How to keep your spring flowers in bloom throughout the winter

Meet Mike in Chantilly next weekend!

Mike will appear on Saturday and Sunday, February 22 and 23 at the long-running Capital Remodel & Garden Show at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. Saturday talks will be at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Sunday talks will be at noon and 2 p.m. Mike will talk about tomatoes, organic lawn care, compost — and, of course — answer your toughest garden questions (or evade them)!

See beautiful orchids THIS weekend!

If it’s Presidents Day weekend, it must be time for the National Capital Orchid Society’s annual Show and Sale!

This year’s event will be held at Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, just outside of Annapolis, Maryland. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m Monday. If you have Monday off, there’s no better way to spend it than to be surrounded by beautiful blooming orchids on a winter’s day.

Admission, as always, is free. You’ll see award-winning displays of orchids in bloom and lots of orchids for sale. In addition, the National Capital Orchid Society will present informative workshops all three days, so you’ll finally learn how to keep your orchids alive!

“Winter pruning” in a warm winter

Mark in Woodbridge writes: “I have a row of burning bush around my back yard as a privacy screen. They are approximately eight feet tall. Last winter when they were dormant, I boxed them straight up, and during the Summer they bushed back out at the top.

“Today I went out to box them up again and noticed that the branches are already a vibrant green color. Correct me if I am wrong, but I understood you were supposed to do your pruning in the winter when the plant is dormant, so should I hold off pruning at this point to avoid damaging them?”

Absolutely hold off, Mark. Winter means “winter” as in freezing cold temperatures. Your greened-up hedge is wide-awake and would be severely damage by freezing cold weather following an ill-advised pruning. Wait until early spring, when all risk of frost is gone.

Peonies up in January!

We’re catching up with David in Alexandria, who contacted us last month (sorry Dave, busy time of year)!

He writes (or wrote): “With the warm weather, my peonies have started to poke their little red heads out from the soil. Will they self-correct if and when we actually get a winter? Or will I have a bloom-less spring? Should I be doing something to discourage their early arrival?

“These are ancient heirloom peonies which have been in the ground for over 75 years according to my somewhat more ancient neighbors. They are prolific bloomers and have a wonderful fragrance unlike any of the new varieties. I’d hate to lose them.”

You won’t, David; peonies are tough plants and even if they bloom early, they won’t be harmed by a light frost. If you like, you can slow them down a bit by applying a light mulch (no more than one inch) on the next freezing cold night.

Always apply winter mulch when the ground is frozen. That will keep the soil cool and slow them down a bit.

Good mulches include compost, shredded leaves, pine straw and pine fines. No wood mulch; it does more harm than good.

Winter: welcome to the new normal!

Think you saw a few cherry blossom blooms this past week? You’re not crazy, but the weather certainly is!

Researchers at the USA National Phenology Network have confirmed our warmer winters are confusing the heck out of our blooming spring plants. For those unaware, phenology is the study of the timing of seasonal events in plants.

The researchers confirm plants are undergoing their seasonal changes earlier; just like last year, when the cherry blossom display at the Tidal Basin was diminished by an early bloom followed by a cold snap. The same happened this week, when early blossoms were sighted followed by nights below freezing.

Forget the groundhog; spring will be 20 days early!

Long story short, The National Phenology Network confirms what we already knew: that our warm winters are confusing the heck out of our plants by a startling—and frightening — degree. Their annual ‘Spring Leaf Index’ is showing leaf and bloom activity twenty days early across much of the nation.

What can you do besides buy an electric car? If your Spring bulb beds are mulched, remove the mulch on the next nice day, when it isn’t frozen. Those bulbs are already emerging, so removing their mulch will make their job easier and prevent damage to the flowers.

Don’t worry about freezing nights to come; Tulips, daffs and crocus can handle extreme cold.

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