Winter shrubs provide a little color, aroma

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 22, 2013

SALISBURY — Many have received garden catalogs and are longing for warmer, dryer weather to work outdoors. Many have posed questions that you may also have about your gardening endeavors. Below are a few:

Q: When is the best time and how do I prune back my blueberries? The plants are about eight years old.

A: Rabbiteye-type blueberries require little pruning for the first five years of growth. You can remove lower twiggy growth, dead or damaged shoots, and weak, spindly growth. It’s best to tip back excessively long and limber shoots to stimulate lateral branching and to thicken the shoots. Prune young plants during the dormant season and immediately after harvest with older plants. Old, non-productive growth needs to be removed to rejuvenate new growth. The buds will be very noticeable and you’ll be able to see which growth is non-productive. Go to for more information.

Q: What is that shrub blooming a few weeks ago similar in appearance to forsythia?

A: That shrub is most likely winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum. It blooms very early and has green stems.

Q: My garden catalogs all have grafted tomato plants for sale. Some of these tomato plants are almost $8 per plant. Are these plants really worth this much?

A: Commercial growers are using grafted plants to produce tomatoes where diseases are a problem. Generally, a high quality heirloom is placed on a disease resistant root-stock for increased longevity. These plants may be beneficial if you have chronic tomato disease problems, especially on heirlooms. However, $8 will buy a lot of wonderful locally grown tomatoes at local farmers markets.

Q: There is a vine at the Cooperative Extension Office that has a very small, yet fragrant white bloom now. My grandmother had one of these plants. What is that plant that is blooming now?

A: It is commonly known as, Lonicera fragrantissima, a deciduous plant that has been around for many years. It blooms early in the spring and is well noted for its very sweet fragrance. Go to for more information.

Q: I noticed Cooperative Extension 4-H program is selling strawberries. I want to plant berries in my small raised bed area. Can I use these berries and how far apart would I plant them in the beds?

A: Plant the berry plants no closer than 12 inches apart in rows or staggered in the beds. Allstar is the variety sold by the 4-H program. The mid- to late maturing cultivar’s vigor and resistance to diseases makes it suitable to most growing conditions in Rowan County.

Contact Darrell Blackwelder at 704-216-8970.