Inland Northwest, High Desert
Proper Pruning Technique
Always prune back to the origin of the branch you're cutting off and never leave stubs. There are no healing hormones in the middle of the branch, so the branch cannot isolate the damage and the branch will not heal properly. Instead it will send out a flush of tiny, poorly attached twigs in response to the pruning. Inside the branch the heart of the wood rots away.
Evaluate the Garden
Winter is a good time to walk the garden and yard and evaluate what worked and what didn\'t last year. With the leaves off, it\'s easier to see the forms and shapes of shrubs and trees and decide if you like them. Some pruning might help shape things better to your liking, or you may decide to move or remove plants that just don\'t work where they are.
Water Under the Eaves
It's winter but you still may have to water, especially the ornamental shrubs planted under house eaves. If the weather warms in January and you haven't had a good snow cover, evergreen ornamental shrubs such as rhododendron are especially susceptible to drying out. A deep watering on a warm day will help them survive rest of the winter.
Shredded Christmas tree branches and bark are good mulches to use to protect plantings through winter. A bale of hay or straw also makes a good mulch, but they often come with lots of seeds. These seeds will sprout in the spring making more work as you'll have to weed them out.
Salt on walks is one way to melt the ice. The trouble is salt is hard on plants. Instead of salt, we fill an old nail barrel with a sack of sand and set it on the front porch. We leave a trowel sticking out the top and can quickly spread the sand on icy patches to provide good footing that won't harm our lawn or plants.