The people's voice of reason

Potpourri for January

Several years ago about this time, I viewed my beds after all the perennials were cut to the ground, and the bulbs had not bloomed, and naturally I saw huge empty spaces in the garden. Then in my mind's eye I imagined what beauty would be forthcoming, and realized that my garden was underground now and out of sight. One of the great joys of gardening is the anticipation of what is to come. With a good plan for the whole year, one knows in advance the parade of colors, textures, and flow of flowers. And of course, we do have a back up plan in case a pest in the way of animal, plant or microbe causes a set back.

January is a good month to check all of your insecticides, dog away and cat away products, and the exact type of fertilizers which will be needed in the beds. This month one should be buying Winter dormant oil, same as Volk Oil, and water soluble lime sulfur. Combine in a hose-end sprayer and apply after a hard freeze. We need to spray everything in the yard; fencing, pots, grass, shrubs, trees including the top of the leaves and underneath. If you do this for a couple of years, white flies will be practically non existent and mold and mildew will just fade away.

It is not too late to plant narcissus and daffodils. Tulips require at least 6 weeks refrigeration prior to planting and it may be getting a little too late to begin the process now. However, later on you can buy tulips full grown in pots, which can be transplanted into your outdoor pots or garden areas. Amaryllis and other lilies such as spider lilies, canna, crocus, and iris can be planted now.

One very important task for this month is to protect your investment in your plants. For instance, I have a large container garden with pots of different sizes from pots 30" in diameter to 8" in diameter. Elephant ears have been cut to the surface level; angel wing begonias and geraniums have also been cut back. Earlier this fall I planted in these pots stands of snap dragons, fox glove, pansies, dusty miller and lambs' ears which are cool weather annuals, biennials, and perennials. So how to protect these plants from the freezing weather. I purchased large tarps and plastics table cloths and I double wrap the pots, securing the flaps with bricks, so the below freezing temps will not have their killing affects. It is so easy to provide your plants this protection. When the temperatures rise above freezing (during both the day and the night time), just peel back the layers of tarp and table cloths. This works like a charm.

If there are begonias that are cut back in the flower beds, a deep layer of pine straw has worked for me. Some may not come back in the spring, but most will. This is also true of geraniums. However, just to be on the safe side, I will bring indoors a couple of pots of geraniums, angel wing begonias, and plumbago. Hibiscus and other tropical will not live through the winter, even under the tarps, and must be brought inside. Once the plant is indoors, get a plastic saucer and water a small amount once a week. As long as pansies, dianthus, dusty miller, lambs' ears are planted in the garden, they will be fine, even when it is below freezing.


Baptisia is a wonderful perennial and a member of the pea family, also called false indigo or wild indigo. It is a drought resistant, especially the yellow(Baptisia sphaerocarpa) which does yeoman's work in the beds. It does well in our zone 8 and has lupine like flower spikes with attractive gray green foliage. The white Baptisia are just spectacular with white erect spikes of flowers and grows in height from 2' to 5'. Easy to maintain, and easy to grow, this plant should make its way into your garden space. It is recommended that you purchase the plants to start in your garden rather than sowing seed.



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