What's Blooming in my Georgia Garden in February?

Since winters are often very mild here in Georgia and Alabama, it's long been a goal of mine to have something blooming in the garden every month of the year. Winter months are the hardest. Summer provides unlimited options, but the coldest months of winter--January and February--pose the biggest challenge.

Everyone knows about Camellias, and every Fall I look for varieties I don't already have. There's a camellia for every month from September all the way into April. Lady Vansittart is blooming here now in February.
Daphne odora is a plant that really provides year round interest. We grow aureomarginata, which has evergreen leaves with a yellow margin. This variegation makes the shrub attractive even when not in bloom. Every year without fail, the lovely bloom clusters in either pink or white open and surround the garden in fragrance. The flowers smell to me like fresh cut lemons, but others say they remind them of Fruit Loops cereal. Either way, the fragrance is delicious and can be enjoyed right in the middle of winter. Daphne odora is often referred to as Winter Daphne or February Daphne, because that's when it usually blooms.

Edgeworthia chrysantha is a deciduous shrub with fragrant spherical bloom clusters in late winter and very early spring. Chinese Paper Bush is also known as Rice Paper Plant, because the bark is used to make rice paper. That's funny--I always thought rice paper was made from rice. Edgeworthia likes growing in rich, well-drained soil with evenly moist soil in a shady spot.

Leatherleaf Mahonia is an evergreen holly-like shrub with prickly leaves and vivid yellow bloom spikes in the middle of winter. Our plants even have a little variegation, which makes it interesting year round. Pollinators love this plant on warm sunny days in January and February, since winter flowers are hard to come by. And in late Spring, dark purple drupes develop and are food for wildlife when other berries are not yet ripe. Gardeners either love this plant or hate it. I like it. 

Today is Arbor Day in Georgia

National Arbor Day is April 24, but Georgia's Arbor Day is the 3rd Friday in February each year, and that is TODAY!

February is a much better time to plant trees here in Georgia and Alabama. Trees planted here in April have trouble transitioning, and often even die, because it gets so hot right afterward. Trees and shrubs planted in winter get a chance to dig their roots in before being forced to suffer Georgia heat and drought. However, I would suggest Arbor Day be moved for us to sometime in the Fall. I like November better for planting shrubs and trees. When planted in November, they have even more time to grow deeper roots. 

Honestly though, it is just too cold out there for me today. Instead, I'll be celebrating Arbor Day tomorrow, February 21, along with the city of Auburn, Alabama. Our forecast for tomorrow is perfect for tree planting--around 60 degrees with some chances of evening rain! And being the "plant collector" (a.k.a. hoarder) that I am, I have a bunch of trees and shrubs set aside already, just waiting on that perfect tree-planting weather.

Tomorrow I'll be planting:
  • Redbud, because I can always use another Redbud.
  • Laceleaf Japanese Maple, because I've wanted one for years!
  • Witch Hazel, because the one I planted in the summer a few years ago died.
  • Camellias, because I can't ever get enough camellias.
  • Edgeworthia, because I've sold it for years and never got around to planting one for myself.
  • Daphne odora with white blooms, because it smells like fresh lemons, and I don't have a white one.
  • Sourwood, for my honeybees. Maybe I'll get some Sourwood Honey!
  • Althea, because I must have every color I can get of this summer-blooming beauty!
  • Chinese Snowball Bush, because the one I planted last Spring did not make it.
  • I actually could go on and on, because I have several more trees and shrubs out there that need to be planted. Many because they've lost their labels, and I can't sell a plant if I don't know what it is!

Think I can get all that done in just one day?

January Gardening Chores for the Deep South

Although we have had some bitter cold weather this Winter and last, we still experience intermittent warm spells during the Winter in Alabama and Georgia. During these warm spells is when I like to get my outdoor chores done.

If you haven't already, clean up the garden before you do anything else. Debris from dead plants allowed to stay on the ground can be a haven for insect pests and mice. Exceptions to this are seed heads you know to be favored by songbirds, such as Black-eyed Susan.

Planting can be done year round in the South, but Fall and Winter are the best planting times for shrubs and trees in areas of the South that suffer brutally hot and dry summers. Planting of azaleas and camellias is best done in the Fall, to give the shrubs time to dig their roots into their new home before having to endure hot days with no rain. You can still plant them now, but you will need to water once a week if it doesn't rain.

Pruning of summer blooming shrubs and trees can be done anytime during the Winter and early Spring. Doing it on a warm day in January will give your garden a neater appearance and free you up for planting early Spring crops when the time comes.

There are actually some vegetable seeds we can sow now. Sugar Snap Peas and Snow peas will germinate in cool soil. If you plant them now, you can enjoy a crisp snack before warm season crops can even be planted.

January is the best time to plant bare root roses. They are available in most local garden centers now, or you can purchase them online.

If you are anything like me, you have some shrubs and trees that you planted in the wrong spot. January is an excellent time for moving those to a better location. 

Anytime is a good time to eliminate invasive privet and Japanese honeysuckle from the garden, but it's easier to do in the Winter. Both privet and Japanese honeysuckle are evergreen, so when growing amongst deciduous plants, they are easy to spot. With all the rain we've had recently, you might have an easier time pulling up small plants, but be ready to clip them off low to the ground if you can't pull them. Then spray the remaining stump with a good strong weedkiller. Wear gloves for this task, and watch out for deciduous vines intermingled with the privet and honeysuckle that could be poison ivy.