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Archive for January, 2018

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Here are the hellebores in all their February glory!  As you saw in my last post, the garden is not sleeping any longer.  The natural alarm clock has gone off, and the plants are busy preparing for their appearance!

Here are some things you can deal with this month in your garden.  At Horizon House, not all of them are appropriate, but there are other gardeners (not living at Horizon House) who read this blog as well, so I’ve added a few things for them.  If something doesn’t apply to you, well just ignore it!

  • Bring home some wonderful blooming flowers to enjoy around the house!
  • This is the time to get out and take a good look at your trees to see if they could stand some pruning. It is easy to see whether there are broken or diseased branches now that there are no leaves.  Always think “could a bird fly right through this tree without banging into a branch?”  That would indicate that air and sun could ALSO fly right through-and that would be a GOOD thing!
  • Are you ordering from those catalogs? This is the time to plan on making your dreams come true! At least in the garden.
  • As you look around the neighborhood, make note of plants that have “winter interest”. Find out what they are and plan to add them to your garden when the weather is better!
  • Trees are easy to identify in the winter because all the leaves are gone. However, you have no leaves to use to help you either…so go to the book store and buy a Winter Tree Identification Guide. (I identified one of MANY appropriate books.  See if there’s one that you can relate with!)  It’s kind of fun identifying trees by their shapes, and the kids love doing it as well.
  • If you haven’t done it already, sharpen those tools-and while you’re at it, organize them as well.
  • Before you know it, should you have a lawn, it will be time to roll out the lawn mower. Has it been serviced? Get it to the shop before everyone else beats you to it.
  • If you have grapes, prune the vines now. If you wait until it begins to warm up, they will “bleed”.
  • Get rid of weeds you see, and if the mulch is getting thin, replenish it.
  • Do you have winter vegetables?  Now’s the time to harvest!
  • If you haven’t done a soil test done lately, maybe now’s the time?
  • If you start seeds this month or next, try using clear topped take-home trays that you get leftovers in, from restaurants. They work really well!  (I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen too many of these around lately.  I guess we’re getting better about compostable containers!)
  • Force some of your spring blooming twigs for indoor color. Try fruit trees, forsythia, dogwood, pussy willow and quince. Just bring them inside and allow them to sit in a large vase with water.
  • Keep those bird feeders full, unless you live in a high rise, like Horizon House…then the feeders attract varmints.  Horizon House residents…NO BIRD FEEDERS, except for Humming bird feeders.
  • Be sure to keep the leaves of indoor plants “dusted”. It helps to wipe them with a damp cloth to keep the pores open.
  • Look around the garden (if it isn’t covered by snow) and be sure none of your perennials have been heaved out of the ground by frost. If they have, press them back down.
  • Plant any bare root trees or shrubs when you get them.  They are usually available now.  They will be cheaper and probably easier to start!
  • Remove any heavy snow (should you have it)  from the evergreens.
  • Be alert!  You may see some signs of spring.  A bulb peeking up where you least expect it?  A robin after that worm?  WHEEEEE!  Can’t WAIT!

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Today, after lunch, since I was in the Dining Room and half way to the gardens, I thought I’d take a little swing through them to see what was peeking up.  I was NOT disappointed!  In fact, after I waltzed through the 3 levels, I went upstairs and got my little iPod-Touch (my camera!) and went back to take some pictures of the rhododendrons.  They are VERY pregnant with blooms, IMG_7211and I thought that justified a blog posting about how to deal with rhododendrons, or rhodies, as I call them.

Over the next month these plants will bloom, and bloom and bloom.  They are among the most prolific and beautiful blossoms you will find in our gardens.IMG_7214IMG_7213

Now, how do you care for them?  They are really pretty easy.  Here are some basic points to think about:

  • DO NOT PRUNE UNTIL THEY ARE DONE BLOOMING.  If you do, you will rob us all of beautiful flowers!  If you want to pick some of your own blooms for use inside, that is of course your privilege.  Do NOT pick blooms from any one else’s garden however!  (Unless you have permission.)
  • Prune sparingly.  Try to remove ONLY dead and diseased plant material.  If the shrub really needs to be brought under control, size-wise, or if they are looking “leggy”, it’s easy to do by pruning right down as close to a parent branch as possible.  You will get new shoots, which will be blooming in a couple of years.
  • These plants bloom so prolifically that they often exhaust themselves trying to produce seed from all those blossoms.  If you are careful, you can remove the spent blossoms.  However, be careful to take ONLY the spent bloom, and NOT the leaves surrounding them, as that is where next years blossoms form.  If you are feeling timid about this, just leave them alone.  Then when they are completely dry, you can almost brush them off!  Or still leave them alone, the plant will be just fine.  Some wild plants are NEVER pruned and they continue to bloom as if they were being paid for it!!!IMG_7206
  • Here is a Washington State Extension article about pruning your rhodie.  It has more links associated with the page.  Click away!
  • Fertilize them?  They naturally grow in the woods, with no need for extra fertilizer.  They love partial shade, as well as all the needles and leaves that coat the forest floor.  Keep that in mind!
  • Do they need extra water?  Probably not.  As long as they have rich soil and good mulch they should do fine.  If we have a REALLY dry spell, they would probably be grateful for a DEEP watering.  They are shallow rooted, so if you don’t water them deeply, the roots will head toward the top of the soil to get that water, making them vulnerable to heat and dryness.IMG_7210

Here is a PDF from Washington State Extension Service.  It tells about a myriad of issues that can take down your rhodies and azaleas.  Don’t let the article scare you off.  It looks pretty dramatic.  BUT, if you DO have a problem with your shrub, there are great pictures here of what the affected plants and leaves look like, and then you can deal with the problem.  Click on the link to see the information.

Now, notice how healthy all the rhodies look in the photo’s I took today?  Our plants are doing quite well, and you probably won’t have ANY of those difficulties…so don’t worry about it!

At any rate, enjoy the rhododendrons as they fill our gardens with a profusion of wonderful color and cheer!  All of our gardeners are HOPING you go down to the garden terraces and just “hang out” there!

There was also a clump of Hellebores blooming away…here they are!IMG_7209

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Oh, my goodness!  This morning I took a walk around the gardens of Horizon House!  For those of you willing to walk slowly and really observe your surroundings, you too can find the deliciousness of SPRING IN JANUARY, all around us!

Here are the pictures I took.  I started outside the Dining Room and took photos of what you see as you sit and eat.

Then I went down to the E Level entrance from Freeway Park, and took a few pictures of Hellebores there.

Then it was on to the Secret Garden, Level C, and Level D!

Finally, I went out in front of Horizon House and as well as across the street where the Witch Hazel trees are blooming right outside the Virginia Mason Hospital!

What a delight!  It gave me hope that spring is actually COMING.  Hold onto your hat…and come along for the ride!

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I’ve had a few folks ask about a calendar of “what to do when” in the garden.  I have to be a little picky here, as I’m really writing this blog for those who live at Horizon House (a Retirement facility) with raised garden beds…no big expanses, trees or large shrubs.  This means that some chores are adjusted in such a way as to fit our needs.  However, ALL of these are useful for ANY gardener in the Pacific Northwest.  I will try to post one of these for every month as we go forward.  If it appears that they are either too “simplistic” or too “all encompassing”, please bear with me, and fit them to YOUR own needs!   I hope you find them useful, no matter how large or small your piece of Eden!

JANUARY

  • Some folks cut off the spent christmas tree boughs and lay them on top of flower beds to add extra protection, from errant snow or even low temperatures.
  • Do you have anything that’s stored away…like tubers of any sort?  Bulbs, veggies (potatoes, etc.)  Check them and toss any mushy ones into the compost.
  • Don’t forget the birds.  images.duckduckgoEspecially here in the PNW where little hummingbirds spend the winter.  There aren’t many blossoms for them to tap…offer them some sugar water.  (4 part’s water to 1 part sugar.  Bring to a boil, and cool.  It will keep nicely in the refrigerator.)
  • This might be a good time to start a Gardening Journal.  You can use a notebook, a calendar, or even a published gardening journal you buy at the bookstore.
  • Had any early storms?  Pick up and dispose of debris.
  • Turn your indoor plants every week or so in order to keep their growth even, as they will grow toward the sun.
  • While you’re at it be sure to constantly check those indoor plants for insects and give them a soapy, bubble bath if you find any!
  • Check your fruit trees (and actually ANY trees) and cut out the “water sprouts”.  They are new growth that points STRAIGHT up.  They will only block air and sunshine, and are totally non-productive.  Remember when you prune to get as close to the trunk as you can without cutting into it.  The wound will heal by itself.  No need to paint it with anything, as that may actually impede the healing process.
  • It’s a good time to clean up your tools.  A good method is to have a small pail filled with sand to which you’ve added some old oil.  Then you can plunge your shovels, spades and trowels in to clean off the old dirt, and coat them with oil at the same time!
  • It’s a good time to take your shears, pruners (and lawn mowers if you have such a thing) in to be sharpened!  Then they’ll be ready in the spring.
  • For goodness sakes, enjoy your gardening catalogs and use them to plan next years garden!  Order stuff now, they will be sent at the proper planting time, and at least you know you’ll GET what you want!
  • Stay active!

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