The fourth week of April is a good week to prune back spring flowering shrubs that may be growing too large for their space.
Forsythias, quince and early blooming rhododendrons such as the PJM rhodies are finished flowering by now, so a haircut will not damage future flowers. You can also prune hardy fuchsias, salvia such as “Hot Lips,” and other marginally hardy perennials and shrubs that survived the winter.
Remove just an inch or two of the new growth on boxwood and clip a few inches off the top of pyramidalis arborvitae and trim other evergreen hedges to shape.
In the vegetable garden, continue planting cool season crops such as cabbage, radish, lettuce and potatoes. Consider adding edibles to your ornamentals. You really can eat your front yard if you make this the year you add a feathery border of carrots as a border next to the lawn, plant blueberries as bushes along the property line and pot up herbs and edible blooms such as pansy and nasturtiums in your container gardens.
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Q. I would love to grow fresh basil but seem to have trouble growing this herb. Is there a special type of basil that does best in our climate? J.H., Sumner
A. The magic formula for growing basil is warmth. All the basil varieties hate cool weather. Don’t let these heat loving plants sit outdoors overnight until mid-June and grow them in clay pots that will absorb heat during the day and make your basil think it is growing on a sun baked island in the Mediterranean sea. If you have patience and keep your basil plants indoors until the night temperatures are above 55 degrees, then presto — you’ll have pesto.
Q. Last year I purchased beautiful coleus and some marigolds. The coleus dropped leaves then died, and the marigolds turned a bit gray and never did look happy. Apparently I have a very cool (as in not warm) garden and I also water too much. Please suggest some flowers that will survive. B.G., Enumclaw
A. Don’t despair — just beware that some flowering annuals or bedding plants like cool soil and can be planted in out in late April or early May while others crave the heat. The best blooms for planting now are cool season annuals such as pansies, lobelia, bacopa, snapdragons, alyssum and the dainty new Euphorbia sold as an annual called “Diamond Frost Euphorbia.” Add the colorful foliage of heucheras to your container gardens instead of the cold sensitive coleus plant if you want to get a jump-start on summer by planting early.
Q. Please recommend an upright blooming plant for the center of my container gardens that is not a snap dragon. I do not like those spiky dracaenas that everyone plunks into the middle of a pot, and I do not like ornamental grasses because I think they look like weeds. I prefer something with flowers — but it must grow straight up and not trail. Also I hate geraniums. Yes, I am picky about my potted plants. W.B., Email
A. Nothing wrong with knowing what you like — or in your case what you don’t like. There is a newer annual that does great in our climate called “Angelface Angelonia” and it has a spiky looking upright growth habit with bi-colored blooms. Angelonia comes in luscious shades of purple, lavender and pink. The Proven Winners variety called “Angelface Perfectly Pink Angelonia” would create heavenly container gardens as the angelic face of the blooms are hot pink with deep purple centers highlighted with just a dab of bright yellow. Combine this upright bloomer with silver Artemisia and Supertunia Picasso in purple and you’ll have a design that is heaven sent for picky gardeners.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.
10 a.m. April 29: “Beautiful, Edible Gardens.” Windmill Gardens, 16009 60th St. E., Sumner; 253-863-5843. $5 fee. windmillgarden.com.