This month’s featured photos were all contributed by Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County as described below:
Witch hazel flower by Annette Osterlund. At a time when so much of the garden world is still fast asleep, spring-blooming witch hazels (Hamamelis vernalis) add sparkle and scent to the landscape. The spindly flowers come in a variety of colors from yellow to orange to red and can appear anytime from January until March.
Pussy Willow Catkins by Margaret Montplaisir. One of the first signs of spring, pussy willow trees (Salix discolor) produce their “catkins” on still leafless stems. The silky, pearl gray buds are said to resemble kitten fur.
Also known as Lenten rose and Christmas rose, hellebores are one of the early spring blooming plants to enjoy and stay green even under snow.. but by late winter last year’s leaves tend to look a bit bedraggled by spring, so cutting older leaves back to the ground will encourage new growth and allow a better view of the flowers
Winter berries by Betty Scarlata. Berry-producing shrubs are one of the best food sources for birds, particularly in the winter when other sources are scarce.
Icy branches by Margaret Montplaisir. Ice storms are very common in our region and can cause branches and limbs to break or even topple whole trees. Pruning trees on a regular basis can reduce a tree’s susceptibility to damage by removing deadwood and structurally weak branches.
Bittersweet berries by Linda Park. Although a somewhat quiet tree most of the year, American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) steals the show when its bold berries offer a rich pop of color at a time when the appearance of most deciduous trees is considerably more muted.
A blanket of white by Betty Scarlata. In addition to transforming the outdoors into a sparkling winter mural, a layer of snow acts as an excellent insulator for the plants in the landscape, offering protection from alternating freeze/thaw cycles. It also adds needed moisture to the soil as it melts.
Doe in the woods by Margaret Montplaisir. Late winter and early spring are when food supplies are most limited for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus.) Snow cover can prevent deer from reaching acorns and other low lying food sources, making tree and shrub damage more likely
Snowy garden path by Joe Scarlata. Once the snow has stopped falling and the walks have all been cleared, winter’s lingering light and long shadows lend an almost magical aura to the garden’s quiet grace.
Cardinal in early snowfall by Margaret Montplaisir. Northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) are not migratory. They remain a common –but brilliant –sight in Mercer County gardens and green spaces throughout the winter.
A swirl of evergreen roping by Betty Scarlatta. Decorating with fresh greenery is one of the oldest winter holiday traditions. Pines, firs and cedars are all good choices for indoor use since they tend to dry out slowly and hold their needles well in heated interiors.
Festively decorated outdoor trees by Joe Scarlata. At Christmastime, many trees and shrubs are decked out with lights, baubles, garland and tinsel. It’s important to remember to handle branches carefully, and not to wrap wiring or decorations too tightly around live plants where they can abrade or damage the bark or the sensitive tissue just beneath the bark. Such injury to trees and shrubs can make plants more vulnerable to pests, fungi and disease.
Snow white amaryllis by Theodora Wang. Potted amaryllis are a welcome sight in the depths of winter. Bulbs grow best when they are kept slightly rootbound. Containers can be either clay or plastic, but drainage holes are a must to prevent the bulb from getting waterlogged.