January 2013
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?


Winter is a good time to bring long, tangled vines back under control with careful pruning.


Tame Spring Vines Now

Winter offers a perfect opportunity to trim back or thin overgrown vines eating fences or encroaching where they are not welcome. In winter, it is much easier to see the structure of deciduous vines and climbing roses – and the wasps are inactive! Remember, early spring bloomers such as early climbing roses, wisteria, yellow jessamine, Lady Banks rose, and coral honeysuckle have already set their flower buds. Prune them selectively because you will also be cutting the spring blooms. If you need to cut these severely, save the severe pruning until after they flower. We Southerners love wisteria, but if you want to plant it, avoid the common and invasive Chinese and Japanese species (Wisteria sinensis and Wisteria floribunda) which are unfortunately plentiful in the marketplace. Instead, plant Amethyst Falls (Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’), an American-native wisteria that blooms a little later and isn’t as aggressive.

Great Backyard Bird Count

Mark your calendars for the Great Backyard Bird Count during the weekend of February 15-18. Learn more about this citizen-science program and register at www.birdsource.org to report your bird sightings.

Not Going to the Dogs


This groundcover is growing back through a barrier of welded wire fence placed to keep dogs from digging in a prime spot.

Is part of your landscape literally going to the dogs? Dogs are not usually a garden’s best friend, but gardens and dogs can co-exist with fences and a few tricks. If your mutts are digging where they shouldn’t, here is a simple dog barrier from a garden in Columbus, Ga., where the owner’s dog digs near the front door. To keep things looking nice and discourage digging in such a prominent spot, the owner pinned 2 x 4-inch welded wire fence to the ground to protect the groundcover so it could grow back through the openings in the welded wire. We love our pets and our gardens, too!

What Do You Do With Old Potting Mix?

After a couple of years, the potting soil in containers holding your seasonal color or vegetables and herbs starts to break down in texture. When that happens, it doesn’t drain or hold air like it should and the plants don’t grow as well. Then it’s time to replace it or at least replenish it by mixing in about one-half new potting mix soil. So what do you do with the soil coming out of the pot? Work it into new landscape plantings or in-ground flowerbeds to improve the texture of your garden soil.

A Reading Ladder?

I visited the Petersen Garden Project, a community garden in Chicago, where the organization also owns a building to have workshops and other events. Inside, there was a very clever library of garden books prominently displayed on old ladders. Stretched horizontally along the wall, the old ladders got a new life as bookshelves and added to the charm of the whole place. You can adapt this idea to hold other things, too, such as pictures.

Above, old ladders find a new life as display shelves at a community garden library. Right, A wagon is perfect for keeping little things handy while you work.


Put a Wagon to Work

A wagon is a perfect way to move things through the garden while you work. It’s perfect for hand tools, small bags of fertilizer, seeds, and other relatively small things and keeps them organized while you work in the garden. I have narrow pathways, so it works better for me than a wheelbarrow, and it is lower to the ground so I can see and reach into it more easily when kneeling or sitting on the ground.

This holly provides an evergreen anchor for cool-season color in a pot.


Holly Is Happy in a Pot

Small holly shrubs are perfect evergreens for containers, especially when paired with flowers for seasonal color. Select a holly you like for the container according to leaf size, color and plant size. Months (or one to two years) later it can be transplanted to the garden. Read or save the label, so you will know how much space to give the holly in the garden as hollies can vary from small, dwarf shrubs to small tree size. Moving evergreens from pots to the garden over time is a nice way to slowly build a screen or hedge on your property, too. Hollies also provide great cover for songbirds and berries for them to feed on in the winter.

Master Gardener Classes

If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener by taking the classes offered through the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service and becoming a part of this volunteer community, now is a good time to check with your regional Extension office about class schedules. Check the various organization’s websites at www.alabamamg.org to find the one nearest you.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Garderner's Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.