FEBRUARY IS A MONTH I eagerly await as far as getting back into the yard. I have to admit I’ve been pretty lax in my yard since around Christmas. I’ve had a couple light pruning and cleanup days out there. My cannas around the pond and a few other places in the yard were in full bloom on Christmas. The cannas, swamp sunflowers, ornamental grasses and the old buds on my knockout roses and limelight hydrangeas all got cleaned up one of the days since the heavy frost finally browned those up.
This year I left my evergreen wisteria mostly covering Mimi’s pergola the kids and I built for her Mother’s Day present six years ago. Some years I prune it all the way back to its gorgeous, woody, twisted vines. All year we prune off all the smaller growth that shoot off in every direction searching for something to wrap itself around. The vines we allowed to snake up each of the 12 foot 8”x8” posts, now as big around as my wrist, are spectacular. I stole that idea from a customer’s yard at the Jackson Country Club. I saw a much older version of it at Biltmore Estate garden when we visited there in the dead of winter. This year I pruned it back to the shape of the pergola giving it a nice, neat appearance. I wanted to leave it this year because it has created a place to sit in some heavy shade.
Mimi reciprocated our gift to her by gifting me with two egg shaped wicker hanging chairs that she and I love to spend the last minutes of daylight during the spring and summer. It’s a great place to chat and it lends us a view of our house and yard that we rarely see. Years ago I added one Rose of Montana vine to the bottom of one of the posts. Better known as coral vine, this perennial vine faithfully shoots up from the ground every year and rapidly gets itself tangled up with the evergreen wisteria.
I never really notice it until it starts blooming around September. The blooms are bright pink and seem to hold on until around Thanksgiving. I mix vines with different bloom dates in other places in my yard. It allows me to play around with annual vines that give huge color shows on top of woody vines that have bloom cycles that end earlier in the spring.
The reason I went through the yard cleaning up these plants was really to make way for the big pruning that comes this week. Roses can be pruned back hard in February. It can make a lasting difference in the way the roses will perform this spring and will dictate the subsequent prunings to come. Roses like to be pruned after every flush of blooms is finished. It keeps the foliage clean and neat looking, resulting in more blooms about 45 days after each pruning and it helps to control powdery mildew and other funguses that come along with our humidity in Mississippi.
At each pruning I will dose the roses up with an organic fertilizer called Rose -Tone from a company called Espoma. The slow release fertilizer helps restore the energy it will take to kick back into bloom and for the vegetative growth that comes from pruning.
This is the month to prune the ornamental grasses back. I like to do it this month because it’s about as dormant as it’s going to get and that window is pretty short. If you wait too long to prune the grass begins to push shoots out into the mass of brown blades. When you prune the green blades it causes those blades to wind up squared off, just like someone pruned off the tips and you won’t get that gorgeous weeping growth habit that they are known for.
We will have sporadic rains while the temperatures fluctuate and that will give us an opportunity to see where some of our drainage issues come from. Some of the issues come from our own property and some will be coming from neighbors’ yards who are trying to get water away from their yards. Once you have identified from where the water comes and to where it winds up you might see that it is a problem you can reroute on you own or you might need to call a professional so they can come to your place and help you protect one of you biggest investments. Drainage issues are really not something to take lightly whether you garden or not.
When our clay soil, which most likely runs right under most of our houses, doesn’t get a chance to dry out it can mean big money out of your pocket. The cost to prevent that is way less and gives you and the next buyer of your house a peace of mind that it’s been handled as well as possible.
GROUNDHOG DAY AND its 35% accuracy is behind us now. The weather we are going to get dished this year is coming no matter what a 135 year old groundhog has to say about it. Valentine’s Day is next. I always get a chuckle when I think of Valentine’s Day. When we were kids valentines was a hectic week around our house. My parents had a florist then. Valentines and Mother’s Day are very important days to the floral industry. I can remember my dad trying to lay out the routes for the guys who would be driving the arrangements all over Jackson. He would hire extra drivers, he hired taxi drivers since they knew their way around and he would hire veterans who had driver’s licenses and anyone else standing around.
My brother and I would help by riding shotgun and being the ones to walk the arrangements up to the doors. It was always fun to see the reactions on the ladies’ faces when they opened the door and saw that someone remembered them and showed how much they loved and cared for her. What job could be more fun than handing out gifts that always made people feel better?
By us taking that part of the job off of the backs of the drivers we were giving them a chance to regroup and check the next address and match it to one of the 30 or so deliveries we had yet to go. Before I got back in the delivery van I would ask them the name of the next delivery and find that one to hold in my lap while we careened towards it. That would give me some time to straighten up anything on the arrangement that had become disheveled or broken. I would make sure every petal was in place and the bows and ribbons were perfect. Anything for a pinch on the cheek or maybe even a tip.
I can remember one February my father was running late on his deadline to have his radio ad ready for the Valentine’s week. I sat in his office while he recorded the ad over the old kind of recorder; you know the one, the kind you hold down the two buttons. I think one said “record” and one said “play.” I actually found that old thing while cleaning up my office (which was his office before) the other day and it still works.
Not only was he running late on the deadline but the rush had already started amongst all the other fires he was poking. He had to wing it. He tried a couple out on me and got the main part flowing pretty good and then his angle began to be about how us young guys didn’t have enough sense to send our mothers and our girlfriends flowers on time. I was watching him warily, wondering if he was going to cross that line and say too much when he went ahead and said it. I am quoting “you dummies better call us today for your flowers or you ain’t going to have girlfriends come February 15th!” I laughed so hard that you can actually hear it on the recording.
I looked at him when he finished and turned the recorder off thinking he would have a do-over but that’s not what happened. He said “lets go! We are late!” We ran the tape down to the radio station and that was that. Most of my friends heard the ad and it has become one of our favorite “Billy Martinson” classic tales. I’m sure most old time Jackson folks heard it and may remember that.
So I guess this apple didn’t fall from that tree. I’m going to say this for your own good. Don’t forget that Valentines is coming up on Monday and you dummies who remember your mothers and your girlfriends are going to be way better off than you dummies who don’t! Fair warning. He may have been way ahead of his time with his advertising antics because now that just sounds like any ole Geico commercial or some social media ad that plays on your emotions to get you to do something.