Weather. Weather. Weather. It is as important to the garden world, as location, location, location is to the real estate world. With the coldest winter so far this season as I can remember, there are two bright spots--one is that is has killed a myriad of insects, and two, the peach growers and other fruit growers are happy with the number of cold days necessary to produce the fruit. But as the saying goes, this too shall pass. Now lets get on with late winter plantings and tasks.
February is a wonderful time to take stock of your garden area. Since most annuals, perennials, and deciduous plants have virtually disappeared, nature has created a bare pallet. Observe the space which may suggest where one can fill in with shrubs, trees, and other plant materials. Ask yourself a question, was there a fragrant shrub such as a Tea Olive (osmanthus), or a pittosporum, or ileagnus that you noticed at a nursery or another home, and wanted it for you yard? Maybe there was a butterfly bush you passed by and thought you would come back to make the purchase? Or perhaps you saw a Mahonia, gardenia, or some quince that would fill in a void. I would suggest that forsythia and spirea should not be overlooked and will bloom from late March and into late spring. Late February would be an ideal time to add shrubs and trees to your garden. These are known as the bones of your landscaping and will last from years to come.
In February, we can continue planting bulbs. Roman Hyacinth, cannas, crocosmia spp.(Montbretia), Siberian Iris, and Dutch Iris, come to mind. Make sure to add mulch over the planted bulb until after the possibility of a hard freeze. We can also plant bare rooted roses from end of January through February. Container grown roses do well planted in pots or in the ground from February on. When transferring the roses out of the container in the pot or garden, take extra special care not to break the dirt ball. Also plant the rose just deep enough in order to expose the crown or graft one to two inches above the dirt line. For planting bare rooted roses, soak roots overnight and dig a hole two feet deep and two feet wide. Take dirt out on the ground and mix with one cup of steamed bone meal, and one third peat moss. Add the mixture into the hole with a cone like form. Place the bare roots over the cone of dirt, and bend the roots down the sides. Clip off any broken roots, and bury the rose within one or two inches of the graft or crown above the dirt level. Remember that is does not make any difference how healthy the rose it, if is buried too deeply it will not survive. Stamp down the dirt around the planted rose to remove any air pockets around the roots. Fertilize, mulch, and water well.
Some garden tasks for February that will make life a lot easier when warm weather comes.
1. Spray beds, mulch, vines, trees and shrubs with a mixture of lime sulphur and a dormant oil, such as Volk Oil. Both of these
substances are readily available of nurseries in our area.
2. Prune fruit trees and vines this month. Normally spring blooming trees and shrubs should not be trimmed or pruned now,
otherwise no blooms for you in the spring. However,one should take out all dead, broken or diseased branches. Vitex, crepe
myrtle, and other summer bloomers may be pruned this month.
3. Plant trees and shrubs now as this will assist in getting the roots established before growth begins.
4. Divide and replant ferns, and perennials.
PLANT OF THE MONTH--CAROLINA JESSAMINE (Gelsemium sempervirens)
We see an abundance of this vine in the woods in early spring. And it is not just beautiful in the wild, but adapts well in our gardens. It is native to the south, and displays a clear yellow trumpet shaped flower. It is a rampant grower, climbs to twenty feet by twining. A great vine for it has no pest, and makes a great screen on fences, mailboxes, and trellises. Prune after blooming. Warning--it is poisonous.