Your garden in winter

Published 8:57 pm Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jeffrey Williamson of Smithfield Gardens on Bridge Road said there are plenty of things that gardeners can do this month — both inside and outside — to get their gardens ready for the spring.

January snow showers bring winter flowers, right? Not exactly, but there are plenty of things to do in your garden during the winter months.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to plant all of your bulbs in the fall, there is still time to plant many of those bulbs in January, according to Jeffrey Williamson, retail design manager and greenhouse manager at Smithfield Gardens on Bridge Road. Now is a good time to plant bulbs, roses, trees, and shrubs, Williamson said.

“Cold weather actually makes them bloom in the spring,” said Tim Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Garden Center, noting that bulbs need at least six weeks of cold to bloom effectively.

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In January, most roses, trees and shrubs are not looking their best, because many of these plants are dormant or in hibernation. But according to Williamson, the best time to install many of these plants is when they are dormant.

“They are asleep for the winter, so it’s not a big shock to their systems,” Williamson said. “Because they are dormant, there’s not a lot of stress on them to take them out of the pot to plant. This is the ideal time to install trees and shrubs.”

In fact, he said, these plants root faster when they are able to begin establishing themselves in the winter months.

Williamson recommends planting trees like maple, oak, cherry, ornamental pear trees, and more. He also recommends needled shrubs like arborvitae, spruce, and juniper.

At the top of the list for many winter customers are pansies, because they provide color in the winter months and they re-bloom in March and April. Spirea is another popular plant in this area because of its unique colors. Hellebores and camellias are other favorites, because they bloom into the winter months.

Williamson also recommends ornamental cabbages and kales and tulips or daffodils.

Focus on hearty trees and shrubs for January plantings, Williamson said. When planting bulbs, make sure that the plants are not dried out or rotted so that you get your money’s worth.

He does not recommend gardenias, oleander, or palm for January plantings.

Most important, he says, is to research the plants you are interested in planting first — find out their likes and dislikes and plant in areas with good drainage.

“You definitely want to be sure that during the winter you watch your watering,” he said.

Remember, he explained, to keep your plants hydrated when the temperature is above 40 degrees, but never water when there is a threat of a quick freeze, because this can damage the cells in a plant.

Some folks might complain that it’s too cold to head outside and into the garden in the middle of January. But there’s plenty to do, even for warm-weather gardeners, experts say.

“January is time to take inventory of what you want to see and change,” Johnson said. “It’s a good time to sit in your house with garden catalogues planning out your garden in front of a warm fire.”

Now is also a great time to get discounts at many home and garden stores, Johnson advised, noting that many stores will begin getting their spring merchandise in mid-January.

Smithfield Gardens’ Williamson suggests that January is a good time to design patio areas, decks, and landscapes. It’s also a good time to select the area you want to use, figure out which materials you want to use, and find the right colors to coordinate with your home.

A little planning in front of the fire this month will ease the stress of the planting season and can bring surprising results come spring.