10 Do Now Tips From Martha Stewart's Garden Guy -- Yes, It's Still Winter!

winter flowers

Stephen Orr, garden editorial director for Martha Stewart Living, is stopping here today as part of the Martha Stewart Living blog tour to reveal lots of juicy insider garden secrets. Because who doesn't want a garden exactly like Martha's?

It’s January. Are you suffering from a case of the winter blues or maybe even longing for the first (far-off) signs of spring? I love winter as a slower time to reflect on the coming growing season and plan what to do in my garden. But I also miss the physical act of working with plants. To combat that, I usually turn my attention to indoor gardening with houseplants and terrariums, but I also don’t forget that a sunny Saturday is the perfect time to get outside and see what’s happening in my flowerbeds.


Your garden may be asleep but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to check in and make sure that everything is surviving what may be harsh conditions. Here are 10 of my favorite things to do to satisfy my garden fix right now—both indoors and out.

1) Plant a winter bloomer. Even on cold January days you might have something blooming in your garden and not even know it. Take a walk outside to see what’s happening in your yard and then consult “Bright Spot,” our story on beautiful and fragrant winter-flowering shrubs. If you find your garden lacking in winter appeal, plan to plant winter honeysuckle, as highly scented as its summertime relative, or winter heath, which stays bright and colorful even when surrounded by snow. You'll have to wait till the warm weather to plant it for next year, of course, but you can still dream about it now.

2) Line up those seed catalogs. You may have missed the window for planting spring-flowering bulbs. So now’s a great time to place an order from your favorite bulb catalogs such as Brent and Becky’s bulbs or White Flower Farm for summer bulbs like cannas, tuberose, fragrant gladiolas, and dahlias. Plant them as soon as the danger of frost is past.

3) Go on a houseplant tour. January is the best time of year for this. Check your plants for any pest problems that might be lurking in their foliage such as yellowed leaves, tiny webs, or sticky honeydew from tiny, hard-to-see mites or scale and take the appropriate remedy with insecticidal soap (instead of poisonous pesticides). While you’re at it, give them a good shower in the sink or bathroom to clean off any dusty leaves.

martha stewart living january cover4) Take up indoor gardening. You may not be able to garden outdoors as much as you like if the ground is frozen and the temperatures are icy, but you can always bring the garden into your house. In her floral feature, “Four Seasons of Fresh Flowers” in the January issue of Martha Stewart Living, Martha made inspired arrangements out of the best the garden has to offer. For winter, she cut pale green floral amaryllis short and added magnolia leaves cut right from the garden in an elegant centerpiece.

5) Make use of evergreens. If you have holiday greenery like evergreen branches or berries, give them a new lease on life by adding fresh flowers. We recently added white tulips and eucalyptus berries to the leftover branches from a Christmas tree.

6) Color your home, and make it last through the dreary winter months. The January Martha Stewart Living story “Flowers With Staying Power” clues you in to the top five cut blossoms that will last the longest from the florist. Create a beautiful arrangement of Oncidium or Dendrobium orchids, freesias and carnations, or Oriental lilies and be reminded: spring is not so far away!

7) Get glassy. Treat yourself to a new houseplant like an interesting succulent or a begonia with colorfully patterned foliage. Or better yet make a small terrarium.

8) Be forceful. Certain spring-blooming branches like pussy willows and forsythias take well to “forcing” in winter and early spring—an easy practice where small branches can be cut from your yard and brought inside where they will bloom weeks earlier in the warmer temperatures.

9) Sweep winter away. Take a weekend garden walk and make sure there aren’t any problems out in your yard. Check for broken major branches and trim them off but leave any real pruning till the proper time next spring or summer. Also make sure that any heavy snowfall isn’t putting undue pressure on evergreens or tree branches. Lightly brush it off any accumulation if you see signs of stress.

10) Curl up with a good garden book. Winter is the classic time for gardeners to recharge their creative batteries and get inspiration for the coming season. For useful, all-round information, look to experts like The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch. Armchair gardeners will enjoy the photography in Great Gardens of America by Tim Richardson and Andrea Jones. Click for a further list of Martha’s favorites.


Check out yesterday's tour post on 8 probling questions about life and decorating at Curbed.com, and tomorrow find out what Martha and the gang are telling the Huffington Post today about chicken!


How is your garden holding up this chilly winter?

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