January Tasks & Tips in the Ornamental Garden
Is there really anything to do in the ornamental garden in January? Well, there ARE a few things.
Keep an eye on your trees and shrubs. After a heavy snow, limbs can be damaged by that accumulated snow, so brush it off. This is a good time to cut down injured or dying trees, but only if you were able to observe the injury or death BEFORE winter began. Watch for winter and snow damage and be ready to prune right BEFORE spring growth begins. But don’t rush into deciding that a limb or branch has died; some plants will leaf out late, so it’s best to wait for spring growth to decide on what needs to be pruned out. Also, many plants have protective mechanisms that may appear to be damage, but are not. See more about this and other hazards of winter in this article, “Managing Winter Injury to Trees and Shrubs,” Va.Coop.Ext.Pub.No.426-500.
Survey your perennials for frost-heaving. The freeze-thaw cycle can push the crowns of perennials or other shallow-rooted plants up out of the ground, especially if your beds are not mulched. Take regular tours of your garden to keep an eye out for this. Be gentle in pushing them back into the ground and cover with mulch or evergreen boughs to protect them from more of this damaging heaving.
Don’t forget your fall transplants. Fall is a great time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials, and that’s just what I did. If you did also, don’t forget that they may need to be watered if we have a dry spell. So far our winter has been very moist, but if that changes, we’ll actually need to get out there and do some watering.
January is good time to do some garden planning and dreaming. With all the leaves gone, the bones of your garden are fully revealed. The bones are the woody structures and evergreens that provide the backdrop for your perennials, bulbs, vines, and ornamental grasses. Perhaps, like me, you see the need to re-design or renovate your existing beds. You can use this time to study potential trees and shrubs to be planted later.
Speaking of renovation, if that’s something you’re planning to tackle soon, you might want to take a tip from Cathy Clary, a well-known and much-admired garden consultant in Albemarle County. Cathy recommends the book Landscape Rejuvenation: Remodeling the Home Landscape by Bonnie Appleton. I found a copy in the library, and on the next snowy, frigid day, you’ll find me curled up before the fire with this book. But I promise to return it to the library, so you can check it out, too.
“The Effects of Cold Weather and Snow on Landscape Plants,” culpeper.ext.vt.edu/successful-gardening-through-extension-newsletters