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What does the gardener do in January – Part 1

Even with the unseasonably warm and sunny days we have been having here in the San Francisco Bay Area, while the rest of the country is experiencing another Ice Age, January is an idle month for gardeners – days are too short and cold, it’s too soon to know which of last year’s plantings have survived the winter and which have not. In other words, it’s the perfect time for planning, seed catalog-poring, garden reading and activities not enticing in the warmer months.

Planning: 2013 was my year of acquisition; a year of frenzied mail order buying and furtive planting. Throughout the year, I found myself in possession of boxes of expensive and exotic plants with no suitable place to put them in, and of plants which quickly and surprisingly outgrew their allocated spaces and shaded out surrounding plants. So, this year my focus will be on planning. A key aspect of planning is prioritizing, making the mostly painful decision of what lives on and what goes into compost.

I dedicated a long bed along the wall of my kitchen to an assortment of plants – totally delightful and worthy on their own, but together a chaotic mess. I have a hollyhock that long ago exceeded 8 ft. and starting exploring the interior of our outdoor lamp, a red, fragrant Don Juan rose that is just getting established, a shock of lamb’s ear growing like a weed, jostling for space with some sweet alyssum that returns year after year from self-seeding, a self-propagated and thriving white calla lily or Zantedescia aethiopica, a wine-red Clematis Niobe partnered with a vigorous Mandevilla laxa coaxed into climbing a lanky 4 ft. high trellis from Home Depot, a couple of rich purple ‘Fine Wine’ irises planted in the fall, interspersed with fragrant Erlicheer daffodil bulbs, and finishing up with a perfectly straight row of single tuberose bulbs which bloomed late and were quickly destroyed by the onset of cold weather. I had visions of a white and red (or purple) bed with hints of fragrance here and there (the Don Juan, the sweet alyssum, the Mandevilla and the tuberose).

What’s coming out? The hollyhock, some of the lambs ear and all of the tuberoses. What will I plant in their place? This is prime real estate – let the bids roll in!

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