January is holiday time for many and can be a testing time for gardens, because their owners are away on holidays and / or because it is hot, and often dry and windy. Thorough mulching is essential in this weather to help retain soil moisture.
A reminder if you are going to be away over the summer to group your pot plants in a sheltered shady spot close to the hose to make it easier for your plant sitter. Otherwise, a drip system with a timer can be a good solution.
For indoor plants, put the pots in the bath tub or laundry tub with about 1cm of water, where they should be OK for up to three weeks.
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Hydrangeas are in full flower now and are ideal for cutting for a vase and are the staple of summer floral arrangements. However, Hydrangeas can be a bit tricky as cut flowers, but by taking a few extra steps when you cut them, you can extend their vase life to about 10 days.
Water the plants the night before you pick the flowers. Have a bucket of water handy to put each stem in as soon as you cut them. Cut each stem at a 45-degree angle and down to a leaf node to maintain the form and health of the shrub. Cut the stems slightly longer than you need and remove all or most of the foliage.
Plunging the cut ends of the stems in boiling water for 30 seconds and/or crushing the ends of the woody stems with a hammer, can also help reduce any air bubbles in the stem and extend the life of your arrangement. After 4-6 days, recut the stems at a 45-degree angle with the ends under the water.
The size of the arrangement and the container can also affect the length of time hydrangeas last in a vase-- the shorter the stems, the easier it is for water to make it up the stem to the flower.
High summer, in mid-January, is a great time to ask yourself if you have enough shade in your garden and if not, plan what and where to plant to alleviate that problem.
Even in smaller gardens, small trees or large shrubs can be trained, by early and continued pruning, to grow with a single trunk, thus creating space to sit under them.
Do your research now, select something appropriate and order it at a local nursey for collection as a bare-rooted tree during winter. Not only will it be less expensive, it will also stand a better chance of survival than being planted during the heat of summer.