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Cut to the good stuff

It's not too late to give roses their annual, winter pruning _ if you act fast. Roses need a heavy pruning each winter during January or February. Major yearly pruning consists of removing some healthy top growth as well as twigs and branches that are dead, diseased, injured, unsightly or thin and spindly. Shortening main canes and lateral branches, removing small twigs and some of the oldest canes improves the plant's form. It also regulates height and produces better light conditions within the plant. Leave at least half the length of each main cane that is 1 to 3 years old. The first flowers can be expected eight to nine weeks after pruning.

To avoid dieback and encourage rapid healing, pruning cuts should be made just above a dormant bud (eye).

When an entire branch is removed, make a smooth cut at the point of juncture.

More on "tropical rose'

Question: A plant called "Tropical Rose" was featured in a January edition of the St. Petersburg Times. I have checked local nurseries and plant stores for this plant but cannot find it. Can you tell me where I might purchase the seeds? Therese Koch, New Port Richey

Answer: Tropical rose is a new type of canna that will flower 90 days after the seed is sown. This dwarf form grows to about 2{ feet tall and produces 3- to 4-inch blooms in a lovely soft rose hue. This new variety garnered a 1992 All America Award as an outstanding, innovative plant. Nurseries are just beginning to grow this newcomer, but it should be on the market this spring and summer. To order seed, contact either W. Atlee Burpee & Co., 300 Park Ave., Warminster, Pa. 18991-0001, or Park Seed Co., Cokesbury Road, Greenwood, S.C., 29547-0001.

Fertilizing

Question: We are snowbirds who spend October to May in Florida and then abandon our plants for the summer. Before I leave, I fertilize everything with 6-6-6 or 8-8-8. Is this okay? Ken Forbes, Largo

Answer: Most established shrubs and trees will grow fine with two or three fertilizations a year. In your case, I recommend applications in early March, in May (just before you leave) and in October when you return. Actually, the May fertilization is optional. The type of fertilizer you use may be more important than your timing. Shop for one that contains the highest percentage you can find of slow-release nitrogen. These forms are listed on the fertilizer label as water insoluble nitrogen, sulfur-coated urea or controlled release nitrogen. Fertilizers containing these types of nitrogen are more expensive, but the advantages outweigh the costs. The nitrogen is released slowly to plants so that they receive a slow, steady feeding for an extended period of time. Slow-release nitrogen forms are also less likely to be quickly washed away by heavy rains or irrigation.

Sydney Park Brown is a horticultural specialist with the Hillsborough Extension Service. Send written questions to her in care of the Extension Service, 5339 State Road 579, Seffner, Fla. 33584.

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