Happy Valentine’s Day.  It is a day to remember that special someone in our lives.  It is also the day to begin work in the garden.  That includes trimming, fertilizing, and mulching.  Plants trimmed after Valentine's will usually not put out new growth until after the last frost, about the first week of March.  Wait until late in the month when the soil begins to warm to plant annuals.  New perennials can be planted as they become available in nurseries.

Plants that can be trimmed now include shrub roses, which can be cut back by about half.  Especially cut out dead wood and stems growing toward the center of the plant.  This allows air circulation within the plant and can prevent diseases.  Wait to trim climbing roses until after their spring bloom, as they bloom on old wood and to trim now will delay flowering. 

Even if they did not freeze down, perennials should be trimmed now to encourage new growth and to keep them in bounds.  These include, firebush, pride of Barbados, plumbago, Mexican firecracker and shrimp.  Cut them back to about 6 inches high. 

Evergreen shrubs can be trimmed as needed to shape.  However do not trim mountain laurel until after it blooms.  As with climbing roses, they bloom on old wood.  Nandina are a special case.  As stems mature, foliage at the lower part of the plant thins out.  Cut about one fourth of the tallest stems down to about 3 to 4 inches from the ground.  New growth will come out and fill in the lower areas. 

Remember not to commit “crepe murder” by topping off the limbs of crepe myrtles!  This causes weak limbs and misshapen plants.  Cut out only limbs necessary to shape.  If plants are getting too large for their location, consider moving or replacing them.  The KWA office has a free list of 50 crepe myrtles based on size, bloom color and disease resistance.

Lawns, shrubs and flowerbeds can be fertilized now to get them ready for spring growth.  Organic fertilizers are best and can be found at most local independently owned nurseries.  Continue application throughout the year at 3 to 4 month intervals. 

Within just a few weeks of the delivery of this newsletter, early spring blooming plants will put on their show.  One I look forward to each year is the burst of white flowers of the Mexican Plum tree.  The most spectacular is the large specimen at the side drive gate at the Steves Homestead at 509 King William Street.  Make a point to see it and perhaps to put one or more in your garden.  It is drought tolerant and a good understory tree for gardens with large mature trees as found in older neighborhoods.  It should do well planted at the outer edge of the canopy of trees such as pecans since both loose their leaves in the winter providing adequate light for the plum’s spring bloom.  The tree bears small fruit with a large seed, and is generally left for the birds squirrels and other wildlife. 

Here is more Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain: A Book of Quotations:  “To be good is to be noble; but to show others how to be good is nobler and no trouble.”

Garden Note:  A garden...a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself.