Dear Master Gardener: My camellias have been stunning this year and have given me many hours of pleasure. Now I want to care for them so I will have them for many years to come. What should I do now that they are beginning to fade?
Dear Zelda: Yes, it is time for this party to be over. Let’s prepare for next year. I have said before that camellias can live for many, many years, so now is the time to give them a little TLC. Be sure to rake up the fallen flowers and leaves. If your shrub needs pruning, now is the time between Valentine’s Day and May. It is a good time to spray with a fungicide so no diseases are carried into the summer.
Look underneath the leaves for insects. You could have aphids, which cause a sooty mold. If undecided about what your problem might be, check the hgic: clemson.edu website or take a sample to your local Clemson agent. All the stars, planets and Mother Nature have to be in sync to have a year like this one was for camellias, so I hope you took lots of pictures and put them in an album. The Master Gardeners are hoping to have a program on propagating camellias at Walmart this spring, so keep watching the ads in The Times and Democrat for time and date.
Dear Master Gardener: I was looking at my knockout roses and realized there were little bits of “cotton” all over the plant. When I touched the “cotton," it had the audacity to fly away. What in the world is going on? Can my plant be saved? I love my knockout roses!
Dear Startled: Take a deep breath and calm down. This problem can be fixed. Charles Davis, Clemson Extension agent extraordinaire, has come to your rescue. This little beast is a woolly aphid. You will need to spray the plant either before or after you prune it severely. Be sure to read the directions on the container and spray several times, because the little bugs will hatch and you need to kill them, too. Valentine’s Day, or shortly thereafter, before real growth begins, is the perfect time to prune roses of any kind. Be careful not to put these diseased limbs in your compost pile because you could contaminate your soil. Put the limbs you discard in a plastic bag and take them to your local trash collection site. As a rule, knockout roses have few disease problems, but there are exceptions to every rule. You cannot hurt the plant by cutting it back to about two feet from the ground. Be sure to rake up any existing straw or mulch in case any little beast is hiding underneath the plant. I like using a systemic insecticide also because it discourages insects from within the plant. Treat your plant with a little rose fertilizer, and I believe you will have beautiful blooms all summer long.
The trees, daffodils and irises are popping out all over. All in all, we have had a mild winter with plenty of rain. I am sure we will have more cold weather, so there is still time to plant trees and shrubbery. However, don’t be tempted to plant seeds or tender plants until after Good Friday when the soil warms up.