"This is your last chance to goof off," by the Whistling Gardener

It was a beautiful day to pot up some roses. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.
It was a beautiful day to pot up some roses. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

Like last week, I am giving you permission to lay low and take it easy for the rest of this month, but watch out! Based on what is happening in my garden, I am going to predict that we will have an early spring.

The snow drops growing under my Winter Hazel have been blooming for three weeks now and my beloved Winter Daphne is just about to break bud - both of these being two weeks ahead of schedule.

The mild winter is causing a lot of plants to wake up early and we just might need to be ready to do the same thing.

Next week, I will get back to my monthly “To Do List” and I can tell you right now that the two high priority items will be weeding and pruning. Between now and next week, look up “shot weed” and see what you can learn about this pernicious winter weed that is both problematic to control but also very tasty. It is also known as Bitter Cress.

As for pruning, very few things will escape my secateurs in February. Roses, fruit trees, various shrubs, and perennials will all need to be whipped into shape before they start growing again. So in the meantime, get your pruning equipment out of the shed and oil and sharpen them so you will be ready to hit it hard.

Just so you aren’t totally depressed with all the work that needs to be done in February, I want to remind you that we will get a break the second week with the world famous Northwest Flower and Garden Show (the 7th through the 11th), held at the Washington State Convention Center.

Starting in 1989 with the first show, I am proud to say that I have attended every single one, either as an exhibitor, speaker, or simply a spectator. It’s a great opportunity to get the gardening juices flowing, so plan on attending. And by the way, I will be speaking on Banishing Boring Yards Saturday evening at 7pm. Feel free to come and heckle me; I always do better with a spunky audience.

While January is normally a pretty drab month, there are a few bright spots that can lift our spirits. Early blooming bulbs, like snow drops and winter aconites, have popped up (if you don’t have them in your garden you can sometimes find them at the garden center in pots, but your best bet is to buy them in the fall) and Witch Hazels and Daphne are coming into bloom. Both of these shrubs sport fragrance, but Daphne is the winner hands down when it comes to stimulating the olfactory nerves.

And speaking of fragrance, there is a new guy on the block that just about knocked me off my feet the other day as I walked past it in the nursery. It is called Edgeworthia chrysantha or Paper Bush and it is native to the Himalayas. It sports fragrant gold flowers in February (although it is coming into full bloom in the nursery) and big lush green leaves. Growing 4’-5’ x 4-5’, it is best planted in morning sun, but can grow in full sun or shade. For the most part, it is reliably hardy for our region unless we get one of those nasty Arctic Blasts. Head down to your favorite garden center and let your nose lead the way. You won’t be disappointed.

Sunnyside will be hosting two free classes, “Bountiful Berries,” Saturday, February 3, 2018, at 10:00 am and Sunday February 4th, at 11:00 am.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at

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