Ask the gardening expert

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Now that the snowy weather is past, is this the time to prune off all the dead-looking stuff of winter? What about the hydrangeas, roses and azaleas?

It’s early to be doing a lot of pruning. I’m sure you could certainly clean up broken shrubs, limbs and so on, but the pruning should wait a bit longer.

We cannot be sure that the worst of winter is past.

If you recall, last year we had a very heavy, wet snowstorm at the end of February that lasted into the first week of March. In many yards, it did a huge amount of damage. I wouldn’t have expected it to happen that late in winter, but it surely did.

The dead stems on perennials and late-blooming shrubs help protect plants from further freezing damage. This goes for roses and hydrangeas, too, of course. If you cut them early before hard frost is finished, you could have to cut even more to remove that later damage.

As for early spring-blooming shrubs and trees, don’t do any pruning, because that would remove the coming blooms. Remove any broken limbs or obvious damage, but otherwise leave them alone.

We’ve noticed lots of trees and plants coming into the garden centers. Isn’t it too early? My wife said she even saw some blooming flowers.

Yes, you two are right, you did see things are coming in, and high time, too. We live in such a wonderfully choice climate. We can be doing something outdoors nearly 12 months a year. We can be planting, moving trees and shrubs all throughout winter as long as the soil is not frozen, and the soil drains well. I see there are shrubs such as blueberries, plus asparagus and rhubarb roots. I expect to see roses any day now.

The early primroses and pansies look ready for spring. If you have a protected way to show them off, they will bloom their little heads off for you. I have some under the eaves by my door. I only need to make sure the soil does not dry out under there.

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to mslindsay8@gmail.com.