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Are Your Roses Hilled Up? and A Few Rules About Pruning Fruit Trees!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

December 20, 1998

Finally, southern and southwestern Ontario have some sign of winter. It's not only the skiers amongst us who will be relieved. Gardeners too should be happy. Many of us have bulbs that are beginning to emerge, and shrubs showing swelling bulbs. If it gets colder gradually now, there should be little or no damage to affected bulbs and shrubs.

If you haven't got your rose bushes hilled up yet, now is certainly the best time to do it. Your favourite garden centre likely still has rose-hilling-up collars available which will allow you to do the job using the least amount of soil. They also have the bagged soil to use. Just remember, regardless of what you may read or hear/see elsewhere, it's important to use soil (not peat moss or other lightweight product) in the hilling process, and it's equally important to firm and compact the soil in the mound around each bush! I want to emphasize the latter because the statement on some rose collars is not correct, at least for our climate. The lightweight products such as peat moss are not considered nearly as good for hilling, as is soil.

Now what about pruning. Just last week I heard a radio garden broadcaster answer a question about pruning of fruit trees. It was a national programme and I am not certain from where the call originated. But even if it was from southern Ontario, the host's answer (to go ahead and prune now--the fruit trees don't know the difference whether it is done in the fall or early spring) hovered on being very bad advice. It's bad advice because by pruning now, if we should have a severely cold winter (which has been promised), fresh cuts could mean that frost damage could travel down from the cuts and kill back the pruned limbs. This will not happen if the pruning is delayed until early spring-say March.

In the Niagara fruit growing region, fruit farmers begin their pruning on mild February days, but that is only because they have so much to do that it cannot all be done in March and early April. For home gardeners, spring pruning of fruit trees ought to be done in March. Another statement on the same programme concerned a comparison of pruning fruit trees in early spring vs. in the summer, i.e. late July. The host said that by pruning apple trees in the early spring (or late fall/early winter-a no-no), fewer water sprouts (those fast-growing upright soft growths that produce no flowers or fruit) would be encouraged on the tree.

In actual fact, the opposite is the case. All the fruit growers I know agree that a summer pruning will produce fewer water sprouts on most trees than will spring pruning. Remember, the object with fruit trees is to keep an open centre so air and light can get through. Water sprouts, if allowed to develop freely, only close in the centre of the tree; so if they can be prevented, so much the better. Since less water sprouts will be produced resultant from summer pruning than from spring pruning, obviously it's better and less work for you if you do the majority of your apple tree pruning in late July or early August.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It has recently been announced that another internationally-sanctioned (by the Paris-based Bureau of International Expositions [BIE] and the Association of International Horticultural Producers [AIPH] A1 category garden festival is to be held in 1999 in the southern Chinese city of Kunming. Its year 'round mild weather has earned Kunming the title of China's Spring City. The deep soils and warm sub-tropical climate have created a natural breeding ground, over centuries, for a host of internationally famous plants including dozens of species of herbs, peonies, rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias and azaleas.

Kunming, the capital of the province of Yunnan, has been regarded by Asian and Western horticulturists and plant explorers since the 1600s as the City of Flowers and one of the world's richest sources of ornamental plants. Titled "Man and Nature-Marching into the 21st Century," the exposition will run from May 1 to October 31, 1999.

Included in the 184-day expo will be distinctive flowerbed displays, advanced horticultural technology, landscaping equipment, art performances, festive ceremonies and academic activities. Those interested in paying this international show a visit might wish to register their name with me at the number shown at the end of this article.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It's not too late to order a copy of my book Gardening Off The Ground for yourself or as a Christmas present. Many of you will have seen it on Canada's Weather Network this year, and hundreds of people called The Weather Network to see how to obtain one. The answer is simple: call toll-free to 1-888-DRYSDALE (that's 1-888-379-7325). The cost is just $25 with all tax and fast shipping included.

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