Homegrown: Honeysuckle, daffodils and spruce

We have three honeysuckle vines that are about 20 years old. They are getting very leggy and spindly. I’ve tried pruning, but that only makes the tops bushier.

Can I cut them way back this spring (about 12 inches)? I would really like them to fill in more, but don’t want to kill them.

— Mik

You’re right about needing to cut the honeysuckles back farther than you have been doing. There are a couple of ways to go about this.

The first is to cut the whole plant way back like you’re contemplating. This will have the effect of “recreating” the entire plant.

The downside to it is that there’s a bit of a risk to cutting the plant back that far. Removing that much growth at one time is stressful to the plant. Most of the plant’s reserves of stored water and carbohydrates are in the stems (not in the roots as many people think) and depriving the plant of those resources can weaken and even kill the plant.

Losing the plant is rare, but it does happen. Most commonly the plant is weakened and just takes longer to get back on its feet.

The second choice, which I prefer, is to cut the plant back but to steer a more moderate path. What I mean is cut some stems back pretty hard but leave others longer.

Honeysuckles usually will have several stems growing up to form the plant. Cut maybe a third of them down to 12–24 inches from the ground. These will help fill in the plant lower down.

Choose another third to leave fairly long; say cut them back a foot or so or prune them back to the top of the trellis or fence that they’re growing on.

Cut the last third back to about halfway between the first two groups.

Doing it this way will reduce the stress on the plant. It also keeps the plant taller so you’re not starting completely over but still should encourage side shoots to sprout out that will fill the plant in for you.

My daffodils are up and it says it might snow. Will this hurt my flowers? What should I do for them?

— Donna

The early spring bloomers such as your daffodils are surprisingly tough.

I’ve seen them lots of times frosted with a coating of snow and they do just fine. What we worry about are really cold temperatures. I’m talking about the lower 20s to upper teens.

Getting this cold will hurt the flowers and perhaps even the foliage, which is more important to the long- term health and growth of the plant.

They’re not calling for temperatures that low, so I wouldn’t worry too much about them.

If we get a forecast for temperatures down into the lower 20s then I’d cover the clump with a bucket or cardboard box. Put it over the plant late in the afternoon (when it’s warmest) and don’t take it off until temperatures have gotten up to the lower 30s the next morning.

I have three or four different varieties coming into bloom, and I’m not planning on doing anything to protect them right now.

How large an area (radius) does a baby blue eyes spruce need?

— James

We figure that baby blue eyes spruce will get about two-thirds the size of a standard Colorado blue spruce. I’d guess that it will grow 25–30 feet tall with a 10–15 feet spread in 20–30 years.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, online at http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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