Virginia Landmarks
December 2, 1998
Fairlington Historic District
Gardening By The Yard
National Register
March 29, 1999
Historic Designation Seal Homes in Historic Fairlington background image - American Flag Homes in Historic Fairlington Historic Designation Seal

Photo by Guy L. Adams
Gardening by the Yard
By Tom Corbin
A Fairlington Gardener

Questions and comments can be directed to - please reference:
"Gardening By the Yard Column."

February - Early March Gardening

The unusually warm and long-lasting "January Thaw" has made gardeners eager to get outside to prepare for spring. The best advice is to hold off! Most of us who have lived in this area long enough know that many times mother nature pushes the envelope for spring only to reseal it dramatically with a severe cold spell and yes, snow in February and even March.

And remember, poet T.S. Eliot reminded us that April is the cruelest month. We are not out of the winter woods yet, and the best advice is to be patient and wait for the "real" spring.

Experience teaches that spring and her accompanying steady temperatures do not really settle in here until after Easter Sunday, which, in the natural cycle (not calendar date) is always at the same time - the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (March 21).

And do not be misled by the early appearance of any summer annuals at the local market. Summer annuals require steady night temperatures of 50 degrees.

It May Feel Like Spring - But Wait!

The very early flowering plants and shrubs are making headway and may get zapped! You have probably seen winter jasmine (a trailing shrub with yellow flowers similar to forsythia), japonica, helleborus, snowdrops, crocus, and glory of the snow about to flower, and pansies are in full flower.

The jasmine and japonica flowers will be blackened by severe cold, but not all the flower buds open at the same time, so some buds will flower later.


Helleborus will "take a hit" and "go limp" but will revive with warming temps; the same goes for the other early flowering plants. Snowdrops and glory of the snow (chionodoxa sardensis) (both bulbs) can easily withstand a cold snap. (I have bleeding heart showing growth; this is not good as this plant is easily damaged by freezing temperatures. It is also not a good sign in terms of how far along the unseasonable temperatures have brought plants.)

Daffodils are showing much growth. Fortunately the flower buds are still concealed in the plants and will not be hurt by any cold spell unless the well developed buds and/ or flowers are subjected to severe temperature drops.

Do not mulch the foliage thinking you are protecting it. It is best to "let nature take her course." And never cover with plastic bags!

To Trim or Not to Trim???

Trim off the old, leathery leaves of helleborus, so the flowering stems can be seen amidst the new leaf growth. Dead head (remove the spent flowers) pansies and trim off any winter kill as the weather allows. Pansies, planted in the fall, benefit from a light dressing of fertilizer now if the ground is not too wet to work. Cold weather makes the pansy put its energy in the roots and the plants revive well with warming temperatures. It is important to keep your pansy plants deadheaded and trimmed for continuous bloom.

Hydrangeas might be damaged by this recent warm spell as some of the buds are showing green. Do not do any pruning to hydrangeas until the plants leaf out and the temperatures settle; only then remove any dead wood.

A General Rule on Pruning

The general rule of thumb for pruning flowering shrubs is (1) prune any shrub which blooms before May 15 AFTER it flowers (azaleas fall into this category); and (2) prune summer flowering shrubs (flowering after May 15) in early spring. Early flowering shrubs bloom on last year's growth, and summer flowering shrubs (hydrangeas are an exception) bloom on new growth. The butterfly bush (buddleia) is a good example of a shrub blooming on new growth and as such needs to be severely pruned in the spring to encourage strong growth and summer flowers.

Keep up with the tidying chores as a clean garden is a happy and pest-free garden!

Winter Gardening Check List
Click Here

For Your Interest FYI - Gardening Educational Events
FYI - Some New Plants for 2006

  • Echinacea (coneflower) 'Sunrise' (yellow) and 'Sunset' (orange) - perennial

  • Echinacea (coneflower) 'Fancy Frills' (white, fragrant) - perennial

  • Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lady in Red' apple blossom white lace cap blooms on red stems and leaf veins; blooms fade to pink - summer flowering shrub

  • Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lemon Daddy' - yellow foliage with pink or blue flowers - summer flowering shrub

  • Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer' - blooms of new and old growth for six months if deadheaded

  • Buddleia 'Bicolor' (butterfly bush) yellow and lavender on the same bloom stalk! Summer flowering shrub

  • FYI- Recommended Catalogues (as plant guides)
    FYI - Gardening Magazine

    The English Garden, Editor Janine Wookey, Website:

    Late Summer Photos of Tom's Garden
    Click Here for Photo Gallery
    Posted August 26, 2005

    Late Spring Photos of Tom's Garden
    34th Street
    (New Images & Plant Descriptions
    Posted May 23, 2005)

    Click Here for Slide Show

    (Compare with Three Weeks Ago!!)

    Fairlington Historic District Links

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