Wait to prune winter damage

Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on AM 750 and 95.5 FM News-Talk WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves or join his Facebook Fan Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.

Q: Has winter weather killed my (gardenia), (loropetalum), (daphne), etc? Asked by many metro gardeners

A: With multiple bouts of sub-10-degree cold, the winter of 2014 will teach us all some lessons about how hardy our plants REALLY are. I'm wondering how my St. Augustine lawn will fare. How about my daphne and Carolina jessamine and Confederate jasmine? So far, I'm very impressed with how well my fatsia and pittosporum have weathered the cold. I'm betting gardenia, loropetalum and daphne shrubs will survive with varying amounts of damage.

Assuming the extreme cold has departed for good, what can we expect?

I’ll be looking for random branch die-back on azalea and rhododendron in early summer. If their limbs became cold enough to crack the bark, the wounds will open back up in April and allow fungi inside. The branch die-back will be seen in May-June.

On the other hand, my hydrangea branches reveal pretty green tissue beneath the bark, and the buds seem tight and healthy. I foresee no problems there.

My bottom-line advice? Do no pruning until mid-April. We may be surprised what greenery emerges then!

Q: I checked out the carpenter bee trap on your website. Should you put some bait in the bottle? What makes the bees go down the hole? Mark McKean, Cumming

A: No bait is needed. Once bees enter the drilled holes in the wood above a plastic bottle they simple keep going until they are trapped. Details on the trap at bit.ly/carpentertrap.

Q: My husband wants to prune our spirea. But he doesn't believe me when I insist it blooms twice! Our landscaper used to severely prune it this time of year. Vicki Deloach, Woodstock

A: Scheduling spirea pruning depends on which kind you have. Spring-blooming spirea shrubs, like 'Bridal Wreath,' should be pruned after they flower. Late April is a good time. Summer-blooming spirea, such as the Japanese and bumalda types, can be pruned in early spring because they will make flowers on the vigorous new growth that results from spring pruning.

Q: Do you know what's happened in the last year or so regarding blueberry bushes being shipped to Georgia? I have never had an issue in the past but recently websites are indicating that their blueberry plants cannot be shipped here. What's up with that? Craig Poppe, email

A: Blueberries are the number one fruit crop in Georgia, so it makes sense that we'd try to protect the plants from imported disease. Blueberry scorch virus devastates blueberries but fortunately is not known to be established in the state yet. Mike Evans at the State Plant Protection Division says any company that wishes to ship plants into Georgia is required to test for blueberry scorch virus. Your noted denial could be a situation where the company has made the business choice to not test its stock.

Q: I have heard that freezing seeds for up to one week prior to planting speeds up the germination. Is this true? Seymour L., email

A: I don't think it helps germination. It's true that some seeds require "stratification," which is storage in a moist, 40-degree spot for eight weeks before planting. Soaking seeds in lukewarm water for 24 hours before planting will certainly help those with hard seed coats, like okra, beets and sweet pea.

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