When asked to speak at Garden Club meetings, I have learned over the years how important it is to keep the message simple when it comes to garden advice. Born into the landscaping business, as well as the much appreciated gifts of a green-thumb and an artistic eye; with the added for-good-measure dose of Aggieland education, I feel armed me with a fair amount of knowledge about all-things garden. My true passion from a young age has always been to mentor, coach and prod people into the joys of gardening. Many are simply overwhelmed by past failures, lack of knowledge, or intimidation of possible, shall I say less - than optimal outcomes. Enough about garden failure, let's get back to the simple part....Terry's KISS principles for late winter gardening. February is upon us, and it's an important month on the garden calendar. These are your winter garden "to-do's"...
Prune - Now - trees, shrubs, & woody perennials
Rose Rosette Prevention - it's worth a try
Fertilize - Mid-Feb - jump start your cool-season lawn
Plant Trees - Now -for best selections with new stock coming into the nurseries
Clean-up - Begin the spring clean-up - garden beds and containers
Assess & Planning - easier to see the real bones of your garden with no growth or leaves in the dead of winter
Pruning your trees and evergreens...this is the month to do it - don't procrastinate this...buds are already forming and will be in full force next month. The number one fear from my mentees seems to be the fear of pruning. There are hundreds of how-to's and images just a click away...you can share these helpful tips and pics with your "garden helper", or just grab the pruners with your new found handy dandy instruction's via the WWW. It's always good to show what not to do as well....the infamous and now over-used term of crepe murder is a good case in point.
This is an image of What NOT to do...this photo pains me....
This is an image of a crepe myrtle with a proper, stylish haircut. Since they bloom on new growth, eliminating the old woody spent blooms will keep your crepes fresh and everblooming.
Evergreen shrubs like yew, boxwood, hollies of all varieties and so many more, need to be pruned now to keep them healthy and happy. Please understand your shrubs may not need to be pruned..this is primarily for shaping and editing to keep the size right for the space.
This boxwood could be left in it's natural state...
I personally prefer a tighter look - this might be design goal for your boxwoods
The image of a yaupon holly pruned in this painful fashion is a lot to maintain...it doesn't look natural to me - and feels a little too much like the '50's Leave it to Beaver landscape design. In my opinion, this is not a good pruning design goal for this plant.
I prefer the more natural tree-like shape of this specimen...yaupons can actually start taking on the look of a live oak.
Woody shrubs like forsythia, quince and spiraea also look best with a more natural haircut.
These forsythias have been pruned into round shaped bushes...I personally do not think a forsythia should ever be pruned like this.
The image here is a beautiful example of forsythias they way they are intended to look.
For more tips on proper pruning of other shrubs and bushes check out
The Old Farmer's Almanac
What about hydrangeas? I didn't read your mind, as this is my most asked garden question...
There is mucho confusion in the air as we approach a hydrangea - everyone seems to know now that pruning hydrangeas varies based on variety; yet when it's time to do the pruning or not...the panic sets in...pruning trepidation! Check this out to boost your pruning confidence...Pruning Hydrangeas
and even more on Pruning Hydrangeas
Rose Rosette Prevention? Not sure it will help...but anything is worth a try if you can keep those nasty air-borne mites from landing on your prized English Roses....Rose Rosette is a gardening disaster of catastrophic proportions! This virus which is spread by a mite has virtually wiped out landscape rose varieties such as the Knockout series of roses. Those nasty mites have stayed away from my English varieties so far....maybe because I have been spraying them with dormant oil to keep the mites at bay. I don't know how long it will work...but for 5 years it has...and no losses yet. It seems like a very easy thing to do if it works and so far it has.
Dormant Oil spray is also highly effective in prevention of scale and other nasty ailments that plague ornamental trees like Flower Crab, Redbud, Peach & Cherry.
Can I prevent Rose Rosette?
Fertilizing your fescue or rye lawn around the middle of February can create an enviable "Easter Parade" kind of front yard....Cool season grasses like fescue, rye and blends will benefit from a light feeding of fertilizer...whichever your pleasure may be...organic or not...some nitrogen will green the blades up. Mark your calendar for the middle of February to get this chore done; and when March rolls around and is feeling like Spring you will have a green lawn and palette that enhances your other plantings.
BUT this is the way most of our yards look now in the dead of winter.
This photo from one of my gardens shows what a blend of fescue and rye looks like when it's fertilized around the middle of February.
I'll take one of the fertilized versions please...with extra toppings in those blue and purple shades.
Planting trees, both deciduous and evergreens now, before the Spring rush is so smart...so very proactive of you. Spring at a garden center is like "black Friday" at the mall! The nurseries will have the very best selections as they receive fresh stock from the tree farms - so go in for the early kill.
Cleanup those messy flower beds, as spring is literally just a few weeks away now. Whereas it was wonderful leaving your perennials with top growth last fall going into the winter; and you were correct in letting the fallen leaves blanket your plants for the long cold winter nights...now is the time to get out the shears and rake.
With early Spring comes more sunshine and rains...so it's important and beneficial to expose your plantings to the elements. This wonderful exercise (work and fresh air) should be done by the end of February.
Assess & Planning - I do my best garden design and plodding in the dead of winter...usually in my "friendlies!" I prefer the calm, quite beauty that a winter garden brings to see it unveiled without all it's pretties and colorful frosting. A winter garden should be beautiful, and enhance your home's curb appeal If you look at your garden design from down the street, across the street, from your front door looking out, how does it look? How do you want it to look?? Scout out some gardens that inspire you, and start making the changes to achieve your goal Plan now, March and April are stone's throw away, and are an ideal time to make changes.
A little pic of what's to come to inspire and motivate your inner gardener!