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GARDEN FANATIC: Gardening in January

Julius Caesar decreed the first day of the year as Jan. 1. The Western World has now observed 2,054 New Year’s Days. I can usually be found in my garden during these first few days of a newborn year; the holidays still linger, and I need the downtime to unwind and consider the possibilities. Being in a garden allows for new year adjustment and freshness of thought.

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

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

A. January is the month for pruning. Prune carefully to encourage the plant growth you want. Early-flowering shrubs and trees may be pruned after they have flowered.


Q. My azalea plant was in blossom when I bought it about two weeks ago, but most of them have turned brown and many leaves are dropping. Should I plant it outside?

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.

Q. I have planted bougainvilleas in pots. A few branches are about 4 feet long now. I would like the plants to grow longer and fuller, and then have lots of flowers.

A. To keep your bougainvillea full you must keep the ends tipped back. Gradually, you can allow the branches to grow longer, but only to a point. If you allow the plant to become too large, the roots will outgrow the pot. A healthy plant should give you lots of flowers.


Q. Is it too late for bulbs?

A. Spring bulbs, like callas, gladiolus, lilies and Lily of the Valley are available at your favorite nursery. If you can find them, there is time to plant daffodils, ranunculus and narcissus.

Q. My girlfriend’s pansies are looking weak and droopy right now. Is this a normal state for them? The temperature has been in the 30s at night. How often should we water them?

A. Your pansies would prefer much warmer temperatures. Generally they are not set out this early in colder climes. Keep the plants moist, but avoid overhead watering in freezing temperatures.

Catharine and I spent New Year’s Day in Loreto. We toasted friends and family at midnight, and wished for renewed peace and prosperity from Laguna and beyond.

But mainly we celebrated the first day of this year because it felt like a Roman holiday.

See you next time.

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