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Q. What is the best time to move my raspberries into a raised bed in full sun?
A. Move the canes in either early to mid-fall or as early as possible in the spring. If there have been problems with the canes, consider waiting until spring and purchasing new ones as soon as they arrive in garden centres in March or early April.
Raised beds for raspberries are useful where soils are heavy in texture and drain poorly of excess moisture in winter. Wet conditions make the plants susceptible to root rot.
Because raspberries are long-term plantings, prepare the soil well with a generous layer of a nourishing compost and a slow-release fertilizer.
Q. After we pruned our purple smoke bush a few years ago, it died back and then re-sprouted to develop into a nice bush. The plant began dying back again after another, more cautious pruning. Why?
A. Smoke bush plants can vary in their ability to tolerate heavy pruning. Those with a strong tolerance are sometimes pruned down close to the ground early every spring in order to produce stems with extra-large leaves that will display strikingly vivid autumn colouring. These young foliage stems are often used in cut arrangements.
For smoke trees and bushes (they can be grown in both forms) in the general landscape, minimal pruning is generally recommended. Pruning, best done in March, is commonly limited to removing damaged, diseased, or awkwardly positioned branches and shortening overlong, straggly stems that detract from the plant’s rounded shape.
Where they grow in their native Asian and Southeast European habitats, smoke bush (Cotinus) species are found mainly in places with poor, dry, rocky or gravelly soils. In garden landscapes, they sometimes do poorly and become susceptible to disease in humus-rich, fertile soils that are kept routinely well watered. Soils that are too fertile or too moist will also discourage free flowering. Where soils are strongly acidic, liming is recommended.
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