January & February

Winter is the quiet time in a garden, when plants die back and move into dormancy, restoring strength before springtime’s taxing burst of flowers and new growth.  We often miss the beauty of this period in the garden, trying to make it look like spring all year with pansies, kale, and winter rye grass. Nature knows the need we all have to rest and rebuild. So this winter, why not follow nature’s lead and release yourself from the pressure of giving your garden the illusion of springtime? Relax and enjoy the beauty of the golden grass and the graceful forms of bare branches silhouetted against the winter sky. It’s perfect just as it was intended to be.

 

The Checklist

THIS WINTER...

  • Prune roses in February.
  • Apply dormant oil (available at most nurseries) on a day when it maintains temperatures above 40 degrees.
  • Prune crape myrtles in January or February.
  • Make sure you have enough fresh mulch on your beds to guard against Texas surprise temperature drops.
  • Keep watering if we haven’t had much rain. Even dormant plants need some irrigation, though not as much as when they are growing or it is hot out.
  • Feed the birds and if we have hard freezes, make sure they have access to water, not ice, in birdbaths.

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SOW WHAT?
While you are enjoying your newfound freedom from winter garden chores, you might find it fun to peruse some seed catalogs. Here are a few tried-and-true favorites and some exciting newcomers.

Antique Rose Emporium: 800-441-0002. www.antiqueroseemporium.com.
Burpee Seed Company: 800-888-1447. www.burpee.com.
Harris Seeds: 800-514-4441. www.harrisseeds.com.
Park Seed: 800-213-0076. www.parkseed.com.
Seeds of Change: Certified organic seeds. 888-762-7333. www.seedsofchange.com.
Seedman: Online catalog for unusual and exotic seeds. No paper catalogs. www.seedman.com.
White Flower Farm: 800-503-9624. www.whiteflowerfarm.com.

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A cypress in winter
Winter’s Subtle Beauty

As you are embracing natures unadorned winter dress, look for these specimens whose winter show is among the best.

Enjoy the shimmering, white bare branches of a sycamore against a bright blue sky.

When the coral bark Japanese maples drop their leaves and the temperatures fall, the branches turn a vibrant crimson.

That groundcover that you thought was Asian jasmine until it turned red this winter is Euonymus coloratus.

The small tree that has dropped its leaves and whose branches are covered in bright red berries is a female Possumhaw holly.

Crape myrtle trees have beautiful smooth taupe bark that becomes the focus when leaves fall. Look for the Natchez varieties, in particular, with their mottled taupe and cinnamon-colored bark.

Other trees whose beautiful barks are showcased in winter are: deeply chiseled Bois d’arc, heavily peeling river birch, high-contrast silver-and-black white poplar, and the feathery nutmeg-colored bald cypress.