A GROWING CONCERN: For every season, there is a plant

WELL, THANKSGIVING HAS come and gone, and hopefully so has all the leftover turkey!

December is soon upon us (starting this Friday) and with it will be winter weather, as well as ice and snow.

Okay, about that “weather is changing.”

Regardless of the beautiful warm sunny days of late, and they have been great, the nights are becoming noticeably longer, the dew is heavy late into the morning and the evening chill, with frost, sets in with the afternoon shadows.

No matter what the thermometer said last week, today is the third day of early/late winter. The second trimester of fall has come to a close.

If I may take a few moments and grab onto this time period, I will further explain this apparently chaotic system of early early, mid, late, and why this is so important to me (and my goal: important to you!)

The early segment of any season displays the quintessential characteristics of its season. So late September and October are a blazing color, have Indian summer days, mixed rain and sun, and beautiful country walks.

The end of December into January possesses the coldest, darkest days, bare trees and a likelihood of snow.

April brings daffodils, tulips, flowering bushes, more days and greening trees.

July this year, like the others I have seen on the Peninsula before, was filled in with numerous folks trying to tell me how summer doesn’t start on the Olympics until after the Fourth of July. They were right. Summer doesn’t start on Memorial Day — it starts June 21, and early summer extends until July 22.

Seasons tend to present themselves stereotypically in the first third of their yearly appearances. Understanding this should first guide the gardener in making a job list and prioritizing individual tasks.

Pruning early in fall is not wise, whereas the weather then is still able to grow “tender” growth for winter damage.

Rather, the warmer, nicer days of early fall are good for flower and vegetable work.

Then when it rains, transplanting or grass overseeding, for example, could begin.

The beginning of winter, with its cold, dark, short days is not the ideal time for gardeners to be out tilling the garden. They are, however, the best time of year for heavy pruning, deep shaping of fruit trees, or large tree or bush relocation.

The cold and short days have the plant in peak dormancy and the weather has disease and insects in check (or dead).

Likewise, the beginning of spring (March 20) is not the time for heavy garden planting (still very wet and cold), but rather the time to till, cultivate, fertilize and edge.

But the prioritization of gardening chores is only one side of the (time of year) coin. The flip side is ornamental response.

All who know me, any who have heard me speak, know I am obsessed with this early early/mid/late business.

For this region to become horticulturally known, for your yard to become the envy of all and the reason Butchart Gardens is world famous, the said property should display ornamental character in several different plants every one of the 36, 10-day cycles of the year.

Now let’s relate this back to time of the season.

Plants that I would plug in mid-summer and late-summer would be drought tolerant. For all of us, the end of July and August tends to be very dry. Knowing this character of the end of season helps us pick plants, not only for their response time but that are well suited for the conditions.

Understand there is no better adage in gardening than “the right plant for the right space” (please read that over again)!

This is why I love white birch. Even though they are the first trees to leaf out, displaying a lime green color that matures to glossy green, even though the filtered light of summer gives way to a late, bright yellow fall response, it is the white and black patterns of the trunk and branches, along with the gray of winter, that makes them a perfect blend of conditions and mood. I use birches primarily as a fall/winter response.

Simpler examples would be using cool and cold tolerant plants from November to April.

Select five, six or seven types of spring bulbs for three months’ blooms and then make sure your earliest ones are very frost resistant, for their period of bloom would be early-early and mid-early spring (March 20 to April 12) and we could expect frost then.

Wow! So it took all that just to say “Do garden jobs when the weather is best for them and plan your plants to color and bloom all year round in harmony with the weather conditions of that time.”

Sharpen shovels and tools. The next three months are an ideal transplanting period. Hand trowels are best cleaned up now, and plant new perennials as well.

And please, stay well all!

________

Andrew May is a freelance writer and 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 news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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