GARDENING BY RONELLA: Now is the time to trim spring flowering shrubs
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Jul 03, 2013 | 109 109 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most, if not all, spring flowering shrubs are finished blooming for this year. It is safe to trim any that are definitely through blooming. You may want to trim drastically or perhaps just trim them up a little. This is the only safe time of the year to prune these shrubs. If you wait to prune spring flowering shrubs until winter, you will destroy the blooms for next spring.

The lovely summer flowering shrub, the crape myrtle, is almost ready to bloom in my area. It is beyond a doubt the most beautiful blooming shrub in any garden. They are favorites in the Deep South as well as most areas in zone 6 and 7. There are three heights of crape myrtles, the dwarf, the medium size and the very tall ones. They come in many shades of pink, rose, lavender and even the solid whites. The most exciting thing that has happened to crape myrtles since the dwarf ones came out are the even smaller dwarf and the one that is the most beautiful is the red and I mean really fire-engine red. I saw one near my home last summer that was just breathtaking with its bright red and profusion of blooms.

In the Deep South, crape myrtles are pruned to resemble trees. I first saw them 20 or 30 years ago and was confused by that tree-like shrub that resembled a crape myrtle. I discovered that they are pruned to resemble a tree to let air circulate through them and prevent mildew. You trim out the branches all the way to the ground, leaving 4 or 5 stems. Then you have to keep all the suckers cut back to the ground. Also, you trim the smaller branches up to about 4 or 5 feet. Then you prune a few of the cross branches. Lo and behold! You have a crape myrtle tree. Remember that the crape myrtle, as with most shrubs, needs a space around the tree that is free of grass and weeds and then mulch about 2 inches, always remembering to keep the mulch from touching the stems. I like to have a circle that is about 4 feet n diameter to mulch.

Just a few words about the ticks that are so prevalent everywhere this summer: the sprays that you can purchase to spray your exposed skin and also your clothing when going into grassy, weedy areas are one good way to prevent tick bites. The best way is to remove your clothing when coming in from being exposed to ticks and immediately showering with hot water since it takes more than 24 hours for ticks to become imbedded. You also can buy a product that can be mixed with water and applied to yards to kill ticks and chiggers and even fleas.

My grandmother, Ma, loved to pick blackberries and plums. She had lots of blackberries because Pa always left the blackberry bushes to grow between the fields and he also let the plum bushes grow on a hillside. After she came in from picking berries, she would be in torment from chigger bites. She thought the tiny red spot was the chigger and she would ask me to pick them of with a pin, which I did. Little did we know that the chigger bites and drops off, leaving a tiny red spot of blood, which she thought was the chigger. So alcohol bottle and pin in hand, I got rid of Ma’s chiggers.

Ma didn’t work n the fields as many farm wives did, but she stayed busy all the time. She loved to make jellies and preserves and she preferred to pick her own fruit. I can just see in my mind the rows and rows of pint jars, all sterilized and waiting to be filled with watermelon, peach, damson, pear honey and other preserves. Ma was an immaculate housekeeper so everything in her kitchen was clean and sterilized if needed. How she turned out such delectable things to eat in that old kitchen, with that old wood range, is hard to realize. She also had a great imagination in her cooking. She made watermelon rind preserves and would add a few thin strips of orange peel or lemon peel and, if she had it, sometimes she used crushed pineapple. I think, now that I am an old woman and can look back to those days with more insight, that Ma was most concerned about making life happy and comfortable for her “Willie” and for us, her family. Her house was always spotless and always smelled so good. Her beds all had snow white sheets and beautiful quilts, her floors were scrubbed wooden floors and even her porches were swept clean each morning. Yet, she was a beautiful woman with her snow-white hair in a bun on the back of her head and the spotlessly clean housedress and sometimes, an apron. The smell of lemons always reminds me of Ma because she bathed in Raleigh’s lemon soap. Ma had a peaches and cream complexion which she kept that way by wearing a hat or bonnet and she wore cotton stockings on her arms, all this if she went outdoors where the sun might shine on her skin. It must have worked because Ma had no wrinkles as long as she lived which was a long time.

Thank you for allowing me to take your time to reminisce about my wonderful Ma.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or comments.
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