The skiing was wonderful. My granddaughters and I had three great days on the slopes; two at Silver Star, their usual mountain and a day at a new place at Revelskoke. Now that’s not a place for wimps. Apparently the scenery is wonderful but it was snowing hard enough to really limit my visibility.

Here it is the middle of January and this gardener is ready to return to his passion. My wonderful wander through the garden takes place in seed catalogues just now and how wonderful that is. Amazing new things, no weeds, and I can do it all from my couch. Sometimes I bemoan the fact that my children are scattered all over the globe but sometimes it comes in handy. I have found a couple of very interesting new vegetables in a British seed catalogue. I ordered them and can get them delivered to my son who lives there and then he will add the postage and send them on to Canada. Perfectly legal by the way. It would be lot better if he got on a plane and came for a visit but he is the proud father of my 2.5 month old granddaughter, so that’s not going to happen. If those varieties do well here, I will make sure you know about them and I will point out to the seed merchants that they should list them in their N. American editions. My British readers can check out Thompson and Morgan’s new variety section.

. Before I get serious about ordering too many new seeds, I have one big job to undertake. Open up the seed storage box and sort it out with the amazing assistance of the newest Junior Gardener . Throw out any seeds that have a date stamp of 2008 or older and then sort out the 2009 seeds to see what I have that will still be good this year. No sense spending $2.95 or more on a new packet of seeds when I still have sufficient viable seed from last year. I’m always amazed at how those little black or brown, dried specks of stuff can sit around, (under the right conditions of course,)for a couple of years and then find a bit of water and burst forth into new green life. That’s the kind of miracles that keep me gardening year after year.

The Bonfire begonias are thriving under the lights in the basement and are slowly becoming a jungle. I have to sharpen my knife and get down there and cut them back and root some more cuttings from them. Their fleshy stems bruise very easily and the very sharp knife avoids that and makes sure the cuttings don’t rot from some bruised tissue. The geraniums are also ready to have the next batch of cuttings taken.

The overwintering Hibiscus tree is still flowering regularly but it seems to be incredibly thirsty this year. It’s taking several litres of water more then once a week. It seems to reach out and tap me on the shoulder whenever I walk by, to remind me that it would like a drink. The Cymbidium Orchids are a disappointment this year. I had to keep them in the shade for a big portion of the summer because their usual place in the sun was under construction. Six big pots and only one appears to be throwing a flower stalk. At least it appears to be big and fat with the promise of lots of flower buds.

As the sunlight increases daily I have to keep a close eye on the thirsty Hibiscus because I know that at some point the nasty spider mites and whiteflies that came in with it, in the autumn, will suddenly, magically reappear and rapidly multiply. I have the sprayer filled with insecticidal soap, ready to attack at the first sign of their resurrection.

I am eagerly awaiting one new treat this year. I have always had a Delphinium or two in the garden and have admired their tall stately flower spikes. A little research has led me to a source of hybrid Delphinium seeds that are supposed to produce amazing colours on very sturdy stems. Luckily seeds can be moved around the world very easily and three little packages arrived from New Zealand the other day and are resting in my refrigerator waiting for me to provide the water and warmth that will begin the bursting forth of their, hopefully, amazing potential. Now if I can just figure out where they might fit in the garden. Luckily they occupy very little horizontal space compared to their amazing vertical display.

My newsletter subscribers get to ask me questions. Just ‘reply’ to the email newsletter. It is always interesting to read the questions; mostly to see if I actually can answer them or if I have to wade into the textbooks to research the answers. If that happens then we all learn something.

Barb asks? My questions is, when is the best time to trim boxwoods? I don't want them to get big, maybe only a bit taller than they are now, about 2 to 3 feet tall. The are acting as a back drop to a garden. Can they be cut back hard or just a light trim?

Ken Answers! Boxwood is a fairly versatile hedging plant and could pruned at most anytime. Yours have not reached their desired height yet but you should still prune them. If you cut back the small plants then they will grow thicker and bushier towards the desired height. I would prune them back fairly hard anytime between now and before they start to grow in the spring. That way they will break out from dormant side buds in the spring giving you the thicker plant you desire. When they are at your desired height I would prune them more lightly, once or twice in the summer after their initial growth spurts.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON