Archive for January 16, 2012

It Might Be Winter, But It’s Always A Good Time To Garden!

This is the perfect time of the year to check bushes for evidence of blackspot or other fungal related diseases. Hollies can be prone to this, but many can be helped by picking the infected leaves and removing the fallen from around the base.

So far January has been a wild ride. There is a saying in the Washington area: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes.” This week we have had gorgeous 70 degree days, snow, rain and wind storms. Which means as long as you are flexible with your time, you might find an hour or so to get into the garden and catch up on things when the weather is tolerable.

I’ve been asked to chronicle the yearly cycle of when is the proper time to do different tasks, so I will start with my own “garden to-do list” each season in hopes that it will help.

As I was putting away the Christmas decorations, I noticed a bumper crop of weeds already appearing. We did have a record warm December, so it didn’t surprise me. I quickly pulled/dug them out, and then applied a layer of weed preventer. Normally, I would not have done that, but we are really having crazy swings in the weather, so better to be safe than sorry. A little diagnostic tip: Make note of what type of weeds you have and where. It can help you determine if your soil needs help. For instance, clover indicates that the soil is too compacted. Wild onion means your soil is too soggy, etc…

When checking out your bushes, be on the lookout for over-wintering insects. These egg masses are destined for the trash. Be sure not to compost, or you could spread the insect problem!

Another task to do this time of the year is to check the bushes for insects that are wintering there. I invariably find large egg masses of scale in my euonymus and juniper bushes. If you cut these out now, you will have far less insect problems next spring and summer. It is worth checking, and you might also locate bird nests more easily with leaves down. I like to make a mental note of where they are so, I don’t disturb them in the spring.

January and July are the two key months to give Wisteria a hard cutting back. It is easy to remove unwanted branching while the vine is bare this time of year, just be sure to leave 2-3 buds per branch for maximum flowering in the Spring. Also, it's a perfect time to check for bird nests, too, so you won't disturb them in the spring. (If you look carefully you can see a robin's nest at the peak of the arbor.)

This is the perfect time of the year to cut back wisteria and hummingbird vine as well as butterfly bushes. If you cut back, leave 2-3 buds on a branch and you will be rewarded with a fuller plant next summer. This will also encourage more flowering on the wisteria this coming spring. I am also working my way around the yard, cutting down the ornamental grasses, one by one, and the remainder of the other perennials. I have dozens of irises, sedum, coreopsis, liriope, and many others, so if I cut a few back each day it will add up. When I have finished with these, it will be time to move on to the larger bushes. I like to have the hollies and the junipers trimmed back prior to March. They will then set their new growth and fill out shortly after.

It seems like this will be an early spring in this region. I am already seeing my crocus and daffodils breaking through the soil, and flower buds swelling on the trees. Here’s hoping we have many more moderate days to enjoy, and give usĀ  a head-start in the garden!


Winter Curb Appeal – A Fun Project to Enjoy All Season

I want to wish all my readers a Happy New Year! It has been a busy couple of months. Please check out the new page I have posted on the 2011 Christmas Tour in which I participated. This was sponsored by The Wyndham Garden Club in central Virginia as a fundraiser for their projects. It was well attended, and they will be making it an annual event.

The house looks so festive at Christmas time, but when the decorations come down it's nice to have something to replace them with to cheer things up for the rest of the winter.

I am always looking for ways to cheer up the deck and doorways in the winter months. Things can be so drab after the summer flowers are gone, and the Christmas decorations have all been put away. I have a remedy sure to bring a smile, and brighten things up for not only the winter but the early spring as well.

Once the annuals have bitten the dust and been discarded, empty the old potting soil from your pots into your garden bed. It will help to improve the soil there, and each season of flowers should receive fresh soil when in pots. Next, with a 5 to 1 solution of water to bleach, scrub out your pots and let them dry in the sun. This will keep diseases from getting started or passed on from reusing the pots.

Closeup of a pot filled with daffodil bulbs, then topped with boxwood branches. It will look fresh through the winter, then beautiful with bulbs in the spring.

Now we are ready for the fun to begin. Using a deep pot with drainage holes, fill with potting soil up to 6″ below the rim. (If you live in a cold climate it’s best to use a resin pot for this project because of freezing issues.) Flatten out the soil and add a layer of daffodil bulbs. These can be placed closer together than you would ordinarily place them if you were to put them in the garden. I usually leave only about 2″ of space between. Try to fit in a dozen or more depending on the size of your pot. Next, fill the pot the rest of the way with additional potting soil, and water really well. These are going to sprout next spring for a beautiful show, but in the meantime (from now through March), I like to create what I call “instant plants” on top. To do this I trim boughs from my boxwoods and junipers, then simply fill the pot with the trimmings. I like mine to look realistic, like miniature boxwood bushes, or juniper bushes using single types of foliage in the pots, but a mix of greens looks gorgeous, too. Simply push the stems of the boughs into the damp soil. The soil will hold them in place and they will last for months outside. If you haven’t gotten rain, give them a watering each week.

I like to place a really large pot next to each of the doorways and smaller versions on the iron baker’s rack, plant stands, the patio table, and even the window boxes get filled with these “instant plants”.

When the winter starts to break, you will notice the bulbs pushing their new growth to surface. This is when you need to pull out the boughs and discard (carefully so you won’t disturb the new growth), and then you will be rewarded with a second season of beauty as the bulbs bloom!

I hope you will try this project, it can be done with crocuses or tulips as well. Enjoy!

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