Newspaper Columns

Columns written by Greg Grant and a Smith Co. Master Gardener which have appeared in the Tyler Morning Telegraph, are posted here.

Valentine’s Day means it’s time to prune the roses

by Greg Grant – Texas AgriLife Extension Service

I often remember what to do in the garden by aligning horticultural chores with holidays. This week is a prime example. Lincoln’s birthday is for planting potatoes, and Valentine’s Day is for pruning roses.

Most roses need some type of pruning to eliminate dead wood, keep them shapely and to promote larger flowers.

Hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses require fairly severe annual pruning each year. Begin by removing all dead and diseased wood at least 1 inch below the damaged area. Remove all weak shoots. If two branches rub or almost touch, remove one. On old, thick shrubs, cut out one or two of the oldest canes each year.

Cut at a 45-degree angle above a strong outer bud. Aim the cut upward from the inner side of the bush to push growth outward.

There are a number of other types of roses to consider.

Standard or tree roses: A tree rose is a hybrid tea, grandiflora, or floribunda budded at the top of a tall trunk. Prune tree roses as for hybrid teas, cutting the branches to within 6 to 12 inches of the base of the crown to encourage compact, rounded, and vigorous new growth.

Miniature roses: Miniature roses are 1 to 2 feet tall with tiny blooms and foliage. They do not need special pruning; just cut out dead growth and lightly shear them with the hedge clippers to shape them up.

Large-flowering climbers: Climbing roses have larger flowers borne on wood at least 2 years old. The canes of climbing roses are larger and sturdier than those of rambler roses and less vigorous, essentially tall, lanky shrubs. Cut out dead and diseased canes. Then remove one or two of the oldest canes at ground level to make room for new canes. Shorten the laterals, or side shoots, 3 to 6 inches after flowering. If the plant is strong, keep five to eight main canes and tie them to a trellis, fence or other support. If it is not strong, leave fewer canes.

Antique roses: Everblooming old garden roses like teas, Chinas and polyanthas should be given a light shearing with the hedge clippers. This applies to shrub roses like Knock Outs as well. The goal is to promote busy shrubs with lots of flowers, not large individual cut flowers.

PS: Lincoln’s birthday (President’s Day) means potato planting time.

Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. You can follow him on Facebook at “Greg Grant Gardens.” He writes a monthly blog titled “Greg’s Ramblings” at and writes “In Greg’s Garden” for Texas Gardener magazine (

Plant a garden like you mean it

  • By Katy Barone, Smith County Master Gardener

From mythology to Biblical writings to art in antiquity and the Renaissance; to Shakespearean sonnets and beyond, herbs and flowers have held special meaning for people throughout history. During the Victorian era, assigning sentiment and symbolism to flowering plants blossomed with fervor and became an intense pastime — so much so that the fate of courtiers and suitors depended on it: a reply with a red carnation indicated love; a yellow carnation, rejection. While such botanical subtleties are now passé, the language of flowers remains symbolic of affection and caring. Inasmuch as February is a month that brings flowers to mind, both with the observance of Valentine’s Day, as well as the time of planning and preparation for springtime and summer blooms, we thought it would be fun to take a quick look at common plants and their meanings.

We are all familiar with the tale of the tiny mustard seed signifying faith, red roses love, and poppies a tribute to a loved one passed, but did you know there are dozens of other flowers and plants with assigned meanings, sentiments and special intentions? Take, for example, zinnias, a gardening favorite, which signify thoughts of absent friends; or coreopsis a bode of cheerfulness, or holly, hope.

Herbs, especially, are well-known for their symbolism. Here are a just a few examples: basil-good wishes, rosemary-remembrance; thyme-courage, strength; dill-power against evil; marjoram-joy, happiness; and lemon balm-sympathy. In old-fashioned gardens, vegetables, herbs and cut flower annuals and perennials grew side by side as companions, a ready source of bounty and beauty; food for the family, bouquets for the table and nosegays to cheer up a friend.

Annuals — zinnia, sunflower, larkspur, marigold, bachelor buttons and cleome.

Perennials — yarrow, coreopsis, gladiolus, salvia, Mexican marigold mint and Shasta daisy.

Remember to do a bit of research before planting, as it is best to pair plants with like sun, soil and water requirements.

One could talk for days on the language of flowers, which we will spare you here, but if this is of interest to you, the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” online is an excellent resource with an extensive list of plants and their meanings at Also, if you are thinking of becoming a cut-flower devotee, consider checking out the following article by Dr. William Welch at


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