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Gardening tasks to do after snow and ice

Camellias come in a lovely range of colors and styles and should be selected while in bloom in the winter.
Camellias come in a lovely range of colors and styles and should be selected while in bloom in the winter. Observer file photo

Mid-January is not a time to take on huge projects in the garden. Daylight still comes too early and the unpredictability of the weather can be a hindrance. But the forecast for this weekend is good enough to get some things done outside. Now I don’t want you to rush out for tomato plants, but other things do call for our attention.

The ground got thoroughly soaked by the ice and snow that fell across the Piedmont last weekend. But it is drying out as moisture sinks into the ground. That presents an opportunity to set out plants bought in the fall but left unplanted in the busyness of December.

One reader asked about her newly purchased Lenten rose and whether it should go in the ground or into the garage. It should definitely go into the ground as soon as possible. Lenten roses begin to grow quite early, and they have no future in a garage. It is the same with chrysanthemums bought in pots for the holiday season. They can be cut back and planted outside in a sunny spot.

Besides perennials, some of you may have shrubs in containers that should go into the ground without delay. These might be azaleas, camellias and other broad-leaf evergreens that are the mainstay of Piedmont landscapes. Do not fret that they might feel a chill. This is a particularly fine time to select camellias because you can see what the blooms look like on the ones that bloom in early to mid-winter. The choice is huge and you may have difficulty deciding on which beauty is your favorite.

These shrubs as well as new trees will pay dividends for many years, so don’t think it is too cold to put them in the ground. There, their roots will begin to develop and the plant will be better prepared once it breaks dormancy with growth of the stems and leaves. An application of root-stimulating fertilizer will aid this adjustment by encouraging root growth while the plant is getting started. Finish the task with a layer of mulch such as pine needles to keep the ground from freezing if another deep round of frigid cold arrives.

While the soil is moist, it is a great time to attack things that have gotten out of hand, such as ivy and other woody weeds. Ivy is hard to kill but not so hard to pull up when the ground is damp. The dampness loosens the soil’s hold on the roots which makes it easier to pull up.

Anyone who ever tried to take out ivy in July will understand the difference between then and now.

Ask Nancy

Q. I liked having a poinsettia in the house for the holidays. But it is going now. Is there something else to take its place?

A. Cineraria is a wonderful flowering house plant often seen in garden centers in the winter. It likes a cool location. Small pots of primroses are also showing up and come in a range of very pretty colors. They also like it cool. So does cyclamen, which comes in seasonless colors of pink, red and white and blooms a long time in a cool spot provided you do not overwater the plant.

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