until after they bloom.
It has been an extremely mild winter. Typically, it is best to fertilize most ornamental plants around April 15. You may apply bulb fertilizers according to label directions after bulbs emerge. If you have not already fertilized your pecans, do so now.
There are numerous fruit trees that will fit into most landscapes. Be sure to locate them away from heavy use areas. If you have limited space, consider using a dwarf cultivar. Be sure to plant a pollinator if necessary.
You should note deer are attracted to fruit trees. If you are in a “deer friendly zone,” it is recommended to construct some type of fence around each tree.
It is the perfect time to prepare your beds for planting. Adding plenty of compost and tilling it in with the existing soil creates an ideal environment for successful growing. A soil test will aid in informing you of your soil limitations.
Improve the look of your landscape while providing insulation to your plants by adding mulch. Typically, mulch is added twice a year because over time, it breaks down into organic matter. A 3-inch layer of mulch will decrease the weed germination, as well as protecting the root system from fluctuating temperatures.

Susan Brown is a horticulture agent with the Brunswick County Extension Service. Call 253-2610 or e-mail susan_brown@ncsu.edu.