February, in the gardening world, is a transition month from winter to spring. February is also a month of great expectation for things to come in the next garden cycle. But most of us associate this month as the month of love with cupid's arrows finding their mark on Valentine's day. It is this month that many have high expectations that this is the years they will create the best garden ever. Of course, garden beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think we can all agree with Fielding Rushing, well known plants man and author from Mississippi, that gardening is an attitude, not a skill.
I have read that Southern gardeners spend more time in their gardens that any other region of the country. Gardening here is not a summer pastime, but has become almost the number one hobby not only in the South, but in the United States. We find that both men and women heed the call to service. After all, a garden can certainly be a thing of beauty and can bring out the artistic nature in each of us. Also, we should not overlook the amount of exercise that goes with the territory. This comes with digging weeds or planting bulbs and plants, but also the stooping and lifting that goes with the territory. Gardening is just naturally good for one's health. Did you know that gardening is America's number one hobby? Recently I read about the economic impact that this hobby has in Alabama since it rates right on the same level as cattle and poultry and other farming endeavors. I remember reading somewhere that in the South, gardening is a much in our blood as in a hound dog that can not give up the chase.
Let's now turn to some of the garden chores we all face this month.
1. Weeding--although I planted pansies in the fall, I can detect masses of green between my flowers that are the ubiquitous winter annual weeds. These weeds and other need our attention now before they choke out our fledgling plants. Now when the temps get hot they will wilt and die, however, by that time, may be too late for the flowers you have invested in to thrive. In another words, winter annual weeds need our attention. Although this task can appear strenuous, it is not. Luckily, these weeds are top heavy with lots of green above the ground, but supported by small shallow roots underground. If the area is too great in size to get down on one's knees, a hoe can easily do the job. No use spraying with Round Up due to the lower temps, but round Up for these weeds is what I call overkill, like sending in a battalion of Marines and tanks when a few foot soldiers would do. Now over the years, I have had crops of buttercups which are flowers with lovely white and pink flowers, to invade. They started out with just a couple, and now, masses appear. What is one person's flower is another one's weed.
2. Pruning--now is a great time to prune back roses, but any other spring or early summer blooming tree or shrub, not a good time. Most spring bloomers set their buds last year and the rule of thumb is to prune only 6-8 weeks after blooming.
3. Planning--I must insist that you sketch off the garden area for 2017. Plug into the plan that perennials cut back last fall ,any areas that you have sown seed, and areas of bulbs that have awakened. I call this my underground garden. Then write in the areas with names of the plants yet to come.
4. Planting--this month there is still time to plant bulbs such as narcissus, daffodils, cannas, daylilies, but too late for tulips; sow seed such as larkspur, cosmos, and zinnias; plant later winter annuals such a dusty miller, lamb's ears, coreopsis, daisies, salvias, coneflower, and herbs such as chives.
PLANT OF THE MONTH--Dicentra (fumariaceae)
Dicentra or Bleeding Heart would be an appropriate February choice due to Valentine's Day. A perennial with fernlike foliage, have heart shaped weeping flowers Most are native to the United States, but one variety, common bleeding heart (D. spectabilis) is native to Japan. This flower requires partial to full shade, and regular watering. Many times we can purchase these flowers in pots in nurseries this time of year. Some can be repeat bloomers if they are cut back for a second growth.
GOOD GARDENING AND HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY