The Garden Website for January
In This Issue
8. Winter Pruning
9. Pruning Grapes & Wisteria
10. Houseplant Winter Care
11. Down South
12. Winter Interest
13. Controlling Insects & Diseases
14. Hummingbirds in Winter
15. January's Flower Arrangement
16. Plant of the Month: Snowberries
Hello Fellow Gardeners,
After two years of a pandemic, combined with extreme weather events, I don’t know about you, but I am a little leery about what 2022 will bring. Covid has become par for the course and gardening continues on, pandemic be damned, however, the insane weather is another thing altogether.
In British Columbia we had one heck of a year. First it was a heat dome. It reminded me of something from the Twilight Zone, where the earth is under a huge magnifying glass held by a mischievous child. We got fried! From late June to early July, temperatures rose above 44°C, which is 111°F! Not only did plants die, people and animals did too. Of course, with that extreme heat, forest fires ravaged many communities including poor Lytton. It was turned to ashes, literally. It set the record for the highest temperature in Canada – at 49.6°C, 121.3°F.
No wonder it burned to the ground.
The oppressive heat was followed with three atmospheric rivers in late autumn in the southwest corner of the province. Highways were washed out, whole communities inhabitable and cut off due to flooding. Then in December we received record lows with temperatures breaking over forty previous records. It was unprecedented to see temperatures drop to minus 15°C. In Vancouver we expect a green Christmas and grey, rainy weather.
So what does this mean for gardeners, gardens and plants? I’m not sure. Was the weather this past year an anomaly or is this just the beginning of a changing climate? The popular consensus is that we are in big trouble and we’ll be growing oranges in our gardens instead of apple trees before long.
I do think we need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. It does makes sense to grow some veggies and fruit whether it be in the garden or on a balcony. I think the more independent we are, the better so we don’t have to rely totally on the grocery stores. They can’t stock the shelves if the trucks can’t get to them due to fire or flooding.
Personally I am going to mulch the heck out of the garden as it helps with drought, heat, flooding and the cold. I am not prepared to plant more tropical plants yet, but I certainly will be looking for plants that are suitable for a broad range of growing zones.
In a way, I am glad we don’t have a crystal ball to show us what 2022 will be like. It’s nice not to know because at least not knowing gives us hope that things will be better. It sure would be nice if we don’t set any more records. That alone would be something to celebrate.
We can also celebrate the end of 2021 and in doing so, I wish you all a happy and healthy year, with really good gardening (and farming) weather!
Happy New Year!
January PLANT COMBO
Creeping Oregon grape (Mahonia repens) and red-twigged dogwood (Cornus sericea) partner together to provide colour, structure and texture are a welcome sight in winter. They both prefer part to full sun and well-drained moist soils. This combination works aesthetically, as the strong deep green leathery leaves of the mahonia contrasts nicely with the crimson stems of the dogwood. The Oregon holly bears clusters of fragrant yellow blossoms that are followed by dangling clusters of purple berries. The dogwood, not to be outdone, produces clusters of pure white berries in the autumn. Dogwood shrubs have simple attractive foliage, which are either green or a combo of green and cream depending on the variety.
New & Timely articles
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Plant & Seed Catalogues
Order seed catalogues: My favorite winter pastime is pouring through plant and seed catalogues. If I purchased as much as my imagination allows, I would be a pauper with a garden choked with plants. It's nice to dream though, especially on those grey winter days.
Click here for a list of plant and seed catalogues. Order early to avoid disappointment of sold out crops and merchandise. Try not to get too carried away!
January Garden Stars
Upon inspecting stored dahlia tubers, there was one that was decaying. Luckily it was found quickly before it had the chance to infect its neighbours. If you are one of the many that overwinter dahlias, tuberous begonias, cannas, gladiolus and other tender summer bulbs, frequent inspections are a good idea to make sure they are not rotting or drying out.
Discard any rotten ones and moisten overly dried ones by spraying them with water. Mist the vermiculite or whatever media you have them stored in to prevent further desiccation. Here's more on storing summer bulbs Dahlias, Tuberous Begonias
JAnuary Garden Chores
Snow: Surprisingly, snow insulates plants from fluctuating temperatures and drying winter winds so there’s no need to panic when the garden is covered with the white stuff.
Heavy Snow: To prevent heavy snow from snapping branches, just swipe it off with a broom.
Winter Storm Due Diligence: After a storm take the time to tour your garden. Look up as well as down as broken branches tend to get caught in tree canopies. If they are near power lines stay clear and contact the local power company asap.
This is the perfect time to remove errant and unhealthy growth on trees and shrubs. Choose a mild and dry day. Keep in mind that pruning should not be used to decrease a tree’s size, but to improve its health. If you want to restrict growth and suckers, prune in the summer.
Assess each plant before taking cutting anything off. Does it need to be pruned? If they are well behaved and looking good, don’t bother. If a plant is too big for its britches consider replacing it with something more suitable. If you want to lower the height of a tree, don’t cut back all the branches as this causes errant and weak growth called suckers. Topping trees is not recommended besides.
Do NOT prune any spring flowering plants during the winter, as you will be removing their flowers: forsythia, camellia, rhododendron, azalea, ornamental cherries, magnolias, lilacs, alpine currants, quince, crab apples, kerria, beautybush, bridal wreath spireas, hawthorn, mountain laurel (Kalmia sp.), mock orange.
A properly pruned tree should look as though it wasn't pruned at all - honest. Do remove branches if they are in the way of pedestrians or touching the house. Either remove the entire branch or back to a side branch. For more on all you need to know to prune trees and shrubs in winter click on Winter Pruning
Pruning Grapes & Wisteria
Prune back grape vines and wisterias while they are dormant. Along the main branches, cut back all the side stems to two to four buds. You'll be left with a scrawny plant when you are finished, but along each one of those stems that you cut back to a few buds, flowers will form in a couple of years. For more on pruning grapes click on Pruning Grapes
For big jobs: Hire a professional. Do you research as there are many scoundrels out there that profess to know what they are doing, but alas, they have had no training at all. Don’t be swayed by “years of experience”. Experience does not translate to knowledge when it comes to pruning. Hire an arborist whom is certified by the International Society of Arborists (ISA). Make sure that the ISA certified arborist does the pruning, not an unqualified person from their crew. Also, asks for references and inspect their work. I’ve seen a plethora hat-racked, topped trees that were done by so-called professional pruners, leaving the owners extremely upset. They are left with mangled plants that have to be disposed of and they are out of pocket to boot.
Learn How to Prune in Your Garden!
If pruning your own plants seems a bit daunting, and you don't know where to start, Amanda will show you how. Take the fear and uncertainty out of pruning and gain confidence. Your garden will thank you. For more information and to register click here.
Houseplant Winter Care
Ice: A coating of ice does magically transforms gardens into fanciful winter scenes, however, it makes them very fragile. Avoid touching them to avoid breakage and further damage.
Salt: Instead of salt use sand, organic kitty litter, sawdust or eco-friendly ice melting alternatives to prevent damage to neighbouring plants including lawns.
Soggy soils, flooding: When rain takes the place of snow, take note of where puddles persist after 24 hours. Obviously frozen ground will prevent water from draining, however if the ground is not frozen then you might have a problem. Try to figure out where the water is flowering from and where it’s settling so you can install a French drain when conditions improve. Read more..
Animal Damage: If critters are nibbling on tree bark, they are obviously very hungry. 'Tis the season as food is scarce this time of year. To prevent further damage, wrap the trunk with wire fencing, chicken wire, tree wrap or burlap. Remove it in spring – don’t forget. Provide a helping hand to overwintering animals by providing them with food so tree bark isn’t the only thing on the menu.
Winter Pansies: Although they are cold tolerant, protect them from prolonged below freezing temperatures with old sheets, cloth, cardboard, or frost blankets.
Outside Planters: Inspect planters to make sure their plants are not drowning if they are exposed to the elements. Alternately, make sure that ones in protected locations are not too dry and water if necessary.
During the winter, the odd cold front may dip down into the tropics and subtropics so be alert to frost warnings. If nippy weather is predicted, protect tender plants with frost blankets, tablecloths, old sheets and other breathable fabric. Bring in orchids when temperatures dip to 4°C (40°F). For growing moth orchids indoors click on Phalaenopsis, Moth Orchids
Winter interest: There’s lots of cool plants to make any garden more attractive during the winter. Visit your local nursery and check out what is looking good. Stars of the season will be prominently displayed to entice you. Look for dwarf pines and other conifers and winter flowering fragrant evergreens such as sweetbox as well as winter flowering heaths. There's also deciduous trees and shrubs that have colourful stems (red twig dogwood) and trees with attractive stems and bark including paperbark maple.
Hummingbirds in Winter
Baby, it's cold out there - especially for hummingbirds in the Pacific Northwest. Anna's hummingbirds are tiny, tough and tenacious. They are so hardy, they don't migrate to warmer climates, instead they take their chances with Old Man Winter in a few northern climates, including British Columbia. To keep these birdies alive over the winter click on Hummingbirds in Winter.
Control insects & diseases
Many insects overwinter on deciduous (non-evergreen) trees, as well as fruit trees and shrubs - including roses. Even where winters are quite severe and long, many plant diseases are still viable and will reinfect in spring.
Dormant oil and lime sulfur is an organic combination designed to kill overwintering pests and diseases on ornamental cherries, roses, fruit trees and other deciduous (lose leaves in fall) trees and shrubs. Common targeted insects include scale insect, spider mites, caterpillars and their exposed eggs. It also includes common diseases and fungi such as apple scab and powdery mildew.
To apply, wait for suitable conditions. It must be be dry with no rain, snow or frost predicted for 2 days with temperatures at least 5 degrees Celsius. That means you have to wait just before spring. Here in the Southwest BC, late January to early February is ideal because our climate is temperate. For the rest of Canada apply in February or March. Ask your local garden centre for the right time for your area. Read more…
This January arrangement consists of winter heath, Christmas roses and snowdrops. For a numbered guide to the specific flower names and for other arrangements go to Monthly Flower Arrangements
January's Plant of the month
Common Name: snowberry
Botanical Name: Symphoricarpos albus
Form: round, bushy
Plant Type: deciduous shrub
Mature Size: 3-6’ tall and wide
Origin: North America
Hardiness Zone: 3 to 7
Foliage: thin, dull green up to 2” long, oblong
Flowers: clusters of tiny pale pink bells appear June, July in the leaf axils
Fruit: clusters of pure white ½” round berries
Roots: produces suckers
Exposure: part sun to full sun
Soil: prefers medium moist with good drainage, tolerant to most soils including poor ones
Uses: hedge, winter interest, woodland, mixed border, hedge, slopes and banks
Propagation: seeds, cuttings, suckers
Pruning: after flowering
Problems: not prone to pests or diseases occasionally powdery mildew, fruit rot, anthracnose
This North American native grows along forested slopes, in rocky soils, and everything inbetween. It is very tolerant and does adapt to all kinds of soils including wet, clay and poor ones. This versatility is evident as its range stretches from British Columbia to Nova Scotia and across America from Oregon to Virginia.
Snowberries claim to fame are its pure white berries. They positively stand out among woodland greenery and linger on naked stems throughout the fall and winter. Although the berries are poisonous to humans, they are valuable winter food for grouse, quail and pheasants.
Their leaves are a matte dull green and only a couple of inches long at best. Their flowers are so small, they often go unnoticed. They flower in June and July with tiny pinkish white bells that grow in clusters at the base (axils) of the leaves.
Snowberries, like many successful indigenous plants, produce suckers from their roots. They form small colonies, which stabilize slopes and rocky, dry soils. Because of the suckering, they can be quite invasive therefore they are not good candidate for small gardens where space is a premium. With that said, it is perfect for native gardens, wildlife gardens and woodlands.
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for the tropical Gardener
While working in Florida as horticultural consultant, it became apparent that there was a need for a book on tropical shrubs. There are so many wonderful shrubs to choose from, so I wrote a reference book to make the selections easier. Ornamental Tropical Shrubs includes pictures in full colour and information about the plants in point form. So if you live in the tropics and subtropics and need a reference book on tropical shrubs, or you just want to have a look-see click here.
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