Bailey Arboretum Horticultural Notes: February

“What fire could ever equal the sunshine of a winter’s day
- Henry David Thoreau


A Winter of Freezing and Thawing- Never an ideal situation for live plants and garden hardscapes. When the thaw occurs check for heaved bulbs and plants, protect clay and cement pots and statuary.

Look for Blooms- Witchhazel, camellias, quince, wintersweet, cornelian cherry, Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, winter jasmine, winter-honeysuckle

Trends: Be Wary of the new fads!

Fighting soil compaction- If you live in a house that has had any machinery on the land in the past 20 years the property has compaction. Best solution working naturalmulches into the soil or even just top dressing. Winter project, have mulch pile turned.

Soil amendments to avoid- Bioenhancers, phosphate fertilizer, Epson salts, inoculants, water crystals. “Clay buster” scams?; gypsum, conditioners (i.e. soap) breaks up soil but also kills soil-dwelling critters (earthworms-think soap). Like human health gimmicks. Beware.

Warmer Winter Weather Temptations- Pruning- Don’t prune when the sap is flowing, or during excessively cold temperatures, don’t prune plants with soft squishy core (viburnums, smoke bushes, honeylocusts). Wait until March.

 Garden Shows- Tired of Philadelphia (March 5-13)? Try a new one. Boston (March 16-20), Hartford (Feb. 18-21), New Jersey (Edison, Feb 11-14), Chicago (March 12-20), Chelsea, London (May 24-28). Smaller shows are perhaps better and you learn more.

Winter Vacations in Warm Climes?- Learn the names of five unfamiliar plants and their care and maintenance.

Valentine’s Day- Ask your beloved to skip the flowers or tell your beloved you are skipping the flowers. Go for a gift card or gift certificate at the nursery. Or go on a trip to Winterthur or Longwood, or even New York Botanical Garden, or Chelsea. 

 Forced Spring Bulbs- Garden Centers have bulbs ready for forcing. Why not have your March home filled with daffodils, hyacinths and tulips. Start now, they take time.

Orchids- This is the season to look at your orchids, transplant time? fertilizer? Hide them or show them off? Throw them out, or get a new one? Many are on sale after 2/14.

Plant Indoor Color Now- Ditch, hide or store the poinsettias. Purchase a half dozen primroses to scatter about for spring color. They come in jewel and pastel tones.