Winter in the Garden

January and February offer lots of opportunities to improve your garden for the year.

It is still a great time for planting trees and shrubs. Don’t overlook the chance to add fragrance and winter interest. Edgeworthia has certainly become one of our favorite plants for semi- shade. The silvery buds are quite showy and when they start to bloom the fragrance carries really well.  If you have the space for it, you will certainly enjoy its multi-season interest. We have many other fragrant plants as well.

It’s Lime Time

Now is the time to start putting lime out on your lawn and flowerbeds. In our area, most plants can benefit from an application of dolomitic lime. Although they don’t require it every year, azaleas can really benefit from calcium and magnesium found in dolomitic lime.  If you aren’t sure if you need to apply lime, you might want to get a soil sample from your yard. We carry the forms and bags you will need. Clemson University charges $6.00 per sample.


February is an excellent month for pruning many trees and shrubs. However, be careful not prune your spring flowering shrubs such as azaleas and spiraeas. They are best pruned after blooming. Before you prune Hydrangeas you need to know which kind you have so that you don’t prune off all your blooms.  Hydrangea paniculatas (white blooms in mid summer) bloom on new growth so it is fine to prune them in February. Most other Hydrangeas bloom on old growth so wait until the blooms start to fade and then prune them back.

Here is the best pruning tip I know. Plant the right size plant for your spot. If you want a Crapemyrtle to only reach 10-12 feet, don’t plant a larger grower such as Natchez or Dynamite.  Picking  the right plant for the right spot, greatly reduces the need for pruning. Feel free to come by and ask us about pruning techniques for different plants. Clemson also offers an excellent resource on all matters Crapemyrtle.


February is a great time to start cleaning up the beds and apply lime. You can also divide many perennials such as Shasta Daisies, Lysicmachia, Daylilies and many more. A fresh application of mulch gives a nice clean look while waiting for plants to put in their spring appearance

Got Weeds?

Bring your samples by the store and we will help you find the best product for your lawn. If you are not sure what kind of grass you have please bring a sample of it too

Shuford Says:

Plant it Low, It Won't Grow

Plant it High, It Won't Die

The most important consideration in planting trees and shrubs is the planting depth.

Don't plant too deep!

Plant all trees and shrubs about one inch above the surface of the existing soil.

No dirt should be placed on top of the existing roots and nursery soil so as to not smother the root system.

Mulch well, leaving a two inch gap around the caliper(s) of the plant.

For the most efficient use of water, construct an earthen berm two to three inches high around the drip zone area of the plant after planting.

Water in well after planting!

Osmanthus – A Care Guide

Osmanthus have become so popular that many gardeners want to grow them outside of the zones for where they are comfortable. Many gardeners look on a hardiness zone map and see that many Osmanthus are hardy to zone 7. This may be true, but what “zone 7.” This may sound ridiculous, but Long Island, NY is almost exclusively in zone 7a and 7b. Also the upper part of South Carolina is in zone 7b, the warmer part of zone 7, but many plants that thrive in zone 7 in SC may die in zone 7 on Long Island. Why is this? It is best explained by an experienced gardening friend of mine who puts it like this: “I had much rather jump in and out of a freezer than sit in a refrigerator all day.” In parts of the Deep South which are in zone 7, the daytime high temperature rarely ever stays below freezing. As a matter of fact, we haven’t had a day where the high temperature has been below freezing for years, even in our two coldest winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11. Plants can take a quick dip to a very low temperature, but if it warms up rather quickly, there will be very little if any damage. But if the temperature stays below freezing for an extended period, even if it is not extremely cold, the plant may experience damage or even be killed.

The most cold hardy species of Osmanthus is O. heterophyllus. I have actually heard of this plant doing well in zone 6. But some of it’s variegated cultivars such as ‘Goshiki’ and ‘Variegatus’ might not be as hardy because of less chlorophyll in their leaves. This species and its cultivars flower in the fall, usually mid October for us. The colored flower forms of Osmanthus fragrans (more generally referred to as “Tea Olives”) such as Osmanthus fragrans aurantiacus (Orange flowering) and Osmanthus fragrans thunbergii (yellow flowering) tend to be much more cold hardy than the straight white flowering form, Osmanthus fragrans and its cultivars such as ‘Fudingzhu.’ Osmanthus fortunei is another cold hardy species. This selection is actually a hybrid between O. fragrans and O. heterophyllus and is sometimes rendered Osmanthus x fortunei (this designation is no longer acceptable) and is more cold hardy than O. fragrans but not as hardy as O. heterophyllus. We also grow Osmanthus armatus. This species in growing at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA, and is thriving. Since this species is so little known, I am sure that it is not extensively grown, but since it is growing there, I would think that it might be as cold hardy as O. heterophyllus.

Because many gardeners cannot grow these plants outside in the garden for which they are designed, they choose to grow them in containers and over-winter them indoors. This is very tricky and only an experienced gardener can do this. We have customers wanting replacements because they lost their plants by keeping them inside during the winter. You have 5 days to notify us if a plant has arrived in an unhealthy condition. We have no control after this.

I just received an e-mail from a gardener who lost two Osmanthus which he kept inside during the winter and wanted us to replace them. I looked at our block of 800 plants from which his plants were taken and which had been outside all winter with no protection, and not one of them was dead. They were all lush and thriving. What did he do wrong? There are four major reasons for a plant not surviving indoors, during the winter or summer. Any one of these will lead to a plant’s demise.

1. Too much water seems to be number one.
Unfortunately too much water and too little water give the same symptoms. Too much water and the roots die from lack of oxygen. They cannot then take up water. It doesn’t take much over-watering to kill the roots of a container plant. And yes, the pot needs plenty of holes in the bottom for good drainage, so that any excess water can immediately escape.

2. Too little water
The plant just dries out and the leaves shrivel just like they do when they get too much water.

3. Too much fertilizer.
When growing an outdoor plant indoors during the winter it doesn’t need any fertilizer. The plant is not actively growing, so it doesn’t need to be fertilized. If you have fertilized your plant with a liquid or soluble fertilizer, you need to put it under a faucet in a sink or bathtub and allow the water to slowly trickle on the surface of the soil for 3 or 4 hours and drain out of the bottom of the pot. This will leach the fertilizer out. But fertilizer will also cause the same symptoms as numbers 1 and 2. It dehydrates the roots, they die and then the plant cannot take up water.

4. Lastly, too little light.
These plants are designed to grow in full sun not at the low light one experiences indoors especially during the winter. This light is probably one tenth or less of the light intensity outside. Leaves will drop. And during the winters further north, the days are much shorter than further south. As soon as it is warm enough, the plant needs to be put outside with at least a half day of direct sun. All day full sun would be acceptable.

Potting medium: Some of the manufactured potting soils will compact after a few months and begin to smother a plant’s roots and they might even retain too much water. We use a potting soil that is 90% pine bark with a little sand added as well as lime, superphosphate and minor elements. We then top dress with a slow release fertilizer that will last up to 12 months. One can also use water soluble fertilizer such as Miracle Grow or Peters, but I have found that gardeners tend to over-do these. If a pine bark based potting medium is not available one can amend one of the commercial mixes with plenty of perlite (white granular material) or any other locally available material which a nurseryman would recommend.

If one insists on trying to grow a plant outside of its natural hardiness range, one should site it where it will get as little cold winter winds as possible. The extremely cold temperatures can “freeze-dry” a plant. When a plant remains frozen, its stems cannot transport water upward. The leaves and stems simply dry out or freeze dry. This is how freeze dried coffee is made. Water can go from its solid frozen state to a gaseous state without passing through the liquid state. This freeze drying can damage or actually kill a plant. One help in such situations is to spray your plant with one of the readily available “anti-transpirants” such as Cloud Cover™ or Wilt Pruf™. There are many others on the market. These materials are like a liquid plastic which will coat the plant and prevent excessive moisture loss when frozen. We love to use these to spray a plant when it is being transplanted. They greatly facilitate transplanting larger plants or planting out of season like during warm summer months.

Of course, all plants are different so please come visit us and we would be happy to discuss plant specific pruning techniques.

Copyright © 2006 Nurseries Caroliniana, Inc.