January in the Garden

January is typically a sopping wet month in the Santa Cruz Mountains; a time of year when I look out on a dank & cheerless garden; a time when our little plot is full of sodden turf, mossy cinder block walls & sand buckets full of rain water.
I look forward to the 3-4 minutes that occur each day at high noon, when there appears a single shaft of sunlight that has spent the morning fighting it's way through the dense redwood branches to light up, briefly, one square foot diameter of our garden. It never stays long. Truly, things are looking a bit forlorn. Forgotten plant tags, brown gladioli stalks & slug-eaten lamb's ear litter the beds like the morning after the Battle of Culloden. Speaking of Scotland, I guess I can't complain much: most days get above 50 degrees at some point, and at least the sun can manage to stay up past 3:45pm. Poor Scottish gardeners...
I spent the last few months slinking past the garden, averting my gaze. I'll blame it on morning sickness, that is so handy.
Two days ago I finally got around to mulching the beds in the main garden-B dutifully shoveled mulch onto a tarp on top of the lawn, right between the beds. Well, it got dark before I could do the job, and then it rained. And rained. This afternoon I got out there to assess the damage, and the lawn under the tarp is a slick mat of decaying plant material. I think I will have to reseed the whole thing later this spring.

A Question for the GQT Panel:
I have two sulky and taciturn flowering quince (chaenomeles japonica) plants that have never bloomed. I love harbingers of spring, and therefore things that flower on bare wood. Flowering quince are usually the first things to throw bloom to sky, in late January or so and I am determined to shake my quince out of their funk this year. And so I stood today before them, trying to decide which course to take. They have been moved around quite a bit, so it could be that they have never settled anywhere long enough to become established. What seems more likely, however, is the fertility. Our soil is ridiculously poor (we joke that it's not sandy loam, but loamy sand), and it seems likely that the plants lack the nutrition to flower. I am a little concerned that applying fertility during the winter will cause a flush of new green growth that could freeze at the next frost. But in the end I decided to fertilize them, with an organic rose & flower fertilizer (Dr. Earth) that has a N-P-K of 5-7-2, which is pretty low over-all, but lowest in nitrogen, which is what builds green growth. Has anyone dealt with this issue before? Any words of wisdom? When should I have fertilized in order to insure those lovely early buds? Bob? Pippa? Anne? Anyone?

Books & Oddments
1. I just finished T.H. White's 'Mistress Masham's Repose', a fun romp through the continuing adventures of Lilliput, set in WW2 England, in the unkempt grounds of a ruined and crumbling palace called Malplaquet. If you can find it, read it! (White also wrote The Sword in the Stone.) File under: juvenile fantasy, England, adventure, English history.
2. I recommend Anne Rice's most recent books, the next in her new series, this one called, 'Christ the Lord: Road to Cana'; also her spiritual biography, 'Called Out of Darkness' is quite good.
3. Stop by the Abbey for the new art show, 'Why We Knit'. I've got a little piece in it, & there are some lovely things from Eleven, Susie & Smalls, whose delightful blog scandihooligan deserves a nice long look......tell her Rosa sent you.

Happy Epiphany!

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Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.