Now is a good time to break your cabin fever | THE COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER

Marianne Binetti shares about two newly-introduced problem-solving shrubs for your garden.

The month of January is a time of dormancy in the garden but on mild days when the ground is not frozen you can lower your cabin fever with a few outdoor chores. If winter has made you snippy and your cutting remarks made indoors have been unwelcome, sharpen those shears and take out your aggressions on some plants. Clip the old leaves from hellebore plants now to better see the emerging blossoms. Hellebores produce fresh new foliage after they bloom so you won’t risk cutting off new foliage growth if you clean up the plants in the dead of winter. Prune trees and winter hardy shrubs if there are branches blocking pathways. Shrub roses, spiraeas, nandinas , and invasive blackberry brambles can be cut almost to ground level.

Winter is also a good time for dreaming and scheming and upgrading your landscape and this time of year means paging through garden magazines, reading blogs and discovering some of the new and improved trees and shrubs to replace the overgrown and under performing plants in your garden. is the website for an online magazine that offers blooming inspiration and some newly-introduced problem-solving shrubs. Two of my favorites for the Northwest are:

Button Bush ‘Sugar Shack’ (Cephalanthus) – so unusual you must see the flowers to believe it.

Here is a native shrub with personality. The blooms are round white orbs that cover the shrub along with glossy green leaves. The blooms have projecting stamens that make each flower resemble a golf ball with antennae. Then the flowers mature into unique, round, red fruit. Growing 3 to 15 feet tall and wide this shrub is the answer to soggy soils and makes a great addition to pond side plantings or as a shrub that will survive near a rain entrapment area.

Button bush ‘Sugar Shack’ is still rather new on the market so you may need to pre order it from your local nursery. Just offer to make a deposit on the order and have them call you when the plant arrives from the grower.

Quince ‘Double Take’ (Chaenomeles)

This is an early flowering, medium sized shrub grown for the show off blooms that look like camellias or small roses. (The quince that bears fruit for eating is a different plant that is sold in a tree form.) What makes this shrub so desirable is that quince is drought and deer resistant while producing big blooms when the rest of the landscape still sleeps a winter slumber.

In my own garden this shrub flowered in poor soil and partial shade and the vivid orange color of ‘Orange Storm’ caught my eye from indoors on a rainy day making me think at first that someone had played a joke and attached tissue paper blooms onto the bare, leafless branches of my new quince plant. The blooms were surprisingly long lived and if a vivid orange seems to bright a color for your garden, ‘Double Take’ quince also comes in pink and red forms.

The Gardening Simplified website also offers new hydrangeas with huge blooms on compact sized shrubs (look for ‘BoBo’ a dwarf paniculata variety) plus hard working evergreens to create screens, early blooming forsythias, drought resistant barberries and even thorn less roses for summer long color.

Winter may be the season of your discontent but let this inspire you to search out better plants. The season of dreaming and scheming is here so let the list making begin.

More in Life

Illustrations by Rob McClurkan
Dr. Universe explains belly buttons

Ask Dr. Universe is a science-education column from Washington State University.

Mother Nature prefers her landscape to be layered

If you’re looking for low maintenance, put down layers of tall-, medium- and low-growing plants.

‘Talk to Me’ draws from real life

The view from above was stunning. The cliché says that people look… Continue reading

Photo by Haley Ausbun
                                The Browne’s treehouse has evolved from child playland to den.
The transformation of a treehouse

The structure went from pirate playground to practical den.

Illustrations by Rob McClurkan
Dr. Universe tells us the smelliest fruit

Ask Dr. Universe is a science-education column from Washington State University.

Winter is time to dream big, get seed packets ready

Dreary winter days can be spent ordering seed packets, providing dreams of new plants in the spring.

A complicated man, a look into ‘The Mule’

Recommendation: 3/5 Stars, STREAM Plot: “A 90-year-old horticulturist and Korean War veteran… Continue reading

Breathe easier in 2019

Kick start your lung health with National Take the Stairs Day, Jan. 9

You’ll want to hang tight when reading ‘The New Iberia Blues’

Your hand is deep in a bucket of crunchy goodness. Without popcorn,… Continue reading

Let’s clear the air: resolve to grow more house plants

Indoor plants will give off oxygen and reduce CO2, effectively cleaning the air your family breaths.

Illustrations by Rob McClurkan
Dr. Universe explains earthquakes

Ask Dr. Universe is a science-education column from Washington State University.

Learn about favorite writers in ‘A Sidecar Named Desire’

The holiday season started with a cup of cheer. Then there was… Continue reading