Marianne Binetti

Marianne Binetti: Time to nurture signs of spring

Spring is starting to emerge this week as the green tips of snowdrop bulbs and crocus show up in area gardens. This means it is time to order seeds, hunt down hellebores to add to the landscape and decide that this is the year you will enjoy your garden more.

Garden shows and nurseries also unwrap a fresh season of classes and lectures and now is the time to sign up. Here are some early season garden questions:

Q. In my neighborhood, there is a pink rhododendron that I noticed flowering on the same Sunday that the Seahawks won the NFC title. This means it was in bloom in January. Is this another January miracle? Sign me Seahawk Gardener

A. Keep cheering because the name of the early blooming rhododendron is called “Christmas Cheer” and this compact rhododendron with pale pink blooms is usually in flower by February or March. A bit of mild winter weather can coax it into bloom on a balmy January day but unlike the name implies, I have never seen my Christmas Cheer rhododendron flower during December.

You can find this evergreen rhododendron at local nurseries or ask that they order one for you. A plant that cheers in the winter is a great way to be a 12. Better yet, order a dozen early bloomers and start a winter garden.

Q. I saw a magazine article about forcing bare branches of flowers into bloom. They showed how to force forsythia, quince and cherry tree branches. Will this work in our area of Western Washington? When is it safe to cut the branches? A.M., Bonney Lake

A. Yes, forcing newly pruned whips or thin branches from forsythia, quince, cherry and even magnolia will work in our climate and the time to get snippy is now. The trick is to keep the cut branches hydrated, so split the stem with a knife or remove some of the side bark on the bottom third of the cut branch to help the harvest soak up the water.

Once cut, place the vase of twigs in a cool garage or dark room until you see signs of color from the buds. You can also collect pussy willow branches and bring them indoors to enjoy this week.

Q. Is it too late to prune my roses? I am seeing green leaves sprouting from the branches. T.C., Auburn

A. It is not too late, and it could be a bit early. I usually prune back roses right after Valentine’s Day but you can wait until mid-March or even April to prune your roses. Different varieties have specific likes when it comes to how much to prune off but all roses benefit from removing the three D’s: Anything dead, damaged or diseased can be cut off anytime .