Gardening in January

 

Gardening in January

Gardening in January is not just the stuff of dreams or wishful thinking, but a time to organize, plan, browse through collected seeds and so much more. In addition to planning for the future, gardening in January is also a good time to focus on those often ignored indoor plants and to enjoy the snow covered shapes left by the remains of last summer’s garden.

 

dusted branches

 Dried Goldenrod

Dried Goldenrod

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardening in January is also a time to explore what if anything is alive in the winter garden. If you live in a warmer climate than zone 5a of southwestern Ontario, that nay be a challenge. Of course there are always pleasant surprises, such evergreen plants and  a well known plantsuch as  the Hellebore Christmas Rose.

 

 evergreen fern

evergreen fern

 

The Hellebore Plants ( see previous blog post) are well know for cold weather blooming, yet when I find mine  blooming  the week of Christmas despite temperature dipping below 0 Celsius, I am amazed and overjoyed!

 

more christmas 977

Inspiring Hellebore Plant

 

 

Despite the brutal winds in my area, being close to the house, the side garden is home to this lovely winter flowering plant . There are several other Hellebore plants that are not as sheltered and still have green leaves and one even has a bud. Sadly as the thermometer dips to -20, the leaves are barely alive and the bud seems frozen in a partially open state.

 

 Hellebore in bud

Hellebore in bud

 

 Gardening in January

Gardening in January is really a rest period for both you and your outside garden. It is a change to regroup and rethink both plants and structures that may or may-not have worked in the garden last summer. In addition, there is no time like the present to make a  list of things to do in preparation for the next growing season, before seed catalogues begin to arrive in the mail.

My January chore list

1. Check on drying dahlia tubers and begonia corms etc to ensure not too cold/ hot/ dry:         Move them if needed or lightly mist if they appear to be shrivelling up, to ensure firm             fresh for success in replanting them

corm

corm

 

2. Tool tune-up: Clean up. sharpen. tighten or replace worn or broken hand tool tools.               Larger tools can be checked on once the weather warms.

3. Grow light maintenance: If you use grow lights for your seedlings, now is a good time to      check on bulbs, wiring, trays etc. Perhaps is it is time to replace or consider installing        them.

plant stuff and office 022

4. Seed stocks: for those who have collected seeds form last years gardens or possibly a      seed exchange program at a local horticultural society, time to take stock and discard        old dry ones

5. Container collection: save those clear plastic salad containers and large pop bottles that     can be used as mini greenhouse covers for new seedlings or plant cuttings

 

 

 

 

Winter Garden Tour

Winter Garden Tours

Winter garden tours may seem like a dream unless you live in a warm climate, but today when the sun was out I decided to take a tour of my garden, with camera in hand.  Normally the weather would make this a rather chilly walk, but as the early morning sun and temperatures up to 9 º Celsius had melted the snow on most of my property  while others around were full of snow!

two seasons at once

two seasons at once

 

While this January has not yet seen the record -15º, with the exception of the Hellebore plant in my side garden, I expected everything to be frozen. To my surprise there were so many plants still alive, despite the -4 º temperature nights and warm almost Spring like weather during this unusually warm January in Canada.

 

Who know there would be a lovely green Fever-few (Tanacetum parthenium) plant nodding at me in the wind? In fact, there were parts of the old plant with new growth bursting forth in both the side and back gardens.

 

Feverfew

Feverfew

 

Close to the Feverfew, are the mixed red and green leaves of the Toad lily (Tricyrtis latifolia) which survives being previously buried in many inches of snow.

Toad Lily leaves and Blue Fescue

Toad Lily leaves and Blue Fescue

The snow in the front garden also was inches deep for several weeks, but not long enough or cold enough to kill off the small pink rose bush that bloomed there all summer and was now an inspiring part of my winter garden tour. While there are no flowers, there quite a few dark green leaves and even a rose hip that waved as a reminder of past glory!

P1410078

 

Past the front and through the side gate, leading to the north side yard, revealed even more winter surprises. First my eyes fell on the lovely green crinkled leaves of a Primula, easily recognized despite none of the yellow flowers being evident.

Primula

Primula

Representing the wildflower family, not to be outdone, was one Golden rod.  Bouncing in the wind, its tiny yellow flowers made a statement, despite not displaying their brilliant summer colour. Buried also in the snow, but not down for the count, was a wild weed Geranium (possibly a Dovefoot Geranium).

 

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

P1410093

wild Geranium

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I walked completely around to the rock garden as my winter garden tour continued, under the huge Spruce tree, I found buds forming on the heather plant (Calluna Vulgaris) that in early to mid summer would be filled with lovely, tiny, pink blooms.

 

my Heather in bud

my Heather in bud

Heather in bloom

Heather in bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beside this was a Chrysanthemum plant fiercely growing new green leaves, despite the dried flower bud still attached!

 

 struggling Chrysanthemum

struggling Chrysanthemum

 

Not to be outdone was the lovely evergreen fern Dryopeteris erythrosora (Autumn fern).

 

P1410124

 

 Last, but not least, was a Heuchera key lime pie that didn’t seem to mind the cold at all!

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Today, despite the return of real winter weather and -10 º weather the Hellebore is happily bobbing its head and I am bundled up, remembering my inspiring winter garden tour while dreams of seedlings run through my head.

sunflowerseedlings_1

 

Goldenrod and the Fall Family

Goldenrod and the fall family of plants lend lovely colour to any fall day. Yet,with the arrival of cooler temperature, all many of us can think about when looking at the gardens coming to rest, is the long list of things to be done before the arrival of winter. In fact, I even wrote an article on my chores list, which is hanging nicely on the fridge door, waiting for me to tick things off.

While I have trimmed the shrubs along the driveway and tackled the honeysuckle that was threatening to leave the trellis and head for the neighbouring pine, very little else has been done. When time is available I am currently sitting on the front porch soaking up the warm sunshine and admiring the two pots of mums there.

Not to be outdone are the glorious purple Asters standing tall and waving their heads in the wind. These blooms are just another example of inspiration personified, as the plant traveled from the wildflower patch behind my cottage several years ago, to my city garden.

 

As hybridization of wildflowers to domestic species, plants are acclimatized from countries around the world and xeriscaping becomes more popular, once common field flowers like Goldenrod and the fall family are spreading to gardens everywhere. Certainly one example I have grown personally is Goldenrod, which grows in mass behind my country home as well as in the front and back in  the gardens of my permanent urban residence.

 

In fact, recently a city dweller went past my tall stand of yellow blooms and proceeded to tell me that despite being pretty, I should not be growing it “as people are allergic to it.” In defense of the wrongfully blamed plant, I proceeded to give her a mini lecture based on information I read, as a hay fever sufferer.

 

Goldenrod Pollen

 

Goldenrod’s pollen is heavy and sticky and can’t be blown by the wind . In fact the bright yellow need to attract insects to spread the plants pollen. On the other hand, Ragweed’s pollen is lightweight and spreads easily in the breeze. Combine this easy of movement with the larger number of spikes in its surface and it is easy to understand why Ragweed is considered the main respiratory irritant of hay fever.

 

www.gpnc.org/goldenro.htm

 

Despite having this information, I had little else to add except bees, wasps and other assorted bugs love the flowers. In fact, until I took several photographs of the yellow flowers, I had no idea of the mass of tiny buds that each golden stem or rod contains.

 

Golden Rod

 

When I explored further I found that this “wildflower” with many species, has been prized as a garden plant in British gardens and now in American ones since about 1980. But in many other countries including China and Germany it has become an invasive species that is causing problems with the areas natural habitat.

 

With a natural habitat consisting of both domestically grown plants and now some wild country relatives, my garden has become a family affair. In fact, when I checked in to the “Family” and Genus of both the Goldenrod and the Aster, I was surprised to learn that they too belong to family Asteraceae , as did the Chrysanthemum in my last Post.

 

 

Certainly I can see the similarity in the bloom of the star shaped mini-petaled Aster and the more heavily laden Mums, but the tiny florets of the Goldenrod  and fall family, seen entirely unrelated until I read further on this Family.

Asteraceae are mostly  herbaceous plants, but there are also some shrubs, trees and even climbers in the family. One characteristic the plants in this family share is something called inflorecence. Here is where I got the connection as inflorescence is a group of cluster of flowers  arranged on a  stem, main branch or group of branches. Chrysanthemums, Asters and Goldenrod all have flowers that are grouped along a naim stem of smaller stems off the main one.

 

Golderod Florets

 

 

According to data there are 41 invasive weeds worldwide that are classed as Ragweed plants, all of which are also part of the big Asteraceae family. The flower clusters along the stems in this case are not pretty as they do not need to attract insects to spread their pollen. On a dry windy day is it estimated that this wind-borne pollen is transmitted many Kilometers. In addition, each plant is estimated to be able to release over a billion grains of pollen in the late summer through fall which spread the plants growth and makes it the number one allergen of Hay Fever.

 

Ragweed

 

Armed with a picture of one big Fall Family in my head,  I decided reading more about what characteristics this family has was a good idea. However, further reading on plant classification  and trying to connect the dots between family, genus, species, etc, revealed an overwhelming amount of information. Of course not only was it fascinating, but it was very complicated with one thing leading to another, as if the seed of an idea has sprouted more branches and definitions than my poor brain can comprehend.

 

One thing I did get was the plant world is composed of families where the plants are not all the same size, shape or colour but they share a set of growing conditions. Keeping this in mind as I continued to read, helped me to relate this to humans across the world and the differences that make up our one global family.

 

Goldenrod and Fall  family of flowers  provide not only lovely blooms but also the inspiration for further research in to the nomenclature of botany .Certainly my condensed version  will amount to shrinking all the information on the evolution of life, in to a few hundred words…but that’s another post to write…think I’ll give it a go!