Lee Rouse noticed something surprising when reviewing a list of courses available to home gardeners: Most were either very basic or very advanced.
“I realized that there was very little right in the middle, the kind that offered information that intermediate gardeners need,” said Rouse, who assumed the mantle of Orleans Parish extension agent for the LSU AgCenter a few months ago.
The solution is “Lessons with Lee,” the monthly workshop series Rouse will host at the Garden Study Center in the New Orleans Botanical Garden. The series begins today with “Basic Pruning” and continues in February with “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”
“The topics I have chosen relate to whatever is timely during the month the workshop is held,” Rouse said. “This month it’s time to prune trees and many shrubs, so I’ll be discussing the right tools for the job and the right techniques to use.”
Another important consideration when pruning a shrub or tree is timing, according to Rouse.
“Gardeners need to think a little bit about the shrubs they have at home and what time of year they bloom,” he said. “Spring flowering shrubs like azaleas and gardenias shouldn’t be pruned now, and the reason is that you won’t get any blooms if you do because you’ll be cutting off the buds. You need to wait until after they have bloomed.”
When pruning takes place, however, the goal is to be sure to preserve the aesthetic appeal of the shrub or trees being pruned.
“One of the worst mistakes I’ve noticed in tree trimming is making a cut midway along a branch instead of following the branch all the way back to the trunk,” He said. “It’s healthier for the tree to do it the right way, and it looks better when done correctly.”
Even small tree limbs can benefit from the proper three-point cut, something Rouse will discuss and demonstrate at the workshop.
“A three-point cut prevents the weight of the limb from stripping the bark off the tree when the limb falls,” Rouse explained.
“You make a cut about 6 inches out from the trunk, on the underside of the limb. Only cut about halfway through it.
“Then you make the next cut about a foot out on the top side of the limb, and you cut all the way through. The limb will fall, but the bark won’t tear past the point of the first undercut.
“You’re left with a stub that you cut off near the trunk, leaving the branch collar intact.”
The terminology of gardening is one of the topics that Rouse plans to explain in each class.
If students don’t know what a “branch collar” is when the workshop begins, they will once it concludes.
Similarly, Rouse intends to explain fully the vocabulary he uses when discussing roses in his February workshop.
“Grandiflora and floribunda, for example, are two terms gardeners might have heard applied to roses, but it’s possible no one has ever explained what they mean,” Rouse said. “Floribunda is derived from the Latin for ‘abundant flowers,’ so those are roses that grow in clusters, and each rose is fairly small. Grandiflora related to the Latin or ‘big flowers,’ and the term refers to large, single blossoms. Once you know the lingo, it gets easier.”
Rouse earned a degree in horticulture from Louisiana State University in 2013. Although he did not begin college as a horticulture major, just one course in the field hooked him for life.
“I would say that about 75 percent of horticulture majors started out in something else, then discovered horticulture and never looked back,” Rouse said.
Because he believes that gardeners are “tactile” like he is, Rouse plans about an hour of talk and a second hour out and about in the Botanical Garden for each two-hour workshop.
“The garden makes a great lab for teaching,” he said. “I can talk all I want, but there is no substitute for watching a live demonstration.”
The slate of classes includes the rose workshop on Feb. 28; “Growing Vegetables,” March 28; “Integrated Pest Management,” April 25; “Tropical Plants in the Landscape,” May 30; “Compost and Soil,” June 27; and “Cactus and Succulents,” July 25. Additional topics will be announced later in the year.
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about houses and gardens. firstname.lastname@example.org; @rstephaniebruno