GARDEN FANATIC: A New Year for gardening

“An optimist stays up to see the New Year in. A pessimist waits to make sure the old one leaves." "” Bill Vaughan


I wish the final week of the holidays had been a bit more leisurely. There just wasn’t enough left of me to complete everything after the season’s obligations. I even had to give Catharine an I.O.U. of what I wanted to give her for Christmas. At least our lights shone brightly at home!

The recent strong winds that covered our patio with leaves have become symbolic. It is another annual sign that I need to get back to the garden more often in 2008; to loiter and unwind and defrost not only from the demands of the holidays, but any time I require a mood adjustment.


Besides, raking is good for one’s abs!

Your questions for the Plant Man, for the upcoming, first month of the year included:

Q: What is the most important garden job this month?

A: January is the month for pruning. Gardeners can encourage any type of plant growth desired. Early-flowering shrubs and trees (like Catharine apple) may be pruned after they have flowered.


Q: My roses have been so beautiful this past year. But now, they are losing leaves. Is it too early to prune for the winter?

A: Rain, insects and cold winds have stripped many rose leaves. If you have the time, it would be OK to prune your roses now.

Q: Deer ate my new hibiscus in Top of the World. What can I plant?

A: The lack of rain this past year has left deer hungry. They’ll eat almost any type of foliage. The following plants are similar to hibiscus in form, and are not normally browsed upon: Arbutus “Oktoberfest" (strawberry tree), Hakea suaveolens (sweet hakea), Heteromeles arbutifolia (toyon), Prunus caroliniana (Carolina cherry), and Nerium oleander (oleander).

Q: My tuberous begonias are going down now. What do I do with them in Laguna Canyon?

A: When the stems have fallen off, remove the tuber and shake off the soil. Dry them for a few days, place tubers in a paper bag and store in a cool, dry place. You can set the begonias out again in early spring.

Q: Dear Plant Man, my azalea plant was in blossom when I bought it about two weeks ago, but most of the flowers have turned brown and many leaves are dropping. What can I do?

A: Azaleas have a difficult time growing indoors. Rapid leaf drop is an indication of too much heat (perhaps it’s next to a heater), lack of water or possibly the plant is sitting in saucer water. Plant it outdoors soon.


Q: Do hydrangeas bloom on old or new wood?

A: The common hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) flowers on canes formed the preceding year and should be pruned after flowering or not at all.

Q: Can I grow chives from seeds?

A: Yes. They can be sown now, but I think buying a plant is much easier.

Gardening allows for personal expression and shelter from the vagaries of life year-around.

Let’s all resolve to enjoy our gardens more often this year... and joyously create personal space for the entire year. See you next year.

STEVE KAWARATANI is happily married to writer Catharine Cooper and has one cat and five dogs. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to