March 2013 Cuttings

March 2013 Cuttings

"Cuttings" is your source for garden updates and horticultural tips from Reeves-Reed Arboretum's horticulture staff. Check back monthly to find out what's blooming at the Arboretum, get the inside scoop on upcoming events, and learn some timely tips you can put to use in your own garden.

In the Gardens: Signs of Spring

March is here, and the winter snows have finally melted – or mostly, anyway! The first signs of spring are all around us now, as wildflowers push their way up through a blanket of leaves to emerge in the sunlight. Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are one of these early spring wonders, and they carpet the ground here at Reeves-Reed Arboretum. Because they bloom in the very early spring when pollinating insects are scarce, snowdrops have evolved to reproduce mainly by bulb division – which means that they make great naturalizers, spreading in lovely drifts throughout the garden.








Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) carpet the ground in early March. (Photo: Shari Edelson)

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is another welcome sign of spring at the Arboretum. Its cheery blooms are a woodland garden favorite, and grace the entrance to our Wildflower Trail. Winter aconite is a member of the buttercup family, or Ranunculaceae, and its shiny, bright yellow flowers definitely bring to mind those later-blooming buttercup cousins. A spring ephemeral, winter aconite prefers the chilly weather of March and April, and goes into dormancy when the warmer days of late spring and summer arrive. So even though we're impatient for that warmer weather to get here, we're thoroughly enjoying these early spring lovelies right now!








Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) at the entrance to the Wildflower Trail. (Photo: Shari Edelson)


March Garden Tips: Time to Prune the Roses...








The buds are swelling on the roses, and it's getting to be pruning time! Yes, that's right – if you want your roses to look their best this summer, March is the perfect time to prune. But before you charge outside and begin lopping away, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Look before you leap. This may sound like a pretty basic tip, but believe us – it's a useful one! Step back and look at the entire plant before you begin pruning. Develop an overall plan of attack, visualizing how you'd like the plant to look when you're done, and keeping in mind details such as the rose's typical growth rate, mature size, and the proximity of neighboring plants or structures. For example, if you happen to know that the rose you're working with grows at a phenomenally fast rate, you can feel confident in giving it a stern March pruning.


  • Start with "the three D's:" namely, Dead, Damaged, and Diseased branches. In our climate, it's normal for roses to suffer some damage over the winter, and removing this damaged tissue is one of the main goals of early spring pruning. In addition to the three D's, you should also keep an eye out for branches that cross and rub against one another, as well as for suckers that may be growing up from the plant's rootstock and popping up elsewhere in your garden beds.


  • Make sure your cuts "make the cut!" It's important to make your cuts correctly, or else you may end up creating conditions that encourage infection or reduce plant vigor. Always use a sharp, clean pair of bypass pruners, as dull blades can tear plant tissue rather than cutting it cleanly away. Cuts should be made above an outward-facing bud, at a 45° angle with respect to the branch itself. The cut should angle away from, not towards, the bud you've chosen, so that you don't accidentally damage the bud tissue.


If you're interested in learning more about rose pruning, sign up for our upcoming workshop – Winter Rose Pruning for Dummies – taught by Reeves-Reed Arboretum's in-house rose expert Julieanne Frascinella. The workshop will be held on Thursday, March 28 from 1:00 – 3:00 pm, and will provide you with an opportunity to hone your skills through hands-on instruction in our rose garden! Plus, the workshop is FREE of charge for Arboretum members! Click here to register or learn more.


Volunteer in Our Gardens!

Saturday, March 16: Saturday Volunteers    

9:00 am to 12:00 pm







If you love working outdoors, we'd love to have your help at our upcoming March volunteer day! Please join us for a morning of fun work as we get the grounds ready for spring.

NOTE TO VOLUNTEERS: Due to ongoing construction at the Arboretum, volunteers should park on Hobart Avenue opposite our main gates and enter the Arboretum through the pedestrian gate at the main entrance.

To sign up, or to learn about other volunteer opportunities at the Arboretum, please contact Lisa Martin at or 908-273-8787 ext. 2222.


Saturday, March 23: Volunteer Appreciation Brunch!

11:00 am to 1:00 pm






We're throwing a party to thank all of our volunteers – if you've spent time tending our gardens, teaching at one of our educational programs, or welcoming visitors at a special event (just to mention a few of the innumerable tasks that our volunteers help out with), we want you to join us for this informal celebration. We can't wait to see you there!

To RSVP, please contact Lisa Martin at or 908-273-8787 ext. 2222.