Column – The Garden Girl – Not a Typical Claycord Winter

December 29, 2013 14:49 pm · 9 comments


So far our Claycord winter has been anything but typical. The past two weeks of warm sunny days have thrown many of our deciduous, flowering shrubs and evergreen perennials into a tailspin. They just don’t know how to behave. The weather is confusing for both our plants and us. How are we, the gardeners supposed to care for our plants? What should we do or not do?

While surveying the nursery I have spotted new leaves emerging on several shrubs that should be at rest. This could be a problem. Growth activity like we are seeing now is usually seen in the earliest days of March, not before the New Year. Deciduous shrubs and trees need their winter’s sleep. What do we need to do? At this point, I’m not going to do any thing. I will not fertilize these confused shrubs, and I will absolutely not cut one branch. I’ll just ignore what is happening and hope for some real winter weather to arrive.

January is the time to tackle a handful of garden-landscape chores. Those of you that grow fruit trees such as peaches, nectarines and apricots have some spraying to do. Apply copper fungicides now. Copper fungicides have been used for many years to control various diseases including peach-leaf curl. Controlling peach-leaf curl takes a series of copper fungicide applications. You’ll apply now, next month and again right before your flower buds open. If the weather stays this warm, and you see flower buds swelling, you might not get three sprays in. Please follow all package directions, including safety precautions.

There has been lots of talk in the garden world concerning beneficial microbes. The idea is that we should try to cure disease within our plants from the inside. Products have been hitting the shelves the past couple of years. The use of beneficial microbes is becoming more popular. We see it sold alone in envelopes, or built into premium soil conditioners and potting soils. If you would like to give beneficial microbes a chance look at your local garden center for Actinovate.

Actinovate is a concentrated powder that can be used now as a soil drench around the drip line of deciduous shrubs and trees or as a foliar spay once the problematic shrub or tree is in leaf. It is also useful, and recommended for vegetable gardening.

Blue hydrangeas should have another application of Aluminum Sulfate now.

If you are looking for winter flower color in your garden consider planting Hellebores. These cold hardy, water-wise evergreen perennials are beginning to show their buds. Hellebores are often called Christmas Rose, or Lenten Rose. White, cream, yellow, rose, wines, single or double blooms. Hellebores are fabulous. They thrive in a shady Claycord garden.

Happy Gardening.

Nicole Hackett is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio and Gardens, located at 6780 Marsh Creek Road in Clayton, 925-672-0207.

Nicole writes for the Clayton Pioneer Newspaper, and She is also the Clayton Valley Garden Club 2012 President.


1 Is the picture of Hellebores? December 29, 2013 at 5:36 PM

Is the picture of Hellebores?

Also, I tried clicking on the “garden girl” columns link so that I could find an older article regarding your suggestions for fertilizing citrus trees but the link only takes you to the last two articles. How can see see older articles?

2 Antler December 29, 2013 at 7:11 PM

Silly paperwhites started blooming yesterday. But our beautiful 30-year-old clumps of “Lilies of the Nile” are badly frost damaged for the first time EVER. They look like giant mushroom Icees cones. Will hope that come true spring, I will see tiny new green leaves spiking from the base…..then will pull off the wilted glob part and hope for the best.

3 Nicmo December 29, 2013 at 8:52 PM

Thanks Nicole, I was wondering when to apply the Actinovate to control white powdery mildew on Crepe Myrtle and leaf curl on Red Tip Photinia

4 Silva December 30, 2013 at 8:40 AM

Antler; that’s amazing! And I have masses of agapanthus which I planted as a single ring around a tree around 40 years ago. I now face reducing their huge numbers somehow. It’s a chore I don’t look forward to. They were untouched by the freezing weather!

Ah, so I can use this Actinovate on powdery mildew instead of my milk/soap/baking soda mixture? Will there be much improvement?

5 jtkatec December 30, 2013 at 9:12 AM

So Silvia, will you posting when you dig them up and give us all a shot of taking them away for you?

Antler, my paperwhites are way sillier than yours. Mine started coming up and blooming last month. Must be dolts.

6 itsme December 30, 2013 at 9:15 AM

My cymbidiem orchids are blooming…..crazy! One has an actual flower in the process of fully opening and I have several stocks on my other ones. Now these don’t normally bloom until March right?

7 Silva December 30, 2013 at 10:04 AM


8 Antler December 30, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Silva, I have never divided the clumps in all that time. Know you’re “supposed to”; but there was plenty of room for them and they continued to bloom profusely, so I just stayed with the “let’um run wild and live free” gardening plan. In December 1989 here, we had almost two weeks during which the temperature did not go above freezing even in the daytime. True, there was plenty of rain prior to that….but we have a sprinkler system, so I am at a loss trying to figure this out.

Jtkatec, the strange thing here is that only ONE of them is blooming. It looks forlorn. I’m not able to bring that particular variety indoors because the scent is just too much for me. Here’s your Silly Plant Award! ;-)

9 Silva December 30, 2013 at 11:18 AM

Antler, I remember December of ’89 well! We had to cancell our son’s birthday party at Children’s Fairyland due to their pipes freezing! I bet they’ll be okay in the end though. I must say, upon second look mine do show more damage now.

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