Time for this low-maintenance gardener to report on what I'm really doing in the garden in January.
Keeping records and planning
Oh, about a year ago I urged readers to catch up with their garden recordkeeping, over the winter, advice I stand by, except that I didn't actually do it myself. Oh, I've kept all my plant tags - thankfully! - but they're still in bags, one for '09 and one for '10. So this month I'm really, really going to do to file them because at the very least, they'll tell me when I purchased and planted each shrub, tree and perennial in my garden. That'll allow me answer people's questions about how fast they all grow, without resort to my typically bad guesstimates of when I bought them.
Another bit of recordkeeping I'll be paying attention to it is creating a list of what I want to add to my garden in the coming season. Speaking of which, I just happened upon a little post-it note stuck to the end of my 2010 calendar that said, "For 2011, get Persecaria and annual salvia." I hope to find a few more quick notes to myself scribbled over the last year that I can put to good use when the time comes.
But you know what's even more important than compiling a list of gotta-have plants that I saw blooming in other people's gardens this year? Walking around my own garden right now and noticing the spots that are too bare and ugly - now in January - and pledging to do something about it. The pledge goes something like this: "I promise that come spring, no matter how much flower power I see at the garden center, I'm going to buy some more evergreens. I swear."
This year I'm waaaay behind on my leaf-clearing because of the early and persistent cold snap we've had until just recently. Some of it can wait 'til spring but my succulents really, really hate being smothered in leaves, so I'm working fast to unsmother them. (My groundcover succulents include assorted sedums, and lamb's ears.) Some garden writers recommend removing leaves and weeds from near the trunks of trees and shrubs, too, so as to prevent winter damage by rodents. Of course there are lots of garden writers these days recommending against dead-leaf removal altogether, and here's my latest debunking of that as the one right answer for all gardens and all types of leaves. Gardening answers are rarely of the one-size-fits-all type.
And while I'm picking up leaves around my groundcovers and in my borders I'll certainly dig out any weeds I see. That way, when spring arrives and with it, huge quantities of mulch waiting to be applied to my garden, I'll be more or less ready to do that. This is a lesson I've only learned by winter neglect, which has resulted in way too much work in March preparing my garden for the Great Mulching.
Now THIS is embarrassing - I didn't detach my garden hoses from their faucets before it got really cold, and have risked damage to them over these many cold weeks. Better late than never, and I managed to take care of that fall chores this past weekend.
As Gene Sumi assured us last year, it's okay if we see new bulb foliage emerging soon. They'll still bloom right on schedule.
Now this may amaze you, but people are still planting their spring bulbs. As long as their not-yet-planted bulbs have been sitting outside, they're getting the cold period they need to bloom as soon as you get them in the ground and it warms up in the spring. One neighbor proclaimed at a local New Year's Eve party that she's waited as late as March to plant and still gotten blooms - wow! So I guess that means the daffodils I got as a party favor at the American Horticultural Society's Christmas party (bulbs donated by Brent and Becky's) are definitely worth putting in the ground, even in mid-January.
I'm now cutting back the raggedy-looking ones, like daylilies, but letting most stalk-like perennials stay up a big longer. They include purple coneflower, black-eyed susans, Japanese anemone and tall sedums like 'Autumn Joy'. Heck, they're all still standing and making my borders look a little less bare, while providing cover and maybe still some food for the birds and other wildlife I like to provide for.
Posted by Susan Harris.