What a wild swing in weather patterns! From rec-ord-setting cold in February to rec-ord maximum temperatures for a day in March makes it tough on landscape plant material.

The most common call to extension offices these days is: "My Austrian pine, Alberta spruce, laurel or something else is dying. What can I do about it?"First of all, the brown needles or leaves that you see will not change color unless you do it with a can of green spray paint. Second, most of the plants are not dying. As warm weather persists, you'll see buds on branch tips or along the stems burst into new growth.

Stifle your urge to prune until you see where that new growth develops. I'm not ruling out the possibility of some branch and twig winterkill that will require removal later. That is not completely evident at this time and what appears brown or dead now may grow. On the other hand, past experience tells us that some buds may burst into growth soon and die off as the stress of summer is applied.

That leaf scorch has been evident more from the heat than from the extreme cold although both factors contribute. Intense sunshine creates conditions favoring sap flow and elevated tissue temperatures. A leaf must give off water to survive. If the soil is frozen or is too dry, that water is not replenished and death of cells occurs. It doesn't help either when the nighttime temperatures get down to the minimums that were pres-ent.

You'll notice that limbs under the snow are usually green. The white covering was an excellent layer to moderate the extreme swing from high to low temperatures.

Your activity right now should include soaking the roots of trees and shrubs if they need it. Some of the most severe damage is to shrubs near the foundation. That's where the overhang prevents precipitation reaching the soil. In addition, escaping heat from the foundation encourages plant growth and soil drying. Reflected sun has an increased detrimental effect in excessive warming.

If euonymus, laurel or other broadleaf evergreens have too many brown leaves, it won't hurt to do pruning to shape the shrub and remove unsightly foliate.

As I did some evaluation of my roses the other day, I decided this is the year for a very severe pruning job. If I'm to prune to where there is no brown center on those canes, they'll end up 4 to 6 inches tall.

That's only a little more severe than I usually prune. Most people don't remove enough of a rose plant and should welcome the winter kill that will force low pruning and vigorous shoot growth that will have superior flower production.

To learn the fine art of rose pruning, attend the Rose Society Pruning Workshop on Saturday, April 1 at the Municipal Rose Garden, east end of Sugarhouse Park. Yes, it's a demonstration but bring your pruners because there are a lot of roses that need work and you can help! The time is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. If weather is too inclement, the Utah Rose Society will postpone the event until April 8.

Pruning gets to be an art because no plant matches the picture in the pruning guide. When you approach your own tree or bush after a pruning demonstration you can't "cookbook" each cut. You need to apply the principles you learn and not expect to have every move told you.

It's about the same with grafting. That ancient horticultural practice has been used to combine a twig or bud of one plant with a branch or root of another since biblical times. All the fruit trees that we purchase are created by this technique by skilled professionals.

Grafting and budding are not beyond the capacity of hobbyists who want to learn how to do it, then spend some time practicing. Nearly every fruit production book, including HP's "Western Fruit, Berries and Nuts" and Ortho's "All About Growing Fruits and Berries" includes a section on grafting.

"Grafting and Budding" is a brochure available at our office. Stop by to obtain a copy or send 25 cents plus a self-addressed, stamped envelope to 2001 South State Street, Room S-1200, Salt Lake City, UT 84190-3350.

Without illlustrations, grafting is difficult to explain. The accompanying photo shows a cleft graft before covering cuts to seal out the air. Refer to one of the sources of printed information for particulars.

Right now is the time to cut the scion wood. On apples and pears this should be vigorous unbranched shoots that grew in 1988. Wrap in moist toweling, place it in a plastic bag and store it in your refrigerator to keep it dormant. Grafting is done about the last half of April when bud activity indicates sap flow.

Budding will take place in July or August when the bark of various trees, especially the stone fruits, will separate easily at the cambium layer. Freshly cut buds are used, not the stored wood mentioned above.

Commercial grafting wax nearly has passed into extinction. The hobbyist can use the wax ring for sealing toilets or aquarium-grade silicone seal. Flexible electricians tape will cover a whip graft. Whatever product is used, it's very important to exclude the air that will mean doom to the tender tissue.

Grafts are more likely to be successful if you place them on upright, rather than horizontal growing limbs.

If a neighbor's apple tree is better than yours or if an old tree is about to die, do some grafting to include those varieties in your yard.


March 22, 7 p.m. Vegetable production. Country Government Center (CGC), Room 1010. Enter NE glass doors.

March 25, 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. Pruning fruit trees, raspberries and grapes. 9150 S. 2680 East, then follow signs.

March 28, 7 p.m. Granger Bishop's Storehouse, 3648 S. 72nd West, Lawn care, planting, fertilizing, mowing, etc.

March 29, 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. CGC, address above, same topic.

April 4, 7 p.m. Granger Bishop's Storehouse. How to get more vegetables from a small space.

April 5, 2 or 7 p.m. Same topic, CGC.