Winter planning and dreaming

Posted on 26 January 2011

It’s a cold, damp day as I write this and all I can think about is when it’ll be spring and I can get outside again.

One of the best parts of the winter is that it gives us some time to plan and dream about what to do when the weather finally starts to warm-up.

I’ve already started getting seed and plant catalogs in the mail. They’re always a source of fresh, new ideas. Of course, another place for inspiration is the Internet. A good starting place can be the publications for printing or downloading off the University of Georgia’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences’ Web site, which is located at www.caes.uga.edu/publications/.

You can look at an alphabetical listing or by subject and all the publications are specifically geared for Georgia.

Topics covered range from pest control to ornamentals to vegetable gardening to growing fruit and nut trees. Some publication title examples that might inspire you are “Winter Protection of Ornamental Plants” (C872), “Tropical Plants Offer New Possibilities for Georgia Gardens” (B1272) and “Landscape Plants for Georgia” (B625).

One publication I look forward to every year is the current year’s Georgia Gold Medal Winners. Each year, outstanding ornamental plants are chosen by an elite group of industry and academic professionals. The Georgia Gold Medal Award is given to only one plant in each of five categories: Annual flower, herbaceous perennial, vine, shrub and tree. A long list of nominees is judged on a strict set of criteria, including pest tolerance, ease of maintenance, survivability, seasonal interest and availability.

The 2010 winners were the following:

Vine (or in this case vining ground cover)—Sedum repustre “Angelina”

Perennial—Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Annual—Euphorbia “Diamond Frost”

Shrub—Limelight hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata “Limelight”)

Tree—Golden dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Ogon”).

The Perennial pick for 2010, Butterfly Milkweed, has been a favorite in my yard for a few years now. In addition to the beautiful flowers that bring lots of butterflies, it’s the host plant for the Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. I counted more than 25 caterpillars on my plants late last summer just in one batch. They can eat the plants down to sticks and the plants just put out new leaves and keep going long after the caterpillars have crawled off to become butterflies. The plants also re-seed themselves around the yard and give me plenty to pass along to others.

I’ve also got a Limelight hydrangea in a pot that I’m looking forward to getting in the ground this spring. It has lime-green leaves that add a bright touch to the shadier parts of the yard. As a bonus, the flower clusters go from white to chartreuse in the summer, pink in the fall and beige in the winter.

At www.georgiagoldmedalplants.org/, you can browse current as well as past years’ winners back to 1994. The lists contain a nice mix of natives and hybrid nursery plants, and I’m sure you’ll see some that you’re familiar with such as Plumbago, Tea Olive, Angelonia, Swamp Hibiscus and “Little Gem” Southern Magnolia.

Another Web site I really like is www.walterreeves.com because it has a nice mix of plant information and solutions to common yard and garden problems. I often see a plant discussed on his “Gardening in Georgia” site that I add to my plants to get list!

If you want to get off the computer and get your hands dirty, but still don’t want to get out in the cold you could always start your seeds now for transplanting in the spring. It’s a good way to try some new types of plants that aren’t available from your local nurseries and I know it makes me feel like I’m doing a little something.

If we get a day that you feel like getting out in the yard, now is the time to sow seeds for cool weather vegetables like lettuces, carrots or broccoli.

Another UGA CAES publication that is helpful is the “Vegetable Garden Calendar” (C943) to let you know when to plant your various vegetables. It’ll also give you tips concerning placement of vegetables and fertilization.

The end of January/beginning of February is the time to plant your potatoes and around Valentine’s Day prune your roses to get them started for a new year.

Just keep in mind that spring is just around the corner and plan accordingly.

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