February is the time to plan and plant

The Daily Ardmoreite
Pat Neasbitt
Master Gardener

February means that spring is just around the corner. There will be warm days when you can get outside and work in your yard, and there are lots of things that can be done this month. Unfortunately, some of the days are warm enough but the wind blows so hard you have to tether yourself to a tree to keep from blowing over.

• Keep food and water out for the birds. Black oil sunflower seeds are the best all-around food for birds, along with suet. If you make the birds happy now, they may stick around and repay you by eating their weight in insect pests all season.

• Don’t use salt to melt ice on driveways and sidewalks, because it will damage grass and plantings. Instead of salt, use new kitty litter or sand.

• Plant bare-root and container grown trees and shrubs in February and March. Local nurseries will be stocking up this month on many beautiful plants that will enhance your landscape. Look for Ok Proven Plants and native Oklahoma plants.

•  DO NOT commit "Crepe Murder"! Research has proven Crepe Myrtles bloom way more if they aren't pruned at all than if they are butchered, hatracked, or otherwise mutilated. Not only does it ruin the looks of beautiful trees, it will eventually kill them.

§ Prune spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia immediately after blooming. You are going for a natural, arching shape, not a geometric or lollipop-shaped object that belongs in Disney World or The Wizard of Oz. The way to maintain the natural beauty is to remove one-third of the older, larger branches down to ground level each year. This will keep the natural, beautiful shape of the shrub with lots of flowers each spring.

• Plant things for winter interest and for the birds. If you’ve looked out your windows lately, and your yard appeared bland and boring, this is a good time to make it more interesting. There are many plants that grow well in our area, provide food and shelter for over-wintering birds, and bring beauty to your winter landscape.Things you want to look for in plants to provide winter interest are colorful berries, attractive or unusual bark, evergreen foliage, or an interesting branching pattern. One of the best plants for winter is Holly. It has year-round beauty, is green in the winter, has beautiful red berries, is good for holiday decorations, and provides food and shelter for the birds. Red twig dogwood is stunning in the winter, especially with snow on the ground. It is a deciduous shrub with branches that are brilliant red all winter.If you cut it back each February, young stems will keep the bright color coming. Ornamental grasses provide beauty and movement in the winter landscape. Many have plumes that last all winter and provide seeds for birds. Cut ornamental grasses down in late February to keep new growth coming each spring. Deciduous hollies such as Winterberry lose their leaves in winter but are covered with brilliant red berries for beauty and the birds. Red chokeberry shrubs are loaded with red berries in winter, and are good for wildlife. River Birch trees, Lacebark Elms, and Crepe Myrtles have beautiful exfoliating bark that provides unusual winter interest. Burning Bush shrubs turn electric red in the fall and have a branch structure that is interesting as well as thick enough to shelter birds. Nandinas turn beautiful colors in the fall and have red berries for the birds. Dwarf Nandinas don’t have berries, but are beautiful all winter. So, when you are shopping for new plants for your landscape this spring, be sure to add some that will bring beauty and interest to your winter garden. Check out OK Proven.org for plants that will do well in our crazy Oklahoma weather without a lot of help. Stay Safe & Happy Gardening!