Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Final steps for the wintertime garden’s ‘hibernation’

by VALLE NOVAK Contributing Writer
| December 4, 2022 1:00 AM

The real cold of wintertime is upon us and hopefully area gardeners have heeded my — and fellow Master Gardener Don Childress’s — “how-to’s” for mulching your landscapes for their annual sleep.

My mulching was completed a couple of weeks ago, with lots of cottonwood and maple leaves heaped on and around my new-planted bulb beds and tender ornamentals.

My final activities consisted of wrapping a couple of semi-hardy shrubs with green-cloth and/or burlap, and tossing a slatted bushel-basket upside down over a planting of Artemisias. Dusty Miller and Powis Castle can be a bit “iffy” in really cold situations, and the little extra cover gives them a bit of protection from the icy winds and plummeting temperatures.

My hardy container shrubs — a beautiful Northern Lights Azalea and an ornamental “sand cherry” got a light wrap of burlap simply because they are in pots — albeit really big ones. I wrap the pot itself along with the shrub as insurance from root freezing, probably unlikely, because I use heavy ceramic pots, but as I’m fond of saying — “discretion is the better part of Valle” (at least in gardening).

Daughter Shelley and I managed to get the last of the some 250 bulbs planted in my “back 40” and her house border gardens. If you still have bulbs to plant, get them in! It’s never too late as long as you can work the ground, and they at least have a chance. They will have none at all in your refrigerator over winter. At least dig a trench for planting now and transplanting after next summer’s bloom. They must have earth cover for nurture and survival over their needed winter dormancy.

Too, I hope you’ve all heeded my request for a bushy hidey-hole for the birds and small creatures made up of your pruned twigs and branches, and that you’ve provided for the little “snowbirds” which delight us through the winter’s bluster.

“My” small summer group of Black-cap Chickadees has been augmented by a huge flock of Chestnut-backed and Mountain Chickadees come down from Schweitzer to spend the winter with their cousins. Red-breasted Nuthatches (and just a couple of Pygmy Nuthatches) and my small cluster of precious Brown Creepers have also arrived with (so far) a few Kinglets and some Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers. What a joy to welcome these sweet friends each year!

I’ve hung large tight-woven baskets under the eaves for easy access and rain/snow protection, and filled them with black-oil sunflower seeds. These are all you really need for all bird feeding, providing protein and nutrition for every type of bird. Do toss some under your trees and shrubs as well for the Juncos — which haven’t arrived yet, but prefer ground feeding as do the soon-to-arrive Pine Siskins.

Now, we can kick back, enjoy the fire and a good book, and occasionally pick up the binoculars for bird-watching. We’ve worked hard and it’s time for a well-deserved rest! Tea and cookies or red wine and cheese — life is good!

(Editor’s note: For many years, Valle Novak has written gardening and cooking columns for the Daily Bee. “Weekend Gardener” and “Country Chef” became renowned for their humor, information and common sense advice on how to do everything from planting to cooking. While she recently retired, she has shared a number of columns to delight her many fans. This is one such columns which ran on Nov. 28, 2010.)

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