A GROWING CONCERN: Gray of winter great time to think of color


Ah yes, things do seem to be evening out to the expected.

February has actually returned. It was great to walk out early in the morning, past snow falling on cedars Wednesday, to my cold shop to start a fire.

It is great because I needed the fire. Not for the writing conducive, warm ambiance of the crackling sound and aroma of fir and cedar, but for the warmth.

So now that the weather has momentarily returned to normal, let us get brought up to speed on where we are and what is going to be happening.

First the good news: Today is the last day of late mid winter. Yes, only one trimester of winter left. Monday is day one of early late winter.

Now we all know, unless you started reading only a few weeks ago, that the last trimester of any season is the time when the trowel is in both the current season and the next one coming.

Again, the last part of any season tends to be an afterthought or cleanup.

Don’t fall into this trap. Right now, today, set down the newspaper and walk to the window and look for color and texture.

All right, let’s see the hands: How many people have yards full of color? That bad? Why? OK, that isn’t fair, I set you up.

We are Americans, being exposed to the selling trends of American greenhouses and nurseries. But it is also one of the major reasons why we can be “Flower Peninsula, USA.”

Most people, gardens, cities, parks, communities, even businesses don’t treat winter as an ornamental time of year.

But we can.

This last trimester of winter is the time to fill the gray days with color.

So to end winter, find and plant one of the following: heathers, grasses, hollies, winter aconites, camellias, viburnums, crocus, species iris, witch hazel, colored evergreens (yellow, blue, variegated) flowering creeping dogwood, artemesia, dianthus, sedums, snowdrops, rosemary or a whole host of our evergreen deciduous bushes and shrubs.

That’s a big list, and a true and comprehensive list would fill this column, so go to your favorite vendor and get that trowel working to fill this season’s color gap.

Next, get those fertilizers down. By the time you decide what to lay down and actually cultivate it into the ground, added to the time it takes for nutrients to become available — spring will be here.

My desk, floor, walls, crooks and crannies are filled with notes on what to do with someone’s yard next year, at this time.

What to move? What to add? How many more of what? Where should an accent tree be planted?

All these questions are best asked at the end of each season. This process thus allows the homeowner relevant, recallable information that is valuable in improving your domain.

As to next season, now is the time to prepare.

Know what you will be doing and get ready. Spring is full of garden chores, so get ready now. Sharpen all tools, fix the handles, oil the metal, repair the hoses, get new weed-eater line and sharpen your mower blade.

This is great. I have come this far without truly addressing the cold weather, even the snow up in the foothills, and your plants, especially your bulbs.

This is nice since I can’t even get gas or groceries without getting the Spanish bulb inquisition.

And that is great too because I understand gardening is not difficult but just filled with thousands of things to do at different times and to different plants.

As to bulbs, they are OK with the sun, rain, drizzle and sleet. Their time is coming. Please make sure they are watered (hiding under the protected eave where it is still dry), weeded and most definitely, fed.

A few foliar bloom booster feeds would do miracles now (bigger, brighter color). By all means lightly cultivate and cover with mulch any actual bulbs that are showing (not the foliage showing, but the bulb).

A great trick is to put a thin layer of beauty bark around the emerging stalks. This gives a very spring like well-kept look and the nice reddish hues of beauty bark offset the foliage magnificently.

The last item I would like to remind everyone about is bare root trees.

This is it: End of February, March, even the beginning of April is the ideal time to plant.

And nowhere can one get as good a deal on trees, bushes, and shrubs as by buying them bare root.

This is because in the bare root stage they can be dug more easily (cheaper), shipped more easily (cheaper) and are damaged less (cheaper).

This all combines with the perfect time and weather to bring larger sized plants to the homeowner at the most cost efficient prices.

You should do several things though. First figure out what you need or want. Bare root is a perfect way to start a nice sized orchard.

And what about fall color?

Can’t everyone use a beautiful sycamore, Japanese maple, ornamental pear or some wonderful ash, or linden tree to give you those dazzling displays of red and orange?

Second, pick the spot and prepare it. Huge, big, deep holes filled with soil and cultivated at the bottom and sides (soil interface) will do better than rock piles (here we go again), that most people jam into the holes.

Finally, water in well, top dress with deep thick mulch, prune to specifications and feed. Voila, instant wonderful trees — this growing year.

To close this mid winter 2018, please remember it is now or never to dormant spray and prune fruit or berry plants.

When this cold weather snaps you will not believe how all our plants will take the first few sun shining days and declare spring has sprung.

Don’t be caught sitting in your warm home too long, time to get up, grab the pruners and hand shovel and get to work in the yard!


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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