What to do in your garden in January

Sunset  – December 10, 2004


Aloes. These easy, interesting plants provide winter flowercolor in relatively frost-free areas such as the coast ( Sunset climate zones 22-24), inland (zones 18-21), and thelow desert (zone 13). Smaller cultivars are now available that aremore suited to today’s garden than classic tree aloes. Theseinclude 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-rootdeciduous fruit trees, cane berries, and grapevines, as well asperennial vegetables like artichokes and asparagus. Plant as soonas you get them home.

Bare-root roses. Growing roses in places like Barstow,Lancaster, and Twentynine Palms (zone 11) is challenging. Onlyvarieties tough enough to withstand drying winds and temperatureextremes do well here. Jan Weverka, editor of the online newsletterEroses in the High Desert, recommends the followingvarieties: ‘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 Californianatives, everything from groundcovers to trees. They’ll establishroots before February, historically the wettest month. If you wantsomething already flowering, consider manzanita, wallflower (Erysimum concinnum), or an early-flowering ceanothus like’Snowball’.


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

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

Prune. Most dormant deciduous plants — flowering shrubs andvines, shade trees, and roses — benefit from pruning this month.For plants that flower in early spring, however, wait until afterbloom. Also wait to prune frost-damaged plants until they show newgrowth.

Recycle Christmas trees. If your city or county recycles cuttrees for use as mulch, take advantage of the program. In SanDiego, call 858/694-7000 for details. In the Los Angeles area, visit www.recycletrees.com or call818/215-4070 or 310/240-0284. Or prune off the evergreen boughs and placethem around azaleas, camellias, and other acid-loving plants.


Check for camellia blight. If your camellia blossoms turnbrown and rot in the center, it’s probably due to blight. Pickinfected flowers from plants and discard them, along with fallenflowers and leaves. (Place a shadecloth underneath shrubs tocollect this litter.)

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