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Time to get back in the groove, from the Whistling Gardener

anuary is typically a time for gardeners to hunker down by the fire and plow through the seed catalogs and dream about the wonderful gardens we are going to grow in the coming spring.
Witch Hazel is in its full glory as we speak. Photo credit: Sunnyside Nursery.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

January is typically a time for gardeners to hunker down by the fire and plow through the seed catalogs and dream about the wonderful gardens we are going to grow in the coming spring. It would seem as though nothing much is going on in the yard but I can assure you that any time the mercury gets into the 40’s things are indeed happening. Here are just a few examples:

Winter shrubs are blooming. This always blows my mind that there are plants that actually bloom in the dead of winter. I am not sure what Mother Nature had in mind when she designed these guys but it sure is a bonus for the gardener (and the bees and hummers).

Witch Hazel is in its full glory as we speak with its delicate golden yellow flowers that are lightly fragrant. Viburnum Dawn has been blooming since last November but is in full stride now with clusters of light pink flowers which are also fragrant. In the broadleaf evergreen department Sarcococca is flowering with what are insignificant flowers but oh so yummy smelling. In fact, this plant is so fragrant that in the trade we lovingly refer to it as “Sarcochoka”. Sasanqua Camellias are also coming into bloom and it won’t be long before Winter Hazel starts blooming too.

Bulbs are popping up. I have daffodils up several inches now and my winter aconites are starting to wake up too. There are lots of early blooming bulbs such as grape hyacinths, Puschkinias and snow drops that will decorate our gardens in early February and they are all emerging now (unless of course they are still sitting in a bag on the back porch from last fall).

Perennials are blooming. Hellebores have got to be the poster plant for the month of January. These sturdy, easy to grow perennials known as Christmas Rose have really come into their own in the last 5 years with Ivory Prince being the first introduction followed by Joseph Lemper and then Jacob and Joshua and Cinnamon Snow and so on and so forth. There are lots of variations out there now with mostly white flowers but some trending toward the pink shades.

The other poster perennial for January is of course the many variations of primrose with their brightly colored and long blooming flowers. While the mass produced varieties we see cluttering up the entrances of grocery stores are indeed perennials I tend to think they are best treated as annuals to be plunged into containers for a happy spot of color during the gray days of winter and then discarded when they get past bloom.

Weeds are growing. You might want to say “Duh, when are weeds not growing?” but I mention this mostly to alert you that a “stitch in time saves nine” or in gardener’s terms “give a weed an inch and it will take a yard”. Chickweed and Shotweed may only look like green fuzz this time of year but in 30 days they will be 4 inches tall and in 60 days a foot tall and a heck of a lot more work to clean up. Get out the Hula-Hoe and get after them this month and you will be miles ahead of the game.

Pruning season is upon us. Starting now and moving on through February is prime pruning time for the northwest and as we kick off our gardening classes here at the nursery you can learn all about pruning this coming Saturday the 25th at 10am. This is an extremely popular class so come early to get a good seat.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

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