Gardener’s Checklist: Week of February 4, 2021 –


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Yellow-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’) lives up to its name in the winter landscape.

Rotate houseplants once a week to keep them growing evenly. Plants that are not rotated tend to grow in the direction of the source of light, such as a window. For those who cannot work a plant rotation into their weekly work schedule, I suggest placing a piece of cardboard covered with a sheet of aluminum foil behind plants to reflect light onto the plants. Those people might also consider a career change.
Extend the life of blossoms on flowering houseplants, including amaryllis, by keeping the plants in a cool room with night time temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees F. (Note: African violets prefer a temperature around 65 degrees F when in bloom.) Also, provide light – a south or west facing window will do if the room is cool – and keep the soil moist but not wet. “What’s the difference between “moist” and “wet” soil?” you ask. Well, if you squeeze a small sample of wet soil in your hands, droplets of water will ooze out. Moist soil feels damp to the touch but no water is exuded when soil is squeezed.
When house plants such as this nasturtium vine look like they are anxious to escape out the window, it would be wise to rotate the pot weekly to keep the plants symmetrical.
Take cuttings from houseplants. Propagating houseplants is a good diversion for anyone with the winter blues. (That must include ninety nine percent of the population.) Ideal temperature for rooting cuttings is about 70 to 75 degrees F. Heating cables or a heating mat of the type used for seed-starting indoors can provide sufficient warmth for rooting cuttings. As an alternative, place a pot of cuttings atop the refrigerator. Heat rising from the fridge’s compressor is enough to promote rooting of cuttings – and germination of seeds.
Brrrrr! Use the cold as an excuse to stay indoors and tend to house plants, perform maintenance on gardening equipment, compile seed and plant lists, and plan planting schemes for vegetable and flower gardens.
Clean up old birdhouses so they’ll be ready for the arrival of new tenants in March. Even dirty birds like to see a clean house when they first arrive. No birdhouses? Build some. Birds not only add interest to the landscape but they can be valuable managers of the local insect pest population. I found a good source for building plans at the following web site:
Add Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ to the shopping list for perennial plants. This variety of catmint has been one of my favorite plants for some time. Unlike other catmints, ‘Walker’s Low’ doesn’t flop over as readily. My plant is in full sun in some very crappy (technical term for coarse-textured, drought-prone, and low in organic matter) soil yet the plant doesn’t seem to mind. It really is a great plant.

We need cold, snowy weather to remind us that winter can get pretty bleak about now. Seemingly, there’s not much outdoors to attract our fancy other than perhaps the neighbor’s erotic snow sculptures. However, I suggest taking a stroll through the garden, around the neighborhood, over the hill and through the woods, or visit a nearby arboretum or botanical garden. I’m not trying to expose anyone to frost bite but rather am suggesting that this is a good time to seek out plants with winter interest.
Trees with colorful bark, such as this paperbark maple (Acer griseum) add interest to the winter landscape.
Since most herbaceous plants are resting underground, much of the interest is provided by trees and shrubs. There are several woody plants with colorful twigs including: red-twig dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Siberica’), yellow-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’), red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’), and coral bark maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’). Some of my favorite woody plants are those with attractive bark. Among these are paperbark maple (Acer griseum) with peeling reddish brown bark, Sargent cherry (Prunus sargentii) with shiny reddish-brown bark, and amur chokecherry (Prunus maackii) with peeling mahogany-colored bark. I think the best is paperbark cherry (Prunus serrula) but it is prone to cankers and borer infestations. Other favorites include: lace bark pine (Pinus bungeana) with exfoliating, patchy white and brownish bark, Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) which has peeling bark with random patches of cinnamon, mauve and silver, and Heritage® river birch (Betula nigra Heritage®) with salmon-white bark when young, later turning to salmon-brown.
Yellow-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’) lives up to its name in the winter landscape.

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