We’ll still have frosty nights, but our gardens are waking up

Now that the “arctic blast” is behind us, it’s time to clean up your flower beds. Here’s how to do it.

Let’s face it, compared to other regions of our country, we have it pretty darn good when it comes to winter.

Occasional snow rarely sticks around for more than a week or two, night time lows are usually above freezing and the day temps can even get up into the 50s. Nothing stays dormant for very long — in fact, we can have quite of variety of plants that actually bloom in our mild maritime winters. Life is good if you are a gardener in the Northwest.

Now that the “arctic blast” is behind us, it’s time to get back into the swing of things. I was shocked the other day to see that my assorted clumps of daffodils are already 6 to 8 inches tall, and I still haven’t removed last year’s leaf litter from around them. Normally I can put this chore off until early February, but not this year.

Hopefully, by the time you read this, I will have cleaned out all of my flower beds (being careful not to damage those emerging bulbs) and moved all the debris to the compost pile. A subsequent light dusting of lime, a bit of organic fertilizer, and a fresh 1-inch layer of compost should put everything in a good mood to start growing. I know it will put me in a good mood, just to feel like I am ahead of the game.

It’s easy to forget that most of us have had the last two and half months off from gardening chores. Once the leaves were raked and the lawn mowed one last time, there wasn’t much to do other than making sure the birdfeeders were filled, there was fresh water in the bird baths, and any containers or beds under the eaves were well hydrated.

Now, however, vacation is over and there is an ever-expanding list of chores that I need to attend to — starting with removing all of last year’s foliage from my hellebores.

Hellebores in general are easy perennials to grow, but they will definitely benefit from cutting off the old leaves and to make room for the emerging flower stalks. This action helps showcase the flowers and minimize any foliar diseases that can be transmitted from the old growth.

Another shade perennial, Epimedium, also benefits from literally being mowed to the ground before its flowers emerge in mid-February. Late this month, and all through February, is the critical time for doing all sorts of pruning. If you need advice, don’t hesitate to consult with a certified professional horticulturist. Most garden centers will have several on staff.

The more diverse your garden is, the more likely that you are going to attract a wider range wildlife. If some of that diversity includes winter-blooming shrubs and perennials, chances are you will be graced with hummingbirds looking for nectar and pollen. Adding more traditional feeders will also help draw in all kinds of birds.

Whether birds, bats, bees, butterflies or bugs (the good ones, of course) are your thing, this is a good time to shop for feeders and houses that will encourage all of these creatures to hang out in your garden. It’s part of the full-meal deal that we call gardening.

Though we will still have some frosty nights, winter is over as far as I am concerned. My garden is waking up and calling me to get involved with cleaning, pruning and even planting. It’s time to get those hands dirty again.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

Backyard berries

Attend a free class all about growing your own berries right in your back yard at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. Feb. 1 at Sunnyside Nursery, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. For more information or to sign up, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net.

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