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Message from Anne

Winter 2010

It’s already mid-January 2010 and I’m fantasizing big-time about spring. I have managed to spend at least 6 hours working in the garden between rain showers over the past few days and it revives my soul to touch the earth and see signs of life after the coldest December in many years.

I thought it might be helpful to just run through what kinds of garden chores really give me the sense of getting ahead of the garden curve. First and foremost there is the tangle of dead perennials which are scattered throughout many of our borders. It was particularly exciting today to cut back the old and already find the new sprouts of growth for this year. Some of my favorites with new growth showing were phlox, eryngium, eupatorium or Joe Pye weed, peonies, verbascum, astrantia, aconitum and lobelia hybrids. The eryngium already shows quite a bit of slug damage so it’s time to get a head start on slug control. I try to use the safer slug bait formulas so there is no worry about animals that may be out and about in the garden.

Pruning deciduous or evergreens shrubs can be rewarding at this time of the year plus it allows you to fill up your green can now so you have room for other garden debris later. We have both a laurel hedge or I should say one plant with a trunk like a tree that grew into a hedge. I would never recommend planting a laurel today, but I planted this one more than 30 years ago when I didn’t know better. It does form an evergreen hedge between our property and the neighbors on the east side. As long I can get Gary to go inside it and keep it pruned to about 10 ft in height we’ll keep it. The Photinia fraseri on the west side of our property was another mistake from 30 years ago. We do a big pruning on it once a year and the time for its haircut is fast approaching. It is hard to believe how much yard debris is created each year with that pruning. I also love to prune our various Spireas for shape at this time of the year. Without leaves the whole shape of the plant is visible and the pruning tool can go deep to the stem to make thinning cuts which will help the plant to breathe this year. With the mild winter we’re having the new shoots are already emerging from the dormant winter wood.

That brings me to my favorite signs of spring that are apparent in the garden right now as we approach the end of January. The Sarcococca confusa has been emitting its’ sweet fragrance for most of the last 2 weeks. The dwarf Galanthus (snowdrops) showed above ground early in the month and are now just about ready to pop open. I divided them again this year and this fall I hope to buy bulbs of some different varieties as they are so showy early. The Viburnum bodentense, ‘Pink Dawn’ was slowed a bit by that cold stretch in December but all of January it has been super showy with its’ pink, fragrant blooms. No garden should be without this plant. The Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ has just opened and though the bloom is pale pink it still provides welcome early blooms in the winter garden. Yet how can I forget the showiest of ornamental shrubs for this time of the year – the Hamamelis x intermedia! We grow ‘Diane’ though I wish I’d planted ‘Jelena’ those distant 13 years ago. I like ‘Diane’ but the blooms are on the dark side for January in Oregon. I do love the shape of our witchhazel – it’s grown into a small tree of 15 ft. tall and about 8 ft. across. Its red blooms are quite apparent to anyone who treasures the unique small flower with a most unusual fragrance.

So as I write the sun has emerged and if I don’t get out and continue my garden clean-up, I will feel like I wasted a perfectly good January afternoon that was not filled with rain. We hope you will visit our garden this season during one of our open garden dates. Until then, enjoy your own garden and look forward to another fine season of gardening in our blessed NW climate.