Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
January, 2005
Regional Report

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The angel wing begonia is one of the most durable indoor plants, displaying colorful foliage throughout the winter season.

January in the Garden

There are relatively few outdoor garden projects to be done in January, so it's a good time to turn your attention to planning for next season's garden and landscape. Take time to read the newest seed and nursery catalogs that seem to arrive every other day. They are filled with colorful photos of the newest flowering annuals, perennials, vegetables, vines, and shrubs, some of which are not going to be available locally right away. These catalogs can inspire you to grow some of the more unusual plants, as well as more familiar ones.

Design on Paper
Hopefully, you have been keeping a garden journal or notebook (or at least a partial listing of last season's garden observations). This will help you plan on what needs replacing, or if you intend to start a new project or garden bed. It is so much easier to make a sketch on paper and have the time to play with it until you have the right plants for the right places. It's always been my mantra that it's less painful to erase a plant selection on paper than to dig it out because it was planted in the wrong location. This is especially true when it comes to trees and shrubs.

January is one of my favorite months to appreciate the evergreens in the landscape. The colorful blue hues of the dwarf blue Colorado spruce look magnificent when flocked by a light frost or snow or silhouetted against the setting sun. Many of the new, dwarf globe spruces and weeping spruces are among the most interesting ornamental evergreens for small spaces.

If your landscape is lacking conifers for year-round interest, consider planting some. Not only will they add color and interest, but some will produce cones. If you live in a USDA Hardiness Zone 3 area with well-drained soils, consider the white pine (Pinus strobus). It's especially handsome, with its compact growth habit and needle clusters that hide the inner branch structure. As the pine matures, it produces large, circular-shaped cones with silvery tips. You can use them for winter decorations, or scoop up the windfalls in sacks during the winter and use them as a mulch around the base of shrubs and specimen trees. They will help keep stray cats from using the area as a latrine. Pinecones also will keep down the weeds to a certain extent and look attractive as a mulch.

Houseplant Tending
Now is a good time to take inventory of your houseplants and check for any signs of stress or pest problems. Discover insect or disease problems early and you won't be plagued by a major problem later on.

One of my favorite plants of the winter season is the angel wing begonia that I bring indoors from the summer shade garden. It lifts my spirits with its brilliant green and mottled foliage, and adds interest to just about any room in the house. Although some consider it an old-fashioned plant, it's rugged and can tolerate the drier conditions in our heated homes while providing a spot of color and surprising you with blooms every now and then.

The key to keeping this old favorite happy and thriving -- as well as the many new hybrid begonias -- is a humus-enriched soil that drains well yet retains moisture. Locate the plant in a bright location out of direct sun, which can scorch the leaves. If the plant begins to stretch for more light, don't be timid about pinching it back. Place the shoots you remove in a 50/50 mix of perlite and vermiculite. You will have several new starts to add to your shade garden or to give to gardening friends.

Wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year in your garden!

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