28 Days of Grey
By Jill Johnson, Loudoun County VCE Master Gardener
February is not this Loudoun County gardener’s favorite month because of the interminable 28 (or even worse, 29) days of unrelenting gray and cold. On a positive note though, every day is getting a tiny bit longer bringing welcome light as the earth tilts closer to the sun. And the 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show opens February 28 this year, another sure cure for the wintertime blues and a sign that spring is around the corner.
Perusing the various seed catalogs and ordering flower and vegetable seeds is a pleasant way to spend time this month and will ensure that you get the selection you want. This year, to keep the orders realistic, I plan to inventory my existing seed stock and run some germination tests to see if they are still viable. This Southern Exposure Seed Exchange link tells how to test seeds: http://www.southernexposure.com/how-to-test-germination-ezp-162.html.
There’s always garden tidying that can be done on those rare nice days in February, but try to avoid walking on the grass as much as possible because it compacts the soil. You can remove diseased, damaged or dead branches from trees and shrubs at any time, but late February is a good time to prune and shape roses, spiraea, rose of Sharon, boxwoods and crape myrtle. Butterfly bush and beautyberry can be cut back to 12 inches, and heavenly bamboo headed back by six inches. Here’s a link to an excellent guide to successful pruning: http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/430/430-455/430-455.html.
If you’re thinking about replacing invasives this year, summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) or sweetspire (Itea virginica) make nice native replacements for butterfly bush. Oakleaf hydrangea and shrubby St. John’s wort are recommended native replacements for heavenly bamboo.
Lastly, here’s an indoor activity to help you plan beautiful and vibrant containers for your deck, patio and yard come spring. On Wednesday, February 25 at 7 PM, at Sterling Public Library, 120 Enterprise Street, Loudoun County Master Gardeners will give a free presentation on container gardening that will cover color schemes, temperature variations, plant and container selection and more.