Use These Strategies and Resources for a Fantastic Garden Year After Year

Books to Read, Things to Do, and LOTS to Look Up and Learn About!

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grey twigs of a magnolia tree covered with snow Our first item is brought to you by the department of obvious department. January makes an ideal time to assess the need for Read more

The Best Resource for January Garden Tips

a snow-covered scene painted in Hungary with open countryside, low hills, and trees in the distance, all under a fresh blue sky; the artist is József Rippl-Rónai (1861–1927)
Winter, also known as Hills in Somogy, Undated
József Rippl-Rónai (1861–1927)

In the past I’ve mentioned the potential value of discarded holiday greens and–if you’re snow-free–to look out for discarded or unwanted mums. There’s always more and more . . . and more timely seasonal advice to say, so that’s why I wanted to let you know there’s a resource that covers it all. Read more

A Damn Good Guide to Growing Magnificent Rhododendrons Through the Year

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A young plant of Rhododendron 'Maruschka', showing the black leaves it has all winter.
Some varieties, such as this young plant of Rhododendron ‘Maruschka’, have black leaves all winter.

“Things reveal themselves passing away.” Although this quote is often attributed to William Yeats, I couldn’t trace it to him. Whenever a plant dies on you, however, there has to be a reason, and this group of plants is notorious for not being durable and adaptable.

The primary reason rhododendrons die on people splits into two related factors: unsuitable soil and inadequate drainage. Keep in mind that in the wild, rhododendrons grow on the sides of mountains and the banks of streams. People who fail often plant them on flat ground. Try a slope, and remember they need loose, fluffy soil like you find under trees in the woods. Since the roots are shallow, mulch lightly if you do.

Second point: If a plant lives but doesn’t flourish, try moving it to a sunnier spot.

January: Appreciate varieties that have black winter leaves, such as ‘Black Satin’, ‘Ginny Gee’, PJM types, and ‘Maruschka’. Take advantage of warm beverages needed on cold mornings: Collect coffee grounds to distribute around plants once winter ends. Coffee grounds are good as a source of nitrogen that isn’t too strong, but note that they don’t make the soil more acidic. Pay your American Rhododendron Society membership dues or join a chapter. Browse nursery web sites and catalogs for inspiration. Read more