First day of gardening in 2010

bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)January 21, 2010

It's a nice day here today. I spent a couple of hours out in the garden today. This is an excellent time to clean out the flower beds. The perennials are mostly underground or easily seen. No annuals to work around. Any weeds are easily spotted and removed. A light raking to remove winter debris. It's easy to see the structure of woody plants too, so a great time to prune out broken or unwanted branches. Who said you can't garden in New England in January?

One note: my Gardenia "Frostproof" that I planted last spring looks perfectly fine!

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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

Bill ri, is the ground hard? Or is it thawed? You're lucky, in zone 6b in Rhode Island (our summer garden is in RI). My beds still have snow on them, but I'm in zone 6a in MA. I'm not looking forward to my first day of gardening because we must dig up a huge buddleia and move it (thus having to dig holes twice). Maybe March. In the meantime, zzzzzzzz.

Carol

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 3:45PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Carol,
The ground is frozen in places and semi-thawed in others. But that's what made for good raking out of the beds! Buddleias can take a severe cutback though........and spring right back. Mine grow at least 3-5 feet a year. I'm sure it will survive the move. I'm in Providence and the snow has been gone for a few days now.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 4:37PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Ha! That's the danger of the January Thaw - it makes you think that winter is almost over. Then comes the February chills, and the March storms, and the April and even sometimes May frosts....

I'm not taking anything off the ground until I see a bulb struggling to come up. And I'll only clean the area immediately around it.

I second Carol's position: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Claire

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 5:42PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

I've lived here 14 years and in almost all of them winter lasted until June. MANY times, I have played a tournament in my golf league in June where the temps were in the 30s or 40s. It's very rare to have a nice April here and May is usually a mixed bag, too. This area has three seasons and Spring isn't one of them.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 6:15PM
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EGO45(6bCT)

I had a day off today and also took a tour around the garden.
I did prune few broken branches here and there, noticed some green shoots from daffodils and that was pretty much all.
Spring is at least 60 days away.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 8:39PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I have to agree with tree oracle - we don't do spring well here on the southeast MA coast. When I was living and working in NYC I used to come up here for a week's vacation at set times; one favorite time was the first full week in May. Most of the daffodils were at the height of bloom and the old crabapple would always open while I was here.

One May I came up, admired the spring flowers and went back to NYC. I next came up in June and discovered a killing frost had wreaked havoc with most of the new growth on established plants. I think the frost was in mid-May.

My gardening now is pretty much limited to picking up or moving around downed oak and cherry branches and clumps of pine needles. I do have to check though if the pile of wood chips outside the dump/transfer station is thawed out. If so, I'll get a few buckets of chips (free) and replace the mulch that the turkeys keep scratching up.

Claire

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 9:02PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

The point of my thread was that you can do some useful chores even in winter. I didn't make any references to spring, nor the lack thereof. I've lived here my whole life and I do know how quirky and unreliable our weather is. But I was just pointing out some of the things that can be done at this time of year when we get a decent day.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 6:44AM
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EGO45(6bCT)

If you have a lot of hydrangeas like I do and leave spend flowerheads on for the winter, now is a good time to start cutting them down.
Before I finish winter will be over :-))

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 9:08AM
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runktrun(z7a MA)

It is also a good time to be patching holes and god forbid enlarging the moss garden while I am not totally distracted by thousands of weeds!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 9:41AM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

We break our hearts, trying to push the zone (planting happy southern shrubs in New England soil). Just like the people who build houses in flood plains. Hope springs eternal, global warming notwithstanding.

"April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
- - - T. S. Eliot "The Waste Land"

Hey, and it's only January now!

Carol

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 10:54AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Bill said: "The point of my thread was that you can do some useful chores even in winter."

But for me, one of the nice things about winter is that I don't HAVE to do useful chores. Right now I'm fighting off those voices that say that since I can't work in the garden I should be cleaning the house....

Claire

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 11:51AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Hmm, I have those same voices in my head. Do you think there is something wrong with us and it is our mental health duty to fight off those house cleaning voices?

I tend to knit during the winter.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 12:52PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Claire,
I don't know about you, but I have the house cleaning voices all year! LOL!

I guess I started this thread because in another thread about this forum being slow, a lot of people mentioned that since we can't garden in New England in winter, there isn't much activity here right now. Just hoped to suggest that gardening can have year-round interest even in our climate. A nice "bonus" day such as I described is a chance to get some fresh air and do some of the things I mentioned. But, on those days, those many, many days, when we can't go out, there are still the seed catalogs (printed and online) to peruse, and plans to make for the coming season. And it's a good time for discussing our plans for this year and our experiences in past years, since we have more time now at the computer than we will have in April and May!

Bill

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 2:19PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Mad Gallica: I've been fighting those cleaning voices for many, many years, and in fact I've learned to harness them for some good. Back when I was a rabid cyclist, I'd use the personal threat that either I go out mid-week for a hilly workout or I had to clean the apartment. The workout always won.

And I used the threat today, i.e., either I start the FAQ on Proposed Books or I clean the house. I'm working on the FAQ now (this is just a break).

Bill: When my houseplants come in for the winter, they hunker down to the reduced light and start dropping excess leaves, which inevitably clutter up the floor. Does raking/sweeping up these leaves count as winter gardening?

Claire

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 2:57PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Claire,
Of course it counts! Indoor gardening is our way of continuing the challenge through the winter! Try inspecting every leaf on a lemon tree and hand-picking off scale insects! Just did that today, but it's a good way to keep them under control. So that counts too!

I like your sense of humor. Did you read my last post on the thread about New England Seasons - Traditional and Real that you "revived" several days ago?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 5:54PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Bill: I read your post on the Seasons thread and enjoyed it. I started to respond then but I decided to wait and see if anyone else would comment. The last few posts had been by me, and I was hoping for some signs of life. Didn't happen.

Claire

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 7:31PM
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terrene(5b MA)

At the moment the garden beds are under 6 inches of snow, so nothing is happening in those. Soon I will start winter-sowing some of the seeds which need a couple months of cold stratification.

I got into the habit of doing a lot of pruning in the late winter and early Spring, because the previous house I lived in for 15 years has about a half dozen fruit trees. The ideal time to prune fruit trees and many other woody plants is late winter/early Spring.

I was out pruning the heck out of 2 fairly large Japanese Yew trees (Taxus cuspidata) on Tuesday, the day after the storm. The snow was still heavy on the branches and weighting them down several feet, so the upper branches were much more accessible than usual (using a 6 foot step ladder and large loppers). Used the larger trimmings to create brushy spots for the birds to hide in.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 8:09PM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

My winter gardening is limited to keeping alive my wintering-over potted plants like my semi-hardy salvias and my citrus. We have a couple of feet of snow now and will have snow and frozen soil under it until sometime in March at the earliest. I do enjoy those lovely spring days that appear in March and April between the winter days - and I enjoy the lengthening amount of sunlight regardless of whether I can do outdoor gardening or not. Neither the red maples or the lilac buds are swelling yet (I checked after seeing Claire's thread on hints of spring,) so this is the time of year I peruse seed & plant catalogs, go out skiing in the woods, catch up on books not read during the gardening season, and do a bit of wood turning.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 11:11AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

nhbabs, your winter activities sound like a welcome respite from the hectic gardening season. I wonder how you winter over your semi hardy salvias? Under lights? I have not tried that yet. I do enjoy all the salvias and agastaches that attract hummers but they aren't hardy here. I tried growing Black and Blue Salvia two summers ago and it didn't come back for me, but Agastache 'Tutti Fruiti' did. It didn't do much though, so I am anxious to see if it returns this year.

I am keeping my indoor plant growing limited the past few years because I was winter sowing. I did start some indoor hyacinths which feels like gardening. I hope to get around to starting some citrus from seed soon too.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 11:57AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

terrene, I didn't mean to skip over you. I am not winter sowing this year but would be interested to know what you are going to be sowing. I also am fascinated to learn how you prune your Taxus. I have a few very young 'Hicksii' that I have not pruned yet and they are getting scraggly. Not sure what to do with them. You didn't happen to take before/after photos, did you? I didn't realize you could prune them this early either. No need to send instructions, I am sure I can look it up, but I am interested in any personal tips or photos you have.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 2:05PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi PM2. These are large Taxus cuspidata - probably seed grown from the neighbor's plants. They are somewhere between 40 and 50 years old and approx. 15 x 15 feet. They have a spreading habit, however they don't have room to spread much where they're located. People usually shear these plants into meatballs or hedges, but the previous owner let these grow unsheared into a tree form. They are not easy to prune, but I have had attempted over the past 5 years to head them back and do some careful thinning. Their natural tendency is to get bushy when pruned, and I want to maintain the natural tree form.

Your Taxus Hicksii is some kind of hybrid cultivar. Am not sure how you would optimally shape this plant, if it needs pruning at all? Yews strike me as very slow-growing however - mine grow only 3-4 inches per year.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 11:13PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Bill, I also love to get outdoors on nice days in winter. I don't always do much - often it's just taking a walk around the property, looking in the cold frames, checking for hellebore buds, looking for the crocus and snowdrop nubbins poking out - but its so great to be outside.

I usually hold off because it's either cold, or windy, or rainy or snowy - but once I get out there, I don't want to come in! And it doesn't have to be particularly nice. I've found that as long as I am dressed for the weather, it's always nice to be outside.

I finally started my winter-sowing, and I also have some forced bulbs which I've brought into the house.

But with the sun setting at 5PM or even a bit later now, I'm already thinking ahead to spring!

:)
Dee

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 3:53PM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

Encouraged by bill's words, DH and I drove down to our RI place and walked around the garden. Still a few patches of snow in the shade, watery sun, no wind, and quite cool, even seaside. Summary of conditions: Our garlic is coming up too soon. Our climbing roses need major pruning. All last fall's perennials stalks stick up accusingly. So, lots of work to do, maybe early March is soon enough. Zzzzz...

Carol

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 4:46PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Carol,
You're too funny! We'll wake you when March comes around! LOL!

Bill

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 6:32PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

terrene, you have two large trees to keep up with. I like the sound of a natural tree form for them. Great to have old trees that offer you a lot of screening too. I suppose the birds enjoy them. Yes, the Hicksii is supposed to stay narrow. You're right, they do grow slowly and I have to remember that when pruning, since I am trying to grow them as a screen.

It was very warm here today. It's 45 degrees on my back porch. The rain was wild yesterday with all that wind. We are left with patches of snow. I walked around the garden this afternoon and it was nice to get out. I always enjoy it too, Dee. I see crocus poking their heads up and leaves opening on shrubs which concerns me this early. Lots of branches on the ground from the neighbor's silver maples. I filled the feeders. I feel like Carol, lots of work to do come March and this January thaw just gets you wishing it were spring instead of a false alarm. I'm trying to think of other things so the time will go by faster. [g]

Dee, what are you winter sowing this year? Is anyone else starting seeds?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 2:53PM
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margyrose(6)

Can't wait until spring...seems a long way away. Thank The Lord for my sunroom and the jungle that keeps me going. Trips to Logees introduces new specimens as winter drags on. My winter blooming jasmine is looking as though it'll pop some blooms soon (thats exciting). This one was transplanted from a garden I had in Virginia (Blue ridge Mtns)...and doing great these 6 yrs in cold country.
PS..Bill...absolutely loved your photos entered in Sept.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 7:18PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

PM2, surprisingly, I haven't seen anything poking up yet. I expected the snowdrops to be up, but as of two days ago I saw no sign of them.

What am I NOT winter-sowing, lol? I sow a lot of annuals because I have a cutting garden and sell bouquets at the local farmer's market. I also expand my vegetable garden a bit each year, and WS most of my vegetables. And herbs, of course! So far I've only done 6 containers so I have a ways to go!

I keep meaning to cut some forsythia branches to bring inside to force, and I keep forgetting. I hope it's not too late. I did some last year for the first time and, despite EVERYONE who passed through the living room asking why I had dead branches there, lol, I did enjoy them when they finally bloomed!

:)
Dee

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 8:16PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Margyrose,

Glad you liked my pictures. I also have a sunroom and it's so enjoyable now. I posted some photos a couple of weeks ago here ("A sunroom break from snow and cold"). I also go to Logee's every now and then to see what's blooming. It's hard to walk away without buying anything but the sunroom is only so big!

I've had winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) for years here and it's perfectly hardy. It had a lot of flowers for most of late November and most of December. It stopped when we got the cold weather but has a few blooms on it again. I think this plant should be used more here. Nice winter interest, green all summer and no problems at all from pests.

Bill

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 6:33AM
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asarum(z6 Boston)

Okay, I innocently Googled Gardenia Frostproof and here in the dead of winter I am suddenly hit with zone envy. (Not to mention land envy. I can't plant anymore shrubs unless I remove a shrub.) Bill that looks to be one spectacular plant!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 12:13PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Asarum,

The Gardenia had one flower last summer. It's a single flowering type but the fragrance was a great as any other Gardenia. It looks absolutely perfect, at least so far. I did put some old storm windows on two sides and one across the top to hold the other two in place. This was only to protect from winds and by no means is it any kind of enclosure for warmth as it is totally open on most of the top and front. Fingers crossed!

I also bought another one from Logee's that's supposed to be hardy here. I got it late in the season so it's potted and in the sunroom for now. It's called "Diamonds Fragrant Delight" but it's not listed at Logee's anymore and there is no reference on the internet. It has HUGE leaves and supposedly 5 inch flowers. The leaves are about 8 inches long and 5 inches wide! I walked by it twice at the greenhouse when I was looking to buy it that day! I'll plant it out when the weather is warm, and I think I'll take some cuttings if I can. Strange that they pulled it from the listing.

Bill

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 3:31PM
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