How to prepare roses for winter and other helpful tips

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Terri asks: I have two questions about Anouk lavender — how should I prune the plant, and is it edible?

You can prune these plants in late summer or early fall, after the last flush of blooms has faded. Prune the stems down to 2 inches above the bare woody part of the stems. The other option is pruning in the spring, an excellent time to trim out dead and damaged plant parts. However, the downside to spring pruning is that it delays flowering.

Anouk lavender is edible, but it has a more pronounced camphor flavor that many cooks find undesirable. Provence lavender is the better choice for culinary recipes.

For those of you not familiar with Silver Anouk Spanish lavender, it is a fast-growing lavender, compact in form, with silvery foliage and an abundance of dark plum-colored flower heads. Sometimes it’s referred to as butterfly lavender because of its attractive and wavy petals that reach above the spikes.

Evan G. writes: How do I know the difference between a grass and a sedge? I was advised to look for grass-like sedges in the nursery that would thrive in a moist area of my garden. Is Carex elata (stricta) “Bowles Golden” a sedge?

Grasses are arranged in sets of two and their stems are rounded or flattened. Sedges are arranged in sets of 3 stems, are triangular-shaped and, you’ll find if you run your fingers over their edges, have somewhat sharp edges. Remember, “sedges have edges.”

Bowles Golden prefers moist sites near water and can reach a height of 2 feet and just as much in width. This popular sedge is an excellent selection because of its yellow foliage that illuminates the site. Do not allow it to dry out. Planted in mass, it’s a real wow!

Toni R. writes: I recall reading some literature on getting roses ready for winter. Unfortunately, I did not save the article. Can you give me an overview of what I should be doing now before the major rose pruning takes place in January and February?

Here are some helpful recommendations, drawn from Rose Society publications, to prepare your roses for winter.

Begin early by cleaning out excessive bushy growth. This will make the major pruning and cleanup easier.

This next advice does not apply this year, because we’ve had an abundance of rain. But during drier years, it’s important to give roses some deep watering before they reach dormancy. This is especially important for roses in sandy soils that do not retain moisture like clay soils.

Pull off the spent petals and allow the roses to form hips. Roses covered with hips are a colorful addition to the winter garden.

For established roses, fertilize with a 0-10-10 product and apply it in a circular band/trench around each rose. Always water the fertilizer in the soil after the applications are completed. The second number refers to phosphorous, which stimulates early root formation. The third number is potash, which maintains the overall plant health and increases the quality of flowers. Eliminating nitrogen (the first number) helps prevent unwanted tender growth and allows the rose to harden off any new growth for winter.

Jonathan W. writes: The apple variety called Empire has been recommended to me as an excellent choice for my new and relatively small orchard. What are its attributes?

Having grown this apple in my own garden, I totally agree with the recommendation. The fruit is red with yellow-green flesh. The apples are very sweet and juicy. The trees do well in a sunny location and are heavy bearing in August. The semi-dwarf tree should reach a height of 15 to 25 feet. Empire is self-fruitful and requires a minimum of 800 chilling hours.

As for pruning these or other trees, the best time is in midwinter when trees are dormant. However, there are exceptions. For example, wait until mid to late summer to prune hornbeam trees since they are more susceptible to disease if cut earlier. Be familiar with the trees in your landscape and time their pruning as recommended.

Larry asks: How tall can I expect a “small tree” to grow in our area? It seems too many trees are planted and then they reach a height that is way too tall for the site!

Yes, this is a common error. We all have been guilty of planting a marvelous leftover Christmas tree that grows to 50 feet or more and then has to be expensively removed.

The best advice: Do your homework. Determine if the tree size will fit in your landscape years from now.

Here are the basic guidelines: Small trees are 30 feet and sometimes almost as wide. Crape myrtles are an example of a small tree that is very manageable.

Medium trees are 30 to 50 feet in height and can be equally as wide. Large trees are 50 feet tall or even taller (think redwoods).

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors, at The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at

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