Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

December, 2011
Regional Report

Select Plants that Attract Beneficial Insects

If you had serious insect problems in your garden this past year, begin planting coreopsis, achillea (yarrow), dill, fennel, carrots, or parsley. While pest-eating beneficial insects are carnivores, meaning that they eat other bugs, they supplement their diets with pollen, nectar, and plant juices when pest populations are low. They are attracted to plants with flower heads composed of small individual flowers. Ladybugs, lace wings, and hoverflies are all welcome additions to any garden.

Pruning Tip for Caning Plants

If you have a plant that grows from canes such as forsythia or climbing roses, remove old, woody canes at the ground to promote new growth. Instead of removing only half of an existing cane, cut it all the way back to the base. New growth is more vigorous and will produce more flowers.

Prune Evergreen Shrubs for Shape

Hardy shrubs such as raphiolepis and escallonia can become overgrown and woody without proper guidance. Thin overgrown plants to allow light and air to reach the center of the plant. Remove any dead, diseased, or injured wood, then prune for shape. Shrubs should be wider at the base, narrowing toward the top of the plant to allow sunlight to reach every part.

Remove Suckers from Deciduous Plants

Some plants such as apples, roses, evergreen pears, and other grafted varieties develop unwanted growth from the root stock. These are referred to as "suckers" and will not produce fruit or flowers. If left unattended, these suckers will steal vital nutrients from the scion (top) part of the plant. Dig into the soil if necessary to remove suckers at the point of origin.

Make Correct Pruning Cuts

Plants will heal faster after pruning if you make cuts in the correct place. Plan to make your cut just above a leaf joint, bud, or branch collar. Any wood between the growth points will turn brown, die, and be an open invitation to insect pests. There is an old garden proverb; leave no stub that you can hang a hat on.


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