In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
January, 2012
Regional Report

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The Mexican marigold provides all of the winter color in Henry's garden.

Winter Gardening -- California Style

I think I like gardening in winter more than any other time of year. Perhaps that's because it's winter now and I just like gardening, but I'm lucky that I don't suffer from the cold as so many people do. I just love to spend time outdoors on those magnificent California winter days when the air is clear and crisp. It's even too cold for snails and slugs to be out, which is a pity because the migrating birds might appreciate some protein in their diets, in addition to ripe pyracantha, cottoneaster and toyon berries, as they make their way south.

Nothing is growing very quickly now except for the weeds. The Mexican marigold (Tagetes lucida) is providing all of the color in the main garden. Mrs. Henry doesn't like the plant because every year it gets way too big and takes over the bed where it lives. However, once the surrounding plants begin to grow, I cut the marigold all the way back to the ground to make room. It doesn't seem to mind the scalping and comes back bigger and more colorful every fall.

Rose Pruning
I have started pruning the many roses in the garden. Henry surprised me and pruned the climbers at the bottom of the stairs, which was a shame because I was working on their structure for the past few years, and now all of my hard work is in the compost pile! The nice thing about poorly pruned roses is that, like a bad haircut, they will always grow back. Some of the hybrid teas and grandifloras are still holding on to their blossoms. I leave those for last because Mrs. Henry loves to take cut flowers to her parishioners.

Perennial Care
Most of the perennials are tucked in for the winter, but a few are starting to emerge for an early spring appearance. The hellebores, among my very favorite winter flowers, are puffing up nicely as are the bleeding heart (Dicentra). Since the slugs and snails are down for the season, the foliage remains unchewed and lovely. I have mulched all the shady side of the garden with a thickish layer of organic compost, in addition to applying a light feeding of cotton seed meal around the drip lines of the sleeping plants.

All of my compost/mulch is applied over the existing layers of mulch. Once spring rolls around I will add a final layer of redwood chips, just for looks. Mrs. Henry likes the finished look of the redwood chips. Personally, I find it expensive and would just as soon use wood chips from the local tree trimming crews, but then I have always liked a bargain. Maybe that's why I like gardening so much -- it's one of the few hobbies where you can get something for nothing.

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