Winter Continues While Thoughts Turn Towards Spring


Lenten Rose
Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) and its hybrids are among the first plants to flower in the new year.​


With Old Man Winter bearing down on the state, Jason Reeves, curator of the University of Tennessee Gardens, Jackson, says it’s worth repeating a few kernels of wisdom to help you preserve your landscape in the event of more heavy snow or ice:

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Brush wet snow off evergreens as it accumulates, or as soon as possible after a winter storm. Use a broom in an upward, sweeping motion. Serious damage can be caused to limbs by heavy wet snow.

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Avoid using salt to melt snow and ice from your walks and driveway, as it can be harmful to your plants. Several environmentally friendly products are available at home improvement stores.


The gardening expert also offers these tips for caring for your indoor plants and outdoor container plants and landscapes during February.

 

Indoors

· Sow broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seed indoors now or buy transplants in March. Harden them off before planting out in March.

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Extend the life of your Valentine's Day flowers by changing the water daily and recutting the stems every couple of days, making sure the foliage is kept above the water line.

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Remove dust from your house plants by rinsing them in the shower.

Outdoors

· Bluebirds are already looking for a place to nest, so clean out your birdhouse soon. If you are in need of a good bluebird house check out Homes for Bluebirds Inc. http://www.danfinch.com/birds.htm.

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Barrenwort (Epimedium) and Lungwort (Pulmonaria) will be in flower soon. Cut back last year's foliage before new growth appears.

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Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) and its hybrids are among the first plants to flower in the new year. A little cleanup makes a big difference when these winter beauties blossom, so cut back last year's foliage before the flower stalks appear. Follow the old leaves down to the crown and remove the entire leaf stalk near the soil. In mild winters, the foliage often still looks good in February, but as the flowers and new foliage appear, the old leaves will become unsightly. The old foliage will be much more difficult to remove once the new growth has appeared. 

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For indoor forcing of blooms, cut branches of pussy willow, forsythia, flowering quince, redbud, and star and saucer magnolia. Choose stems with flower buds that have begun to swell. Cut them at an angle and place in water in a cool location in your home with indirect light.

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Late February and March are good times to trim trees and shrubs. If the limb is larger than 2 inches in diameter, or heavily weighted, use the three-step method for removing the branches. Make the first cut on the underside of the limb about 6 inches away from the trunk, cutting about one-third of the way through the limb. On the top side, cut through the limb 3 to 6 inches beyond the first cut. Finally, make the third cut close to the trunk while not disturbing the branch collar. This cut should be at 45 degrees to the trunk. Remember when pruning to remove dead or diseased branches first and then take out any rubbing or crossed branches. Prune to maintain a natural form unless formality is appropriate for the design.

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Postpone pruning of spring-flowering and early summer-flowering shrubs like azaleas, forsythia, spirea, and mophead hydrangea until just after they flower.

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Cut back monkey grass (Liriope) before new growth appears. Use a string trimmer for larger areas.

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Spot-control weeds in a dormant warm-season lawn by pulling them or by applying a broadleaf weed control.

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Apply dormant horticulture oil, such as Ultra-Fine, to fruit and nut trees to eliminate scale and other pests. It must be applied before spring growth appears. These oils also can control scale insects on hollies, euonymus and camellias. For best results, be sure to completely spray the entire plant including the underside of the leaves.

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Soil in Tennessee tends to be acidic. Have your soil tested to see if and how much lime is needed. Your local UT Extension office can provide you with instructions on how to proceed. It takes months for lime to react with the soil, so the sooner the better. Pelletized lime is the easiest form to apply.

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Green/English and sugar snap peas can be direct sown in the garden in February. In colder parts of the state wait until the end of the month. If sown too late, they will not have time to flower and fruit before it gets too hot.

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If your ornamental grasses such as Miscanthus, Pennisetum, Mexican feather, switchgrass and muhly grass are looking tattered and blowing about the garden, cut them back 3 to 6 inches above the ground. You can also wait until March to perform this task.

The University of Tennessee Gardens include plant collections located in Knoxville, Crossville and Jackson. Designated as the official botanical garden for the State of Tennessee, the collections are part of the UT Institute of Agriculture. The Gardens’ mission is to foster appreciation, education and stewardship of plants through garden displays, educational programs and research trials. The Gardens are open during all seasons and free to the public. For more information, see the website:
 
http://utgardens.tennessee.edu.


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Contact:​

Jason Reeves, UT Gardens, Jackson,
jreeves@utk.edu


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