Garden Planner: January

Bring in the new year with these refreshing tips and new plant suggestions.

A new year, especially one in the midst of a drought, calls for gardening resolutions. Here are three easy-to-keep vows: (1) Conserve water and capture rainfall. (2) Garden with the rhythms of our Mediterranean climate. (3) Strive for sustainability. Then look forward to 12 months of growing and growth. January weather — cool and wet (we hope!) — provides time to shop for bare-root bargains and new plant introductions. As the weather warms and the garden beckons, you’ll dig in refreshed and resolved.

Maid Marion Roses

Austin’s Powers
Among the four 2015 introductions from David Austin English Roses is ‘The Albrighton Rambler,’ only the third climbing rose in the company’s history.  Named after the famed nursery’s base in England, the pale pink-flowered rose bush grows 10 to 12 feet tall, cloaking trellises, walls or pillars all season long with repeat blooms. The old rose fragrance — an Austin hallmark — is light musk. Other reblooming newcomers to Austin’s line of lush shrub roses are the ‘The Lady Gardener,’ deeply fragrant and glowing apricot; ‘Thomas a Becket’ with ruffled, red flowers wafting a hint of lemon; and the pink ‘Maid Marion’ with a fragrance redolent of myrrh and clove. All grow about 3 feet tall. Order them at

Classic CameliaClassic Camellias
Elegant camellias are winter landscape classics here, prized equally for their easy care and drought tolerance once established. Plant them now through March, while they are dormant. Remember that some like shade while others tolerate sun, so check with nursery personnel when making a purchase. Whether growing them in the ground or a container, be sure the root ball is an inch higher than soil level so the crown isn’t covered. Throughout the year, water regularly so plants don’t dry out. Feed with camellia/azalea fertilizer three times a year, starting in March around St. Patrick’s Day. The San Diego Camellia Society’s annual show and sale, Feb. 7-8, in Balboa Park’s Casa del Prado, showcases favorite blooms and provides expert advice. For more information, call 760-942-1919.

Rising Succulents
Add a bit of Seussian whimsy to water-wise gardens with succulents that stand tall in the landscape. Here are five to plant as accents in a mixed border or above a low-growing succulent tapestry. Find all at Waterwise Botanicals ( in Escondido and other specialty nurseries.

Dragon Tree (Dracaena draco) — Ringed, gray-barked trunks on this magnificent Canary Island native support stout arms capped with clusters of sword-shaped leaves. The tree grows slowly to 30 feet. You’ll find magnificent specimens in Balboa Park.
Tree Aloe (formerly A. bainesii) — Often likened to trees in Dr. Seuss books, this branching, tall aloe from South Africa rises to 20 feet or more in height. Leaves are leathery and spiny. Winter flower stalks in pink or orange are nearly 2 feet long. The nonbranching hybrid ‘Goliath’ grows to 12 feet tall.

Euphorbia ingens — Sometimes called the African candelabra tree, this blue-green, columnar succulent branches dramatically as it climbs up to 40 feet tall. As with all in this genus, the milky sap can irritate skin.

Slipper Plant (Pedilanthus bracteatus) — Unusual, rosy red-tinged bracts cap the slender, lime green stems on this upright succulent native to Mexico that forms a vase-shaped clump to
6 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It can handle part shade. The Baja native P. macrocarpus stays around 3 feet tall and bears orange flowers said to resemble birds.

Madagascar Ocotillo (Alluadia procera) — Tall, slender stems lined with tiny, bright green leaves and silvery spines form clumps that bring a cityscape to mind. Though rare, greenish-yellow flowers can turn stem tips into mop-tops in winter. This deciduous plant grows 15 to 25 feet tall.

Park and Walk
Determined to exercise more in 2015? Burn up calories while expanding your horticultural knowledge in free walking tours of Balboa Park. Every Tuesday and Sunday at 1 p.m., park rangers share background on the park’s gardens, history and architecture during moderately paced walks. On Saturdays, popular Offshoot Tours led by volunteers set off at 10 a.m. for hour-long, themed walks: history on the first Saturday, palms on the second, trees on the third, desert vegetation (a favorite among photographers) on the fourth, and “tour del dia” on the occasional fifth. All tours depart from the Visitor Center in the House of Hospitality. Reservations are not required. For more information, visit

Nippy Nights
Newcomers to succulent gardening facing their first winter with these showy plants may not realize that many can be damaged by frosty nights. When temperatures in the low 30s are forecast, treat tender succulents such as aeoniums, kalanchoes, aloes and some agaves like other frost-sensitive plants. Cover them with sheets or other light fabric. Place stakes around larger plants to support a sheet draped over them. Remove all coverings as soon as possible after sunrise and dry them so they can be used again if chill conditions persist. Cold-sensitive succulents in containers often can weather winter in a garage or sheltered location. Check The Sunset Western Garden Book for
the cold hardiness of specific succulents.

Weed ’em Out
Rain jump-starts weeds as well as prized land- scape flora. Identify these pesky plants with the comprehensive Weed Gallery on the University of California, Davis website. Photos of leaf shapes start the ID process. Click on any one for a lineup of likely suspects with photos of seeds, flowers, seedlings and mature plants. T utorials on four weed categories also aid in naming the culprit. Once weeds are identified, there are links
to download notes with tips on how to control and eliminate them. Bookmark this site for easy reference:

Pick a Fruit Tree
Nurseries are jam-packed with bare-root fruit trees this month, ranging from familiar apples, pears and plums to tasty hybrids like pluots, apriums and peacotums. Start by choosing low-chill fruit trees that need 500 or fewer chill hours to produce fruit.
(A chill hour is about one hour below
40 degrees F. at night; plant labels list chill hours required.) Ask nursery personnel for advice if you have doubts about which varieties are best for your microclimate. Next, select the best rootstock. Most of these trees are grafted onto roots designed to keep trees small, enhance disease resistance or tolerate difficult soils. Look for the com-bination that works best for you. Finally, inspect the roots, opting for a healthy supply of unbroken roots in various sizes.

The Spell of It All
Jeff Moore, owner of Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, has penned and self-published his first book, Under the Spell of Succulents. A talented designer who created the Undersea Succulent Garden at San Diego Botanic Garden, he shares his insights about collecting and gardening with these enticing plants. The book is for sale at the nursery
or via its website:

And don’t forget to:
• Glean inspired tips from landscape designer Rebecca Sweet, author of Refresh Your Garden Design With Color, Texture & Form, when she speaks at the Jan. 12 meeting of the San Diego Horticultural Society. Details are at  
• Postpone pruning frost damage on perennials, shrubs and trees until spring, when the freeze danger is past.
• Join or renew your membership in a neighborhood garden club to meet fellow gardeners, enjoy educational programs and improve your gardening skills.
• Learn rose-pruning techniques at the San Diego Rose Society’s free demo at Balboa Park’s Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden on Jan. 3. Details are at
• Select new aloes and other winter-blooming succulents for your garden now when you can see their bold flower shapes and colors.
• Brighten gardens with colorful annuals like pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, stock, primrose and poppies. Plant early in the month for long enjoyment while temperatures are cool.
• Turn off automatic sprinklers when rain is predicted. When using irrigation during winter’s shorter days, reduce run times.
• Dispose of narcissus bulbs forced for holiday bloom, but keep amaryllis bulbs after they flower. They can be transplanted into
the garden.

Categories: Gardening