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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Prune hardy fuchsia when tiny green shoots appear

How much should hardy fuschias be cut back, and what is the best time to do it?

Dear Helen: For the last two years, I haven’t pruned my hardy fuchsia, but this year I’d like to. How much should the plant be cut back, and what is the best time?

M.H.

Hardy fuchsias can be managed as either deciduous shrubs or as perennials. A really cold winter can kill off the top growth of some varieties, but new growth will appear from the plant crowns. That’s what most perennials do.

In a more usual year, when all or most of the top growth survives, I prune to shape, thin, or control the size of my hardy fuchsias as soon as I see tiny green shoots appearing along the stems in the spring.

That has happened far later than usual this spring. I did not see tiny bits of green on the stems of my largest, hardiest fuchsia until the last week in April. Another, smaller and less hardy one has shown no sign of life. It will likely need to be cut down to begin life anew from ground level.

Unless you want all new growth on your plant, prune when you see green sprouts on your hardy fuchsia stems.

To prune, first decide on how much smaller you want the plant to be. I usually cut out weak, broken, spindly and awkwardly placed stems and thin out remaining stems enough to relieve congestion. Then I shorten the remaining stems, making the cuts immediately above an outward-facing green shoot.

Dear Helen: I just bought a lemon cypress to put out on my patio. I have a big pot for it. Should I move the plant into it now or leave it in its present pot for a while?

S.M.

You can transplant into the new pot now, but if there is a big difference in size between the current and new pot, be very careful with watering. Keep the potting mix just a little on the dry side as the plant puts out fresh roots in its new home. Those new roots would otherwise be prone to rotting in a wet soil.

Dear Helen: Some of my squash seedlings, sown indoors, emerged with the initial leaves discoloured and a little distorted along the edges. What might have caused this?

E.W.

The initial set of “seed” leaves are sometimes slightly marred in the process of the seeds disengaging from those leaves as they are emerging. This is most common in seeds like squash, which are fairly large and flattish, with a strong outer husk. I expect that the seedlings’ “true” leaves, that is foliage typical of the plant, are developing normally now.

Dear Helen: Why did the first spears on my typically green asparagus plants emerge distinctly purple? They have since reverted to green.

C.B.

A purplish cast to green growth indicates a deficiency in phosphorus. That does not necessarily mean that the soil is lacking this element. At temperatures colder than a plant requires, it is unable to absorb the nutrient. In this cold spring, the purpling of some plants has been common. Anyone who transplanted warmth-loving flowers like zinnias outdoors earlier this spring will have noticed it.

GARDEN EVENTS

Dahlia meeting. The Victoria Dahlia Society will meet on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in St. Michael’s church, 4733 W. Saanich Rd. The evening’s program will be Insects in the Garden. Visitors welcome. Covid protocols in place.

VHS sale. The Victoria Horticultural Society will hold a plant sale on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. Perennials, annuals, vegetable transplants, berry plants and more. Proceeds will go toward the VHS legacy project, a rooftop garden for the new Garth Homer Centre. vichortsociety.org.

NHS sale. The Nanaimo Horticultural Society is holding a plant sale on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Nanaimo North Town Centre. Perennials, herbs, house plants, small shrubs, vegetable transplants. Master gardeners on hand.

Floral art. The Mid Island Floral Art Club will meet on Saturday, May 14, at 2 p.m. in St. Stephen’s United Church, 150 Village Way. Participants will be creating a design. Information at 250-757-8969. Guest fee $6.

Qualicum sale. The Qualicum Beach Garden Club will hold an All About the Garden Sale on Saturday May 14 from 8:30 a.m. to noon, outdoors at 701 Larch Dr. in QB. A gardening advice clinic will be set up on-site, hosted by Vancouver Island Master Gardeners.

hchesnut@bcsupernet.com