Banish Winter with This February Garden Checklist
No plant does a better job of announcing the end of winter than classic border forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia). Also called "yellow bells" for the shape and color of its blooms, it responds to the first mild days of late winter and early spring by smothering its leafless branches with blossoms. It's extremely easy to grow in USDA Zones 6 to 8, needing only good drainage and full to partial sun. Do not prune it into meatballs and boxes! Maintain the plant's graceful, arching form by cutting it back to about 2 feet tall after it blooms. It will quickly send up new branches to regain its former size and shape by summer's end and be ready to bloom again the following spring. Most border forsythias grow 7 to 10 feet tall. For a small one, try "Gold Tide," which tops out at 20 inches.
Start summer annuals indoors for planting outside after your area's last frost. Sprinkle seeds over the top of peat pots, cell packs, or seed-starting trays that are filled with fresh potting soil. Barely cover them. Once they have sprouted, relocate them to a spot close to a sunny window or place them beneath a grow light.
Seeing forsythia blooms signals that it's a good time to apply a weed preventer (not a weed-and-feed) to your lawn. This will inhibit the germination of crabgrass, Dallis grass, foxtail, spurge, dandelions, sandbur, and other weeds. If you plan to sow grass seed, do not use a weed preventer on your lawn.
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Now is a great time to cut back summer-blooming shrubs such as rose of Sharon (shrub althaea), Cape plumbago, chaste tree, butterfly bush, panicle hydrangea, gardenia, and angel's trumpet.
If your camellia's leaves are spotted with yellow, then inspect the undersides. Notice little brown and white specks? Those are tea scales that suck all the leaves' juices, causing them to drop. Pick off infested leaves (this won't hurt the plant), and throw them out with the trash. Then spray the camellia with horticultural oil according to the label directions, being sure to wet the undersides of the foliage. Spray the plant again in May.