Nancy Brachey

February 20, 2014

Put these tasks on your gardening agenda

In storm’s aftermath, garden tasks await.

So here we are, our feet still mired in the cold, wet soil of this awful winter, while our gardener’s brain struggles for signs that we are on the cusp of spring weather.

Some things tell us that it will soon be OK.

I call them heroes of the storm. For example, Lenten roses, in full bloom, were buried by ice and snow for days, yet as it thawed, the blooms, leaves and stems emerged unscathed. It was the same with frothy fronds of hardy ferns that don’t disappear in winter, but remain evergreen. Under the weight of the snow, they bent but did not break.

The yellow blooms of winter jasmine remain lovely and largely unmarred by the latest battle with the weather. Pansy flowers look a bit worn down and sometimes ragged, but will perk up with milder winter weather and a nutritious dose of fertilizer.

The biggest disappointment of the winter (so far) remains camellias. In the normally cool-to-warmish winters we have enjoyed in the Piedmont for most of the past 20 years, camellias have brightened the landscape from December to March.

Not this winter. The blooms brave enough to open in midwinter were zapped, and the buds have had the good sense to remain closed while awaiting more hospitable temperatures. I have high hopes for March.

In the meantime, homeowners should take a careful look at their landscape for signs of damage left by a heavy load of ice. No one can miss a large limb on the roof, but other problems may be less visible.

Look for cracked limbs in the canopy as well as broken ones lodged up there. A large broken limb is not secure in a canopy and is at risk of being blown down or simply falling. When that happens, it can hit and damage cars, garages, sheds, houses and people. This requires the attention of a certified arborist, who is both skilled and equipped to deal with it.

Such potential problems are easier to see now, with the leaves gone, than in the aftermath of a spring or summer storm, when foliage may conceal the wounded and broken.

A second matter that requires attention now is the late-winter application of fertilizer to fescue grasses. Normally, we’d do this by Valentine’s Day. But there was a lot of snow and ice on the grass at that time. This can still be done, but should be finished by March 1 to get the grass growing well as temperatures get up to normal temperatures for this time of year.

And while the soil remains soft and easy to dig, go in search of the emerging blades of wild garlic, weeds that thrive in the cool weather of late winter and early spring. Use your shovel and sink it deeply to get as many of the tiny bulbs below ground as possible.

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