Winter is upon us once again, and it’s time to prepare and clean up. Leaves are falling from deciduous trees, the garden is soggy, and weeds are emerging. Raking leaves is a good idea, both to prevent mold and fungus to take hold among the wet dead leaves, and also to keep winter gardens neat and attractive through the dormant season.

Once the leaves are raked, it is time for winter pruning. This has been discussed at length in a prior post (December 2014). Both deciduous and evergreen trees and plants should be pruned, dead branches removed, shaped, and deadheaded as appropriate. ‘As new life will come from death, love will come at leisure’. Winter is a good opportunity to see larger trees that are covered with leaves all summer long. Now that the leaves have dropped, we can get a real good look at the branching structure. Trees benefit from good air circulation through the heart of the tree. Thinning branches that are parallel and growing really close to each other is always a good idea. Trees such as crepe myrtles that bloom on new growth can be tip pruned. Pruning encourages new growth, and cutting the ends off all branches will result in new growth at the cut and lots of flowers next year.

Some trees in winter gardens, such as the coral bark Japanese maple ‘Sango Kaku’, will yield beautiful red twigs when cut that can be gathered and put in a vase during the holidays.

Lawns should be fertilized with a good cool season fertilizer to promote a strong healthy root system, which will yield a rich, thick lawn in the spring. Patio furniture can be covered for winter protection, and frost tender plants such as Coleonema ‘Golden Sunset’, Tibouchina (Princess flower) and Lantana should be covered and staked with a frost protection cloth when the danger of frost is present. A product called ‘Planket’ is our recommendation for frost protection. If the temperature is predicted to only drop to thirty or thirty one degrees for a night or two, covering them is probably not necessary. But if it’s going to drop into the twenties for multiple nights, then definitely cover them! Hopefully any citrus trees in the garden are in containers, which can be moved indoors or under an overhang for the next few months to protect them.

They say that fertilizing plants in the winter when they are not actively growing is a waste of good fertilizer. However, in a mild weather winter climate such as ours in the North Bay, who can tell if plants may be taking up fertilizer and utilizing it. So we like to fertilize at least twice, maybe three times from November through February. Why not? What do we have to lose?

Just as some plants and bears hibernate in the winter, we at Details Landscape Art will hibernate and discontinue our blog postings until spring. Look for our next post in mid-March. Here’s hoping you get out and enjoy your winter gardens !