January is a slower month for garden chores

– Posted in: Garden chores

January is a slower month for me garden wise as there is usually a foot or more of snow, as there is now. But winter is the best time I have for paperwork/technical/research stuff. I have been dreaming my way through all the new seed & plant catalogs, making wish lists. I also just finished my own catalog which will mail shortly and uploaded it to my website (Paradise Gardens Rare Plant Nursery) –whew! Now I can settle back into the main winter things which mean sowing pans of seeds to stratify in the cold of the greenhouse, or warm-cycle pans to set at house temperature, or cool cycle ones to set on the cold porch—gets a bit crowded. Then there are rosemary cuttings to take, which are hard to do while the plants are flowering so nicely. The grape sage has just finished though so I can take cuttings of it and save the spent flower stems for potpourri.

Now is also the time of fielding phone calls from friends who have found a treasure to share in a catalog–there is a bunch of ladies I know who all help each other find new things to plant and we egg each other on. We also buy packets of seeds for each other’s passions–white flowers for Lynda and Ruby, blue or fragrant for me, red for my Mom. I am also late in sending seeds to some seed exchanges and will do that this afternoon. If we get some glass-bottom boat days this month when it all melts back I will take some hardwood cuttings of some roses to propagate–now I can only see the tops of some of the plants. I always envy Lynda’s early bulbs–and her garden in general of course–I have to protect crocus from hungry voles with wire baskets but even that is temporary until someone figures out how to go over the top.

I love it when garden books say to simply stamp down the snow around the bases of fruit trees & roses to keep mice from gnawing on the trunks. 27″ of snow is hard to stamp down without stamping on something precious. And the snowshoes keep getting tangled in the rose thorns. I use the trusty plastic tree wrappers for both and cut them short to fit the rose trunks if they are at all thin-barked (or if the thorns allow). Some of the fruit trees I have to cage even on top as elk can snap the top right out of a young cherry tree.

Kathy, you asked about the fall crocus I grow. I have several kinds; I started with C. speciosus (which is the earliest of the really hardy ones)–a lovely light blue-violet with bold orange anthers; then got C.s. ‘Cassiope’ which is later & darker blue, and ‘Conqueror’ which is very late here and the darkest colored of the lot. This year I added C. kotschyanus albus because I could tell that the gentians would love their white blooms interspersed with the gentians’ sapphire stars. I have C. sativus, Saffron, which only blooms every few years here (well it often blooms under the snow & I find the tired blooms in the spring)–it is hardy enough in well drained soil but the snow usually outwits it. I get a new color every year and next year I will add hot pepper flakes when I plant them–it keeps the skunks from digging, maybe it will work for the mice.

About the Author

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4b/5aLocation: rural; just south of British Columbia/Idaho borderGeographic type: foot of Black & Clifty Mountains (foothills of Rockies–the Wet Columbia Mountains in BC climate- speak)Soil type:acid sand (glacial lake bed)/coniferous forestExperience level: intermediate/professionalParticular interests: fragrant & edible plants, hardy bulbs, cottage gardening, alpines, peonies, penstemons & other blue flowers, primulas, antique & species roses & iris; nocturnal flowers Also: owner of Paradise Gardens Rare Plant Nursery

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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