Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day in the Garden

Hamamalis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' (Hybrid Witch Hazel)
What a difference a day (or a week or month) makes...
On New Year's Day it was almost 60 degrees, and less than 2 weeks ago we were still waiting out the thaw from a week of snow, ice, and wind.
January 2012
Vibernum x bodnantense 'Pink Dawn' (Dawn Vibernum)
And even though Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, that won't stop me from enjoying this mild winter day of sun and clouds, made better by the winter-bloomers in my garden!  Unlike the hard freeze and snowstorms of Nov-Dec. 2010, our latest cold snap did not harm the deciduous and evergreen winter-flowering shrubs in my garden.  Having fragrance and flowers at this time of year is something I never experienced growing up in the midwest, and I consider this a major "bonus" to gardening in the Pacific Northwest!  The fact that many of these plants also provide much-needed food for Anna's Hummingbirds adds to the cheer they bring into even the dreariest days.

Vibernum tinus
Sarcococca ruscifolia (Sweet Box)

Gardening Tips of the Month for Ornamental Plants: 
Oriental Hellebores will soon be sending up their new flower stalks, so make sure you've cut off all the old leaves.  This will make the flowers stand out more, and also reduce the chances for fungal diseases to spread from last year's leaves to the new growth.  

Even if you see new growth on your Roses, wait until late February or early March to do your spring pruning. Pruning them now would stimulate a flush of tender growth, very susceptible to cold damage.  

If you have Japanese Anemones in your garden, leave the spent flower heads on the plants even though they might look funky.  Soon the puffy white seed pods will emerge from the spent flower heads, and be gathered up by Anna's Hummingbirds for a super-soft lining for their tiny nests!

Gardening Tips of the Month for Edible Plants:
In a few weeks, the soil temperatures will likely be warm enough to plant snap peas and carrots. Wait until your soil can pass the "squeeze test" before you do any digging though.

If you want to speed up the soil warming and drying, you can make a temporary cloche for a vegetable bed by covering it with clear plastic or a floating row cover like Remay or Agribon

Fruit Tree tip from  This is the month for winter -- or dormant -- pruning. You can see the structure of your tree and identify the 'bad' (dead, damaged, diseased, and de-ranged) branches. Take those out.  Remember, though, that pruning stimulates new growth -- especially at this time of year.  Visit the City Fruit website for the many pruning classes they host throughout the year, including this Sunday's free class at City People's Garden Store.