We tend to think of February as the bleak midwinter. While we will likely have some cold days, the average high temperature is 55 degrees F. This is a very comfortable temperature for physical chores like mulching and general garden cleanup. If the sun is out, it is downright pleasurable.
February is a great time to renew your mulch so that it is in place before your herbaceous perennials begin to put up new growth. You have a lot of choices for mulch materials. The most popular tend to be hardwood mulch. It can be purchased in bulk at several local suppliers. It is available in a variety of colors. Choose natural or dyed black or red for the look you prefer. Purchased in bags at garden centers, big box stores and even convenience stores, it is easy to move to where you need it in the garden.
This year I switched over to pine straw (needles) as my mulch material. Pine straw is lighter than hardwood mulch and easier to work with in the garden. It is also cleaner to work with and does not get tracked inside the house on my shoes. It permits better penetration of air to the soil, and I like the look. You can purchase pine straw in bales or gather it yourself. I have been raking pine needles off of parking lots, from subdivision entrances and even some city parks. Occasionally I find it conveniently raked and piled near the curb. I load it up and save the cost of the city’s pickup and dumping fees by hauling it off. The city is cleaned up a bit and I get free mulch.
Take advantage of the nice days in Feb and March to cut back monkey grass and ornamental grasses before new growth emerges. You can also visit the botanic gardens or stroll your neighborhood to enjoy a number of plants that are in bloom this time of the year. Look for these:
- Common quince (Cydonia oblonga), a deciduous tree, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Forsythia (Forsythia), a deciduous shrub, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Snowdrop (Galanthus), a bulb, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), a deciduous shrub, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox), a deciduous shrub, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha), a deciduous shrub, needs partial sun to partial shade.
- Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica), a deciduous tree, needs full sun.
- Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), a deciduous vine, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Witch hazel (Hamamelis), a deciduous shrub, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Siberian squill (Scilla siberica), a bulb, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Flowering quince (Chaenomeles), a deciduous shrub, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealei), an evergreen shrub, needs partial to full shade.
- Lenten rose (helleborus orientalis), an herbaceous perennial, needs partial to full shade.
- Pussy willow (Salix caprea), a deciduous shrub, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata), a deciduous tree, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum), a bulb, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Tulip/Saucer magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana), a deciduous tree, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), a bulb, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Wood lily (Trillium grandiflorum), an herbaceous perennial, needs partial to full shade.
- Cornelia cherry dogwood (Cornus mas), a deciduous tree, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Flowering almond (Prunus glandulosa), a deciduous shrub, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Daffodil (Narcissus), a bulb, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Bishop’s Hat/Barrenwort (Epimedium), an herbaceous perennial, needs partial to full shade.
- Chinese fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense “Rubrum”), an evergreen shrub, needs full sun to partial shade.
- Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica), an evergreen shrub, needs partial shade.
Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) and its hybrids are one of the first plants to flower in the new year. A little cleanup makes a big difference when these winter beauties blossom. There are two thoughts on removing last year’s foliage. If you’re like me, there’s less to do in the garden now, and if I wait around until March, it may not get done.
I like to cut back last year’s foliage on Hellebores before the flower stalks appear. Follow the old leaves down to the crown and remove the entire leaf stalk near the soil. In mild winters, the foliage often still looks good in February, but as the flowers and new foliage appear, the old leaves will become unsightly. The old foliage will be much more difficult to remove once the new growth has appeared.
It is also likely that we will have a few days of nasty weather this month, and you will want some indoor activities to get your gardening fix. Here are some options for you to consider.
- Bartlett Gardening University continues with three more sessions in February. All presentations are free and open to the public with all meetings at 2:30 p.m. in the Bartlett Public Library. Sessions include Feb 2, “Soil & Composting”; Feb. 9, “Garden Pests”; and Feb. 16, “Garden Safety.”
- “For the Love of Gardening at Memphis Botanic Garden” teaches gardeners how to grow local. Memphis Tilth is partnering with MBG to host a three-part garden themed workshop series with each week focusing on a new topic led by local gardeners from our communities and neighborhoods. It will be 6-8 p.m. on Feb. 7, 21 and 28. On Feb 7 Jennifer Marshall will talk about wildlife habitat certification, monarch waystation recognition and pollinator garden certification. On Feb. 21, Chris Peterson will talk about proper gardening tool usage and maintenance. On Feb. 28, Asuka Yow will talk about the dangers of sugar and benefits of eating fresh produce.
- There is a film showing at the Dixon Garden and Gallery, “The Life and Gardens of Beatrix Farrand,” from 10:30 a.m. until noon on Saturday, Feb. 9. Six-time Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Karyl Evans will be present and will discuss her work.
- Master Gardeners will present “Creating a Backyard Retreat” from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, Feb. 16, at Memphis Botanic Garden,750 Cherry Road, Memphis. Create an oasis in your back yard. Bob Krekelberg will offer some ideas on garden shed makeovers and creating amazing yard art from finds on antiquing trips. Master Gardeners Anne Riordan and Caroline Brown will discuss plant selection and design, and Botanic Garden Horticulturist Blair Combest will present a portion on “Garden to Table.”
- Urban Earth Garden Center will host “Gardening Styles – History is a Great Teacher” at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9, and “Gardening Blunders, Learn from your Mistakes” at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23. The center is at 80 Flicker St., Memphis.
- Palladio Garden, at 2231 Central Ave., Memphis, will have a seminar on “30 Favorite Plants for Memphis” at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23.
TOM RIEMAN of Bartlett is a Shelby County Extension Master Gardener and secretary of the Bartlett City Beautiful Commission. Keep Bartlett Beautiful is among the activities of this commission. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.