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Southern Gardening - Potpourri for February

February is the iconic month for Valentine's Day. And who does not like receiving happy cards, chocolate candy, and flowers. Even if your New Year's Resolution includes fasting from candy, I declared that Valentine's Day can be an exception. Just do not go overboard. As Ben Franklin admonished, "everything in moderation". But how many people realize we also have a Federal and State holiday, President's Day, which falls on February 19th. President Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers and third President of the United States, was an outstanding gardener whose home and gardens at Monticello outside of Charlottesville, Virginia are open to the public. I have visited this site at least four times, and there is always something new to see and learn.

As we head into warmer weather, let's be sure we have completed the following chores to get a head start for the spring.

1. Take out any debris left in the beds such as sticks, twigs, dead or moldy plant material so that insect eggs do not have an environment to thrive.

2. If there are any spent flowers or foliage, take this material away.

3. Trim back any perennials that have been nipped with the frost, such as pansies, dusty miller, or dianthus.

4. Go through Plant catalogs to get an idea for new flowers which would include requirements such as light, water, height, spacing.

5. Check your gardening tools, and replace any that have passed their prime.

6. Cut back rose bushes.

7. DO NOT cut back the dead stalks on hydrangeas since they will only bloom later on old growth.

While the weather is still cold, the most important step for a healthy garden is to spray with Volk Oil or a winter dormant oil. I know I sound like a broken record on this task, but maybe you love white flies which suck the life out of plants come summer. The requirement for spraying is that your location has had a hard freeze. I would definitely say our River Region has met this criteria. Not only will I want to spray the garden area, but the grass, up in the trees, the shrubs including under the leaves, hedges, fences, brick walls, etc. This spray coats the insect eggs with oil preventing the eggs from hatching. And the insect eggs would include fleas, and roaches besides white flies. The best tool for this task is a hose-end sprayer which can be purchased at garden centers and nurseries. If you have roses which are susceptible to fungus and mold, lime sulphur is the solution. Lime sulphur is available in a liquid form and also a water soluble powder which can be mixed with Volk oil so that you can kill two birds with one stone.


Astilbe, also known as False Goat's Beard or False Spirea, lends itself to the shade or partial shade areas of the garden. It is in the family of Saxifragaceae and native to mountain ravines and woodlands in North America and Asia. There exists eighteen species of rhizomatous flowering plants within this family. Astilbe, a perennial, which grows from one to four feet tall, makes for a good cut flower. One can have Astilbe blooms from early spring to late summer by planting different varieties. Bloom colors include pink, red, white, peach, lavender, and purple. Their feathery appearance lends a somewhat magical look to any shady garden site.



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