Even in the deep of winter, nature is bestowing gifts on us from the beauty of bare branches to the beginning of buds on trees and shrubs. Here are a few ideas for how to make the most of the month in your garden.
Zone: 3 - 5
Ounce of Prevention: It’s last call for dormant sprays (any spray applied to leafless deciduous trees from late November to the latter part of February to control over-wintering insects or to prevent disease infection) on ornamental shrubs and trees. Best done on a nice, mild day when temps are above freezing. (This is Red Rhapsody® Amur Maple which is hardy to zone 2!)
Take a Walk on the Winter Side: Bundle up and go for a walk because now is a great time to learn to identify trees in your neighborhood. The shape and habit of a tree is now easier to take in fully, and can give you valuable clues to finding the botanical name. Check out the crown and overall shape (vase? upright? multi-trunked?), remaining fruits, berries, or leaves, and the shape and texture of live twigs, bark, and growth habit. Take pictures and Google up or consult your local garden center. (This is Centurion® Crabapple which you will know from stray fruits and spreading, branching habit)
Zone: 6 - 8
Make Holly Happy: Right now, in the dead of winter, is the best time to prune holly shrubs, but let’s make sure to get the timing right. Wait until a deep cold spell (two or more cold days and freezing nights with two or more predicted) and then prune at the very end of the day. This may seem brutal (for you and the plant!) but it will ensure that holly doesn’t wake up too soon. (This is Emerald Colonnade® Holly, a male variety that makes a perfect hedge.)
Bring Nature Inside: Early flowering shrubs like pussy willow, quince, crabapple, forsythia, pear and flowering cherry should be budding up right about now, and cut branches may be forced into blooms indoors. Place cut stems in a vase of warm water in a sunny spot. Change the water every 4 days! (This is Springshine™ Forsythia which tops out at just a useful 2′ tall but is smothered in bright blooms).
Zone: 9 - 11
Berry Wonderful: As they begin to leaf out (to the envy of your friends in colder zones!), this is the moment to start feeding cane bearing berries such as raspberries and blackberries. This is especially true for ever-bearing types (which will have fruited last fall and will produce a second set of berries on the same canes). Any slow release balanced organic fertilizer will do–ask at your local garden center. Indian Summer Raspberry is a great choice!