Friday, December 18, 2009

Creeping Through Winter

Now that the thermometer has dipped a few degrees into the realm of real wintertime temperatures, my thoughts have turned to the warmer days ahead. I’m waiting impatiently for my seed catalogs to arrive and wondering how I’ll make it until spring.

I recently wrapped up my holiday gift shopping with the purchase of some lovely heirloom vegetable seed packets from the Hudson Valley Seed Llibrary.

Even if you’re done with your holiday shopping, this site’s still well worth a visit, if only to admire the 16 different “art packs” of vegetable, herb and flower seeds. You can buy them singly ($3.50 each) or as part of a gift basket. The cover of each envelope was designed by a different artist. I must say, they’d make great stocking stuffers.

Some winter pruning assignments I’ve given myself demand attention. The first is a roughly 30-foot long stand of well-established forsythia (variety unknown) which has bloomed quite sparsely for each of the past 14 years. While pruning back the older canes should do the trick, I actually want to cut the whole entanglement back to about three feet high. From what I’ve read, it can take it, and while I’ll sacrifice whatever blooms I’d otherwise get this spring, my preference is to prune in winter rather than immediately after the spring bloom to minimize further encounters with deer ticks.

My second pruning project involves a similar severe cutback of a large burning bush tree with a canopy that's about 15 feet high and 25 feet wide.

Invasive seedlings of the burning bush found elsewhere on the property are usually dug up, but this massive specimen is allowed to stay, given its attractive mounded growth habit and its vivid scarlet fall colors. That being said, my wish is to cut back these branches a good three or four feet, all the way around, so that I can better admire the three sun-choked evergreens behind it.

I was ready to tackle these pruning projects weeks ago, but my online sources tell me I’m better off waiting until late winter to do the job to reduce desiccation of the cut branches. I’m fortunate in that I’ll have a helpmate in this project, a friend and neighbor who dug up trays of pachysandra and a few sedums from my property, with my blessings, last summer. I am not a fan of pachysandra, having seen how well established beds of it continuously creep into my lawn and perennial beds. It’s a constant battle to keep them out of where they don’t belong.

Other than their greedy behavior, pachysandra does offer a few benefits, including nearly maintenance-free growth that grows so thickly that weeds can’t gain a roothold, and an attractive evergreen appearance all year long.

So my work’s cut out for me in late February, but I still have 10 weeks to luxuriate in the winter respite from outdoor chores. Where are my seed catalogs??

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