This February is much different than past Februarys. It’s not as cold, and it’s not as snowy, icy, or rainy. However, we still have winter garden chores!
Start by checking your perennial plants. You can protect your strawberries and many perennial flowers as well as garlic, over-wintered spinach, and other crops that can easily be damaged by alternate warming and freezing of the soil with mulch. Although it is too late to undo any damage that’s done, mulching now can prevent additional damage caused by spring fluctuations in soil temperatures.
You can also take a walk around the garden to check for winter damage to shrubs, evergreens, and trees. Look for damage by rabbits and rodents, too. We have a lot of rabbits in our area this year, so be sure to understand who is causing garden damage before coming up with a solution.
February is also a great time to think about the birds. In addition to keeping the feeders full, you can attract them to your yard and garden next spring by adding a birdhouse now.
Garden Layers are GardenWise!
Add beauty and curb appeal to your front yard with a sidewalk garden. The most productive gardens in smaller spaces use layering, combining layers of plants that grow at different heights. This bottom garden is a great example; each plant and flower plays its part, and the sum of the whole creates an optical illusion that gives your entire property so much more depth while adding a significant amount of space between your home and the street.
The white alyssum and purple-leafed lobelia in the front set the stage for taller tulips and butterfly flowers, which are in turn backed by society garlic and a wall topped by glowing pink bougainvillea.
And even if you don’t live in a warm-climate area, you can still take advantage of tropicals such as bougainvillea. Just treat them as annuals, or grow them in containers and bring them indoors for the winter.
Caring for Lavender
Avoid the urge to cut back your lavender plants this winter in spite of their visual decline with the cold — wait for new growth to emerge in Spring before trimming and tidying up your lavender. It does not react well to hard pruning and may even rot if given a thick layer of organic mulch in winter. So be patient through this season, and the payoff will be beautiful and healthy Spring lavender!
Beautiful Green Hardscape Designs
Using recycled materials in your hardscape featrures is a great “green” step to take when installing any stone or brick design. We use recycled materials when the chance to do so is available, and the possibilities are endless — recycled concrete for paving systems, glass in stepping stones, recycled bricks, and crushed stone and granite to be used in patio surfaces. Each brick used in this Washington, DC garden we designed and installed (above left,) was recycled from a previous hardscape feature.
An added bonus? You save money! When I incorporate larger pieces of old concrete or bricks into a design, the purchase and delivery of new materials is eliminated. Also eliminated? The material removal and disposal costs. It’s yet another way to take a Green Living step that also helps your budget.
Move over Mums!
Now you can have garden beauty in late fall and early spring from spectacular ICICLE Pansies and Icicle Violas. Icicle pansies and violas are selected for their ability to overwinter when planted in the fall. Bred for cold climates, this tough new breed is guaranteed to survive the harshest winters, wherever they are sold. Planted in late summer or early fall, you’ll enjoy blooms until the snow flies and again in early spring
Larkspur – A Late Spring Bloomer
If you didn’t sow Larkspur seed in October for flowering in late spring 2013, no worries. You can buy the plants at your local gardening center. Larkspur (Delphinium consolida,) which symbolizes an open heart, tends to be a bit fussy, and I’ve not had much luck in the DC-area. But if you have success, Larkspur is a beautiful addition to any garden. And for those born in July, this is your birth flower! Each color has a different meaning: the color white symbolizes joy; the purple symbolizes sweetness: and the pink flowers = fickleness. There is no better personal touch to your garden space than Larkspur if you’r e a July baby.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include in this post that all parts of Larkspur are poisonous. Please be very careful about where you decide to include Larkspur in your landscape.
Don’t let the January thaw fool you. Winter is far from over even here in the Mid-Atlantic, but winter shouldn’t keep you from thinking about your garden. These warmer days that will soon become cold unpredictable days are great for planning; mulling over plant catalogs and books looking for new and unusual plants to add to your garden or even starting all over with a new Landscape Master Plan for your entire yard. A strong, well thought out design is critical to building a cohesive space that is a joy to use. Developing a Master Plan with the help of a skilled landscape design professional will make the project implementation easier, more comprehensive and enjoyable in the long run.
I often think of things like drainage, plant texture, succession of flower color, seasonal interest, hardscaping and water features.
Remember those bulbs you planted last fall? They may try to push through the surface during these warmer winter months. But don’t fret, as it gets cold again they will just go back into dormancy; awaiting the warmer days of spring. And since we are speaking of bulbs, now is a good time to order summer blooming bulbs. These are the ones that aren’t hardy to plant in the fall like Calla lilies, Canna lillies and Caladium. They should go in the ground when you can work the soil in Spring. However keep in mind, unfortunately in our zone 7, these bulbs need to be lifted in the fall and replanted every spring. The extra work is worth the effort as these types of bulbs can bring a flush of color after the spring blooming narcissus and tulips are done for the season.
As the weather warms this spring in late February or March consider freshening up your garden by cutting back last years dead perennials, adding fresh mulch and maybe some early color with hardy pansies.
GardenWise on Snow Damaged Gardens
As the snow falls, I think about the long term effect it will have on so many gardens. I see people burying beds in their front yards with piles of snow laced with salt, and homeowners salting their gardens on the local news. I cringe each time I see it. Put down the salt! and check out some tips on how to help your garden/landscape recover from the snow storms.
*Stop Salting Near Your Garden! Repeated use of salt will damage plants and change your soil structure. If you used a lot of salt in the past couple of weeks, be sure to thoroughly water your lawn and landscape in early spring.
*Snapped branches should be cut cleanly just outside the swelling or collar where the base of the branch joins the trunk, but there is no need to be hasty. Waiting a month or two won’t harm the tree.
*Shrubs, which have multiple stems and denser branching, are more willing than trees to fill in from breakages, so cleanly remove the broken stems and sit back.
*The best thing you can do for azaleas, Japanese hollies or any other shrub buried in wet snow is to leave them alone. Trying to excavate a shrub will only damage stems and buds. If you must, use a broom and be gentle while dusting off any snow. Flattened plants will spring back, perhaps not immediately, but they will want to reach for the sun again. Once the snow is gone, find broken branches and cut them cleanly where they meet another stem.
Shrubs as Accents are GardenWise
Something I often think about is how to get as much as possible out of a garden space. I keep my eye out for multi-purpose planting choices, and like to include multi-purpose items. A fantastic way to add a colorful and textural interest to a garden space is to use an eye-catching shrub as a garden accent, which will give your garden a additional focal point.
I was re-reading a 2100 issue of ASLA’s Landscape Architecture and came across a story about the very same idea — using shrubs as accents. I know, great idea, right? Below is the first page of the story (click once to enlarge) shows how a Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ can be used as an accent to bring warmth to a garden space. The story, written by Marty Wingate, shows a wonderful picture of the ‘Color Guard’ which is used as an accent that provides a new seasonal focal point to a garden space.
An Instant Garden Solution
You’ve planned your landscape, spent months choosing your plantings, and something doesn’t take. What to do?
A bare area in a garden space can be fixed by dropping in a pot of blooms, fruits or vegetables. Pots allow for a more fluid and adaptable gardenspace, making it easy to change to seasonal needs and aesthetic choices. You can place potted plants in places where the soil is unsuitable for a particular variety, and if you have a small terrace or balcony, you can add scale with potted climbers such clematis. The options are endless.
To keep your potted plants healthy, even if they don’t need replanting, remember to replensih the soil each year. Remove 2-4 inches of soil and avoid harming fragile feeder roots. Refill with fresh soil mixed with slow release fertilizer.