View from the Garden: Pruning Roses, Coloring Tools, Spotting Owls

Eastern Screech Owl
Eastern Screech Owl. Photo credit: Gary Tognoni/ iStock/Thinkstock

Just as I can look at a garden bed no matter how large and spot a weed, my husband can look at the larger landscape and see a bird.

He goes out almost every day to spot birds and photograph them. This week, he had a “first.” He saw a red-phase Eastern screech owl sitting by a hole in the neighbor’s tree. These owls are only 8 inches tall but, using binoculars, we saw that it was sleeping. We could see his eyes closed and see its feet. We have heard a screech owl frequently but seeing it was amazing! Later we saw it in a confrontation with a squirrel for the hole in the tree…don’t yet know who won. Aside from their just plain “wonderfulness,” I’m delighted to have it in the neighborhood and would even welcome more, as they eat mice (among other things) and mice are vectors for ticks.

The seeds that I ordered last week are here. Now I will arrange them by planting date in a box that can travel in the truck. With this box and each client’s list, I’m ready to plant their gardens. It often happens that something ordered is out of stock. I keep a list of these and order from another company. Be sure to check the invoice for this information or you might find yourself without that special vegetable or flower later.

Now that the snow is gone, I took a cruise through the yard and saw swollen buds everywhere—big, fat ones on the camellias, lilacs, roses and hydrangeas. Some early daffodils are in bud. These often come up by January and are unaffected by snow. I saw early crocus foliage and expect the snowdrops soon—mine are later blooming.

This is a perfect time to prune roses if one can bare the cold. Knowing how to prune different types of roses…tea roses, grandifloras, climbers, ramblers, floribundas, etc. will allow the gardener to maximize the health, vigor and flower production of the rose. While rose pruning can seem intimidating, learning these techniques from the internet and even better, from a book, is not difficult.

A friend with two knockout type roses asked me about pruning them. Though knockouts will be fine with no pruning, they look better with some. Using diagrams, I explained the first three things to do when pruning most plants: remove dead wood to the point of live wood, remove any crossing branches and branches growing to the inside of the shrub or bush. (For roses, I then remove all canes that are smaller than a pencil.) I explained that cuts should be made to a bud facing outside the bush so that new shoots grow to the outside of the bush. These things alone will make any tree, shrub or bush look better and add to the health of the plant.

It’s time to start repacking the truck. While my Ford Transit can hold a lot of tools, they must be stored in just the right way. Last year, I had the locations worked out but I then decided that the truck needed to be cleaned, not having done it the previous year. I enjoyed having a clean truck with the passenger seats down for the winter—but I hope I can remember where all of the tools stacked in the garage, the shed and in boxes go in the truck.

This year I’m going to paint the handles of all of my tools red. Too many have been left on the job. The day is finished, the property is big and one just wants to get in the truck and go home—or the tool has fallen down and is hiding in the grass. I swear that tools hide themselves in weird places just so they don’t have to go into the truck to be put work again the next day.

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. Visit for more information.


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