So. California

What to do in your garden in January

PLANTING

Aloes. These easy, interesting plants provide winter flower color in relatively frost-free areas such as the coast ( Sunset climate zones 22-24), inland (zones 18-21), and the low desert (zone 13). Smaller cultivars are now available that are more suited to today's garden than classic tree aloes. These include Aloe 'David Verity' (to 3 1/2 feet tall) and A. 'Rookappie' (to 2 1/2 feet tall).

Bare-root edibles. Nurseries are filled with bare-root deciduous fruit trees, cane berries, and grapevines, as well as perennial vegetables like artichokes and asparagus. Plant as soon as you get them home.

Bare-root roses. Growing roses in places like Barstow, Lancaster, and Twentynine Palms (zone 11) is challenging. Only varieties tough enough to withstand drying winds and temperature extremes do well here. Jan Weverka, editor of the online newsletter Eroses in the High Desert, recommends the following varieties: 'Honor' and 'Pascali' (white); 'First Prize' and 'Secret' (pink); 'Just Joey' and 'Sunset Celebration' (apricot); 'Chrysler Imperial' and 'Olympiad' (red); 'Moon Shadow' (lavender); and 'St. Patrick' (yellow).

Natives. January is an excellent time to plant California natives, everything from groundcovers to trees. They'll establish roots before February, historically the wettest month. If you want something already flowering, consider manzanita, wallflower (Erysimum concinnum), or an early-flowering ceanothus like 'Snowball'.

MAINTENANCE

De-ice birdbaths. Birds need drinking and bathing water, even in winter. If your birdbath freezes over, pour hot water into it to break up the ice.

Groom perennials. Cut back aster, balloon flower, gayfeather, helenium, Japanese anemone, matilija poppy, Mexican evening primrose, Mexican tarragon, true geranium, verbena, veronica, and zauschneria almost to the ground or just above bottom growth.

Prune. Most dormant deciduous plants -- flowering shrubs and vines, shade trees, and roses -- benefit from pruning this month. For plants that flower in early spring, however, wait until after bloom. Also wait to prune frost-damaged plants until they show new growth.

Recycle Christmas trees. If your city or county recycles cut trees for use as mulch, take advantage of the program. In San Diego, call 858/694-7000 for details. In the Los Angeles area, visit www.recycletrees.com or call 818/215-4070 or 310/240-0284. Or prune off the evergreen boughs and place them around azaleas, camellias, and other acid-loving plants.

PEST AND WEED CONTROL

Check for camellia blight. If your camellia blossoms turn brown and rot in the center, it's probably due to blight. Pick infected flowers from plants and discard them, along with fallen flowers and leaves. (Place a shadecloth underneath shrubs to collect this litter.)

Manage weeds. To minimize winter weed germination, replenish mulch in existing flower and vegetable beds and around shrubs and trees. Where earth is bare, pull or carefully hoe out weeds.