Though it’s only January, a neighbor’s candytuft is already in bloom. Spring will be here before we know it. (Getty Images)

Though it’s only January, a neighbor’s candytuft is already in bloom. Spring will be here before we know it. (Getty Images)

Start the new year off right with a visit to the nursery

The gardening season starts in January in the Northwest. Daffodils and candytuft are already blooming.

OK, my gardening friends, 2020 is behind us and it is time to start drooling over the seed catalogues and visiting garden centers to see what looks interesting this time of year.

During the next several weeks of rain storms — this is a La Nina year, so there’s likely to be lots of rain and mild temps — find a moment to take stock in the garden to see where you want to make additions and deletions, take some notes, and then get ready for spring. It will be here before you know it.

While January may seem like a slow month in the garden, it is a very busy one in the garden center. Just this week we started to receive our annual shipments of roses (we’ll eventually have more than 2,000!), all of which have to be pruned and potted while they are still dormant.

After those are done, our balled and burlapped nursery stock from Oregon arrives and has to be heeled into our soil beds or slipped into 15-gallon or larger plastic pots. New shipments of pottery, bagged compost, soils, fertilizers and tools all arrive during this month in anticipation of throngs of optimistic gardeners like you coming down to get your annual fix.

Believe it or not, while other parts of the country may be under several feet of snow, in the Pacific Northwest, the gardening season starts in January.

Next week is the start of our bare-root season for fruit trees. If you have any intention of planting fruit trees, then the time to do it is from mid-January through mid-March. This is when garden centers have the best selection, and you can usually find them on sale. Nurseries receive one shipment a year of fruit trees and, when they are gone, you have to wait until the next year. Considering it usually takes two years from the time you plant a tree until it starts producing fruit, the sooner you plant the better. Also remember, unlike the big box stores, garden centers only sell varieties that are best-suited for our climate.

Due to the increased demand for gardening products last year, I am hearing that there will be some shortages in various plant categories this spring. Growers sold through some of their stock they were saving for 2021 and because of COVID-19, had trouble finding enough labor to replant. Consequently, shop early and be willing to substitute varieties if you can’t find the ones you want.

Despite the scarcity, there will be no shortage of new varieties to hit the market in 2021. My buyers have been compiling a list of new introductions — it’s more than 100 new selections spanning from shrubs and trees to annuals and perennials. Like the latest model of cars, everyone loves new.

With our daily temps hanging around the 40s and 50s, I am predicting that it is going to be an early spring. While this has been an ongoing trend, with La Nina influencing this winter, some plants have barely gone dormant. My neighbor’s candytuft is already in bloom and my daffodils are 6 inches tall. Like I said, spring will be here before we know it.

Here’s to a new gardening year full of beautiful gardens, chirping birds and fluttering butterflies, bright and colorful flowers, croaking frogs, bountiful harvests and many sunny days of relaxing in our little pieces of paradise. After the tumultuous year of 2020, I am ready for the 2021 gardening season. Bring it on! Stay safe and happy gardening.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at

Pruning 101

Sunnyside Nursery’s free gardening classes are back — but they’re online for now. A class on how to prune is scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 16 via Zoom. With registration, you’ll receive a Zoom link to attend the online class. For more information or to sign up, visit

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