My, my how time flies. It seems only yesterday that I was waxing on about the January 2015 garden. This year, according to all of the weather procrastinators, we will be experiencing mild temperatures which may be record setting. However, do not let down your guard, because we will get some freezing weather which mandates protecting some of the more tender plants. If we still have begonias, or even impatiens, this is the category which will need a night time tarp while taking it off during the day. The annuals which we need not be worried about would include dianthus, pansies, dusty miller, lambs ears and winter herbs. It is not too late to plant daffodils, Narcissus, canna lilies, spider lilies, amaryllis, crocus, and other spring bulbs.
If you have not yet cleaned out the flower beds, including cutting back perennials within a couple inches from ground level, and throwing away any dead plant material lying on the ground, do so now. This old plant material either needs to be tilled under for organic matter or piled in a junk heap far from the beds since pesky insects and fungus can winter over with a major surge next spring. If the winter lacks harshly cold temps, many of the insects and their eggs will survive to chew and bite through the flowers next season.
Another task for this time of the year is to make a plan and dream about this years sensational display of gardening prowess. I always want to try something new in the tapestry of the flower beds. It may be sowing larkspur seed in a sunny area where you need some height or finding a new use for herbs in the beds. Dill seed can be sown now and will give more height in the early summer beds, also cilantro. Perhaps you may want to try Bells of Ireland, a statuesque green flowering plant with the shape of digitalis. You may want to try old fashioned holly hocks, along with shorter Icelandic or California poppies. Perennial artimesia such a Powis Castle and Absinthium are a good choice for our climate and can last for years.
PLANT OF THE MONTH--ARTIMESIA
For the most part, the many varieties of Artimesias are perennial, need good drainage and for the most part, are grown for their unusual leaf patterns. Of course, these would not be good choices for beds in gumbo soil, which must be raised to give good drainage. Full sun is their best placement, and they grow to about 1 to 3 feet tall Their lacey foliage is spectacular next to hot colors such a fuchsias, reds, violets,and oranges. Many varieties are still going strong during mild winters. Some have gray green leaves, while others a silvery white. The absinthium, or wormwood, has a pungent scent which some say repels pests in the garden, They have tiny yellow flowers and can be placed either in the front of the border or as a background shrub as they grow to 3 feet tall. In an English style plan, this high-low effect in the front of the beds is very appealing. These plants are available at most garden centers and nurseries. Petals from the Past, the nursery in Jemison, Alabama usually carries many varieties of these Artimesias.
Happy New Year, and Good Gardening.