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Signs of Spring?


So here I am, wandering around with my nose towards the ground, scrounging for signs of spring. I’ve found a few — snowdrops 2 inches high with their white buds clearly visible, a few dark red sprouts that are surely tulips, and teeny red buds on the ‘Jens Munk’ rose, a rugosa hybrid from Canada that sneers at winter and breaks dormancy earlier than anything else around. It’s primed, ready to come roaring out of the gate as soon as it gets a good clear signal. The other roses are still snoring away.

‘Jens Munk’ rose– Photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

I expect my perennials to stand up like troopers when that time comes, but an e-newsletter today from the Ornamental Growers Association of Northern Illinois reminded me that there may be trouble in River City, mainly on our woody plants. Soon windburn and salt damage will be showing up on yews and other conifers, and there may be frost cracking on some tree trunks as well. (Remember all the sycamores in Evanston that had to be cut down earlier this winter?). On the positive side, the severe cold may have zapped some insects into an early eternal rest. (Bow heads here for a quick word of thanks.)

So even if it still feels like winter, spring is sneaking up on us, and this is nature’s last call for starting seeds indoors. I’ve got leftover ‘Milano’ and ‘Better Boy’ tomato seeds that need to be sown forthwith, along with a little-leaf basil (‘Fino Verde’) and some poblano peppers. It’s still too cold to go outside and sow greens like arugula, lettuce and a mesclun mix, but they’re coming next on the agenda. Just like spring.

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questions

I have a large variegated sedum with pink flowers that I have had for years. I noticed that it has started to send up some all-green shoots. Why is it doing this and how can I keep my plant variegated?

What does it take to make a climbing hydrangea flower? Ours was planted 3 years ago and is growing energetically. It’s in a protected nook near the patio and gets very little direct sunlight, but doesn’t act sun starved. We gave it a shot of slow release fertilizer on planting, and once since. Somewhat inadvertently it gets plenty of water, since the hose spigot is nearby and leaks, but drainage does not seem to be the problem. It now fully occupies an 8-foot trellis but shows no interest in flowering. Is it youth, lack of sun, too much or too little fertilizer, bugs, lack of pruning or what? When do these plants bloom and what conditions do they like?

What is rose rosette disease? I lost two antique roses and removed a hedge of multiflora roses that were supposed to be undesirable. How bad is it?

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