Northeast Gardener's January Checklist

Perhaps you got some pruners or a fabulous gardening book as a holiday gift and are anxious to start reading, making notes and going to try new plants. Take some time this month to produce a fresh start outside. Here are a couple things to look at placing in your list of backyard resolutions.

Paintbox Garden

Shop plant earnings. Community plant sales are a great way to find bargains while encouraging local organizations such as garden clubs. Find out what’s offered in your town and mark you calendar so you know when to go — be all set for a few good-natured jostling in the start as everybody rushes in! Some of my favourite plants were branches bought at neighborhood sales with their names written on popsicle sticks.

Paintbox Garden

Grow more heirlooms. Old-fashioned plant varieties — such as these, sold by the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia — are most often overlooked but deserve a place in your backyard. By ordering seeds from plant centers such as this one, you also help to support the great work these organizations do to interpret historic sites and preserve plant records.

Go online and check out heirlooms from firms like Harris Seed, Landreth, Johnny’s and the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants.

Paintbox Garden

Go native. If this really is the year to tear an overgrown spirea hedge along a base wall, think about using native plants when you redesign. The beautiful oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia, sets 5 to 9) is among my favorites, with big and lobed leaves which colour well in the autumn, intriguing exfoliating bark and daring flower panicles.

Native plants are widely adaptable and often do well in poor soils or problem areas, and several are significant host plants to insect larvae.

Paintbox Garden

Support local beekeepers. With the honeybee population in decline, it’s more significant than ever to help support local apiary operators.

Bees need a lot of blossoms to produce honey, and wildflowers such as goldenrod, aster and Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) are crucial to sustaining the work of hives. The aptly named bee balm (Monarda spp) is a great perennial for woodland borders, meadows and mixed boundaries that’s offered in a vast array of colors.

You can also buy honey in the farmer’s market and give beeswax candles as winter presents.

Paintbox Garden

Have fun with salvage. Find ways to utilize old storage containers and other containers found in antiques emporiums or crap shops — and mix up the look with bold colours in combinations you haven’t tried before.

Look in your doorway and entry backyard and make an effort this season to have fun using unusual textures and colours in containers such as wagons, wheelbarrows, wine crates and old boots.

TruexCullins Architecture + Interior Design

Get into the library. Local libraries are a great place for browsing through magazines and books. Take along a notebook to jot down ideas or photocopy articles on topics of interest, then go home and find a comfortable chair to pore over everything.

You may also through your bookshelves and pick out backyard books you no longer want or need, then donate them to a library or a used-book shop.

Paintbox Garden

Join the Garden Conservancy. You can tour public and private gardens across the country through the Open Days program of The Garden Conservancy, a nonprofit that supports historic landscapes.

Look in the guidebook (sent to members) to discover properties in the U.S. Northeast or everywhere and go with a notebook and camera to get great ideas.

See related