Is it winter or is it spring? This weather has me totally confused. I thought I had at least a month to sit in my office and write, but the sunshine these past few days has me anxiously staring at the hellebores and daffodils in bud. Should I drop everything and garden?

My answer to that is Yes, but judiciously.

There are lots of simple tasks that can be done in the garden in January that will save you from insanity in March. Why not tackle them on sunny days? Here’s what we’ll be doing at Gaiety Hollow in the next month.

  • Removing the leaves from hellebores (so that flowers are visible)
  • Trimming leaves from Epimedium (so that flowers will be visible)20180116_133200
  • Cutting back sword ferns
  • Weeding out invasives (like Arum italicumFicaria verna, and ivy) and the cool-season weeds like bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)
  • Cleaning up the herbaceous perennials left standing over the winter (like peonies or phlox)
  • Composting perennials no longer up to snuff
  • Transplanting self-sown hardy annuals (like forget-me-nots and violas)
  • Top dress with compost

Now is also a good time to look at the structure of your deciduous trees and shrubs. Look for dead branches, crossing branches, and branches that are growing towards the center of the plant. Call an arborist now and get on their work schedule. If you plan to do it yourself, make notes, take pictures, or tie tape on branches you plan to remove later in the season.

Don’t get too hasty on pruning! I am very tempted to start pruning our overgrown boxwood, but I have been warned that it is better to wait until February. Roses are another plant you might have an urge to cut. Don’t do it. Severe cold weather–like we had around this time last year–could damage or kill recently pruned plants. It’s not worth the risk.

To prevent soil compaction, limit the amount you walk in flower beds and grass. Put down sheets of plywood if you must walk on ground that is soggy. Is the ground too wet and you don’t have plywood? Sounds like the perfect excuse to go inside and have a cup of tea.

What about all of those rainy days coming up? Stay inside and dream big dreams for your garden! It’s time to order seeds and spring planted bulbs, like Dahlia, Canna, and Gladiolus. Don’t forget to purchase seed starting supplies and new tools while you are at it. You can use this calendar to help know when to start your seeds (Salem’s average last frost date is 5/22).


Need some inspiration? There are so many wonderful books on gardening to get you started. I recently picked up Clyde Waschsberger’s gardening memoir and loved it. What’s your favorite garden related book? Or which gardening book are you reading now?