Garden Detective: pruning big pear trees
DEAR JESSICA: I have two decorative pear trees on either side of my front portico, They are beautiful but too big: In five years they have grown about 10 feet. How can I reduce their size? I've enclosed a photo of one of them.
-- Brian Bretan,Fort Salonga
DEAR BRIAN: Your tree is a beauty! You certainly can prune it, but doing so now will sacrifice flowers and stress the plant as it directs the energy it would use to bloom toward healing. The best time to prune spring-flowering trees like yours would be immediately after flowering.
For trees that size, I strongly recommend hiring a professional to do the job. In addition to safety concerns (you don't want to get hit in the head with a branch, fall off a ladder, etc.), proper shaping is vital since it's in such a prominent spot. Good luck.
DEAR JESSICA: My daffodils bud each spring, but the buds never open to flower. I would very much appreciate a solution to this problem.
-- Bill Friedberg, Levittown
DEAR BILL: I have a hunch your daffodils are either a double-flowered variety or one of the late-blooming types, as those are the most susceptible to "blasting," a condition in which buds fail to open or become deformed. For daffodils, this is most often due to a sudden drop in temperature, but they aren't the only plants that can fall victim. Bud blast can also result from disease, too-late planting, too much or too little moisture and storing bulbs in a warm place before planting.
DEAR JESSICA: I need some help, please. Recently, I had four Knockout roses replanted in another area of my yard. They also were trimmed by mistake and now look awfully dried out. My other rose plants are doing great. I try to water the plants, which I've had for five years, late at night and gave them some Rose Tone.
-- Maria Camera, via email
DEAR MARIA: Based on the information you provided, I can't say for sure what's going on with your roses, but I can help you determine whether they are still alive.
Cut off a small piece of a branch and look inside. If it's green and moist, then it's alive; if it's dry and brown, it's dead. That won't necessarily mean the whole plant is dead, just that branch, so cut that particular branch all the way to the ground. If all the branches are dried out and do not have leaves on them by now, it's pretty safe to assume the plants have died.
Some comments on a few things you mentioned:
Special care should be given to any plants that are moved. That means they should be watered regularly and watched closely throughout the first season as you would a new plant. You don't say when your roses were moved, but timing is also important. If they were relocated in the middle of summer, they very well may have died.
Trimming them would not be cause for concern. Knockout roses are pretty tough and, although best pruned during dormancy, can handle cuts without much stress while they're actively growing. If they were severely cut down, however, that would be cause for concern.
Late at night is the absolute worst time to water roses or any other plants, including the lawn. Watering ideally should be done in the early morning hours, but mid-morning or early afternoon is acceptable, as well. Watering at night results in plants remaining moist all night long without the benefit of sunlight to aid drying, and fosters fungal and mold diseases, including black spot and powdery mildew.
Rose Tone is fine, but be sure to follow package directions precisely, and never fertilize in autumn, when plants need to prepare to enter dormancy.