The gardener's February calendar - 2016

One of the orchid displays from last year's orchid show
at The New York Botanical Garden.
We are having a winter that is very different from last year's. As I write this, we are reaching high temperatures in the 50s this week, when last year we were continually digging out from subsequent snowstorms. I'm not complaining though - as long as the plants don't grow too much and suffer from a late hard frost, I'm usually a happy camper. There are some tasks to do this month to get you in a spring-planting state of mind.

A scene from last year's Connecticut
Flower and Garden Show.
Dream Big
Now's the time when seed catalogs, garden magazines and Pinterest come in handy. I've been saving pictures from magazines and printing images from the web to create my inspiration board. These are the photos of plants or garden scenes I wish to replicate in my garden. I used to keep these images squirreled away, but now I glue them to mattboard (you can use a foam board or poster board, too) and keep it out where I can see it.

This is also prime flower show season - a great excuse to think spring! In past years I have covered the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, Conn. and The New York Botanical Garden's Orchid Show for Frau Zinnie. These shows are often great sources for garden ideas - and a little retail therapy on the side.

Birding
Just like last winter, I've spent a lot of time looking out my window at all the different birds that visit the feeders at this time of year. I want to continue to grow plants that will attract birds to my garden all year long. For example, growing trees like crab apples and bushes like winterberry are attractive to bluebirds in the winter months. Flowers that go to seed, like echinacea, attract goldfinches in the late summer and fall.

It's important to keep an available source of water for the birds as well since may natural sources of water freeze. Even the squirrels come over and drink from the heated birdbath at this time of year.

Seeds
Organize all the seed packets according to planting date. Figure out what your estimated last frost date is. (This website will help.) Then count backward from that week. This is your growing season. So when a packet of seeds says to start them inside eight weeks before the last average frost, for example, count back eight weeks from your last frost date. If you haven't ordered all your seeds yet, now is the time to do so before they sell out. 

You can start seeds of pansies, snapdragons, geraniums, ageratum and petunias now.



Force flowers
Go outside and trim branches of forsythia, witch hazel and pussy willows. Bring them inside and put them in a vase of water. Within a week they will bloom. Instant spirit lifter.
Water sprouts are some of the branches that
can be trimmed off fruit trees in late February.

Fruit trees

Toward the end of this month is a good time to trim pear and apple trees. The general guideline is to wait until the coldest part of the winter has passed before trimming, but before the spring warmup kicks in. Make sure your pruning shears are sharp and clean before you go outside and tackle this project. Still nervous? Here's how I prune my pear tree.

Houseplants
With the snow covering everything, my attention goes back to houseplants, such as African violets or orchids that need repotting. You can fertilize houseplants that show signs of new growth now as well.

Remember: spring is coming. The snow will melt. Onward!

I live in Central Connecticut and garden in Zone 6b.

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