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Published January 25th, 2017
Gardening Guide for February
A David Austin Gertrude Jekyll rose continues to bloom. Photos Cynthia Brian

"Do all you can for as long as you can and when you can't, do the next best thing!" -Chuck Yeager
It was pouring rain and I found myself in my gardening clothes sitting on the soggy hill scooting from bush to bush pruning the stray fronds. A smile crossed my face as I recalled a chapter from the New York Times best selling book that I co-authored, "Chicken Soup for the Gardeners Soul," called "Overcoming Obstacles." The particular story is "The Next Best Thing" by Ann Pehl Thomson about her elderly parents who in their youth gardened with ease, but in their 70s had weakened muscular systems that caused legs to give way without warning. One morning her mom spied her dad lying flat on his stomach under an apple tree. Alarmed she scurried out to help him but then saw he had a trowel in his hand, weeding. When she asked him what he was doing, he replied, "The next best thing."
At the time, with over 5,000 entries to be whittled down to 101 stories to sow seeds of love, hope, and laughter, I wasn't convinced that this story merited a coveted page in our book. Today as I recover from spinal surgery with strict instructions of no BLT (bending, lifting, or twisting), I realize this story is an important lesson in conquering challenges. Being in nature and working in the garden is part of my essence and if it means I will sit, scuttle and scoot to get the job done, that's exactly what I'll do.
I haven't pruned my roses yet. For some reason, my rose bushes are blooming beautifully, despite the storms, winds and flooding. The petals haven't rotted as they usually do with the moisture and instead stems are bursting with perfect buds. My vases are filled with the fragrance and elegance of my rose garden. A hard prune is necessary to guarantee another season of bounty, yet, for now, that task will wait a week or two.
The rest of my garden has donned its winter wardrobe and there is plenty of other snipping, clipping and cutting to be done. My grapevines, fruit trees, and berry bushes beg to be sheared. I'll get to them this week. The sculptured look of the bark of my pruned crape myrtles glows against the backdrop of a cloudless cobalt sky. The naked branches of my Japanese maple glow a deep red in the afternoon sunlight. There is something so spectacularly striking about the architecture of deciduous trees with their bare branches swirling towards the heavens. My pear trees are already flowering, and the bees are busy collecting nectar from the loquat blossoms. Under the redwood trees, walking ferns have begun their parade towards the next grove while forget-me-nots cover the ground with their pretty lime green foliage. Soon blue flowers will sprout from their centers and the terrain will be a sea of sapphire. The narcissci have brightened my days throughout the frosty days with their cheery attire of yellow and white petals while perfuming the icy air with their hypnotic fragrance.
With the downpours, the creeks are flowing and the sounds of rushing brooks fill the atmosphere. As long as my house isn't flooding, I adore the roar of the waterfalls.
Grab your coat, hat, gloves and boots. Wander around your garden to admire the wonder of the winter garments nature has provided. And if you, like me, are momentarily physically incapacitated in any way, get your yard chores accomplished by doing the next best thing.  BRIGHTEN the dark days of winter with indoor tropical plants. A rubber tree under planted with bright pink or red kalanchoe will do the trick.
 FORCE paperwhites, lily of the valley, or amaryllis by putting the bulb in a jar with water by a sunny window.
 PRUNE crape myrtles, roses, berries, grapes and fruit trees now. If your roses are still blooming, cut the blossoms to bring indoors, then prune. Apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plum, and prune trees need their branches pruned now to allow for more sunlight penetration, air circulation, and bigger fruit production. Cut out all dead wood.
 REFRAIN from dressing broken limbs or injuries on trees. Wound wood will develop on trees to protect them. By putting a commercial salve on the damaged tissue, you may be inviting infections and pests.
 SAVE teabags to put on cuts you will incur after pruning roses. Place a cool teabag to encourage swift healing.
 POWER your palate by planting heart smart greens including kale, collard and mustard for super sources of fiber, phytonutrients, electrolytes and antioxidants.
 FEED houseplants when you notice new leaves developing.
 CLEAR debris from creek beds if you are fortunate enough to have a creek on your property to avoid overflows, erosion, and damage.
 TRANSPLANT deciduous shrubs before buds begin to swell.
 USE a rooting hormone to plant canes of roses and grapes from your personal cuttings.
 PERUSE seed catalogues for springtime ideas.
 CURL up with a copy of "Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul" for a dose of laughter and inspiration this winter. First edition autographed copies available at www.starstyleradio.com/store.
 SAVOR the thunder, lightening and rains. Let's pray we are getting our reservoirs filled to eliminate another drought year.
 DON'T count on the ground hogs to signal an early spring. Males aren't seeking shadows when they emerge from hibernation. They are looking for love.
 REMEMBER your love on Valentine's Day with a colorful live plant or a bouquet of posies. It's true that flowers and amour are bedmates!

Happy Cupid Day! Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

A rubber tree with kalanchoe planted beneath is bright and cheery.
A Fuji apple tree with a lone rotten apple awaits pruning.
The winter wardrobe of a tangle of grapevines.
Bees feast on the nectar from the loquat blossoms.
Forget-Me-Nots blanket the ground. Bold walking ferns in the shaded redwood grove. Doing "the next best thing", Cynthia Brian scoots through the garden. (c)2017 Cynthia Brian The Goddess Gardener Starstyle(r) Productions, llc Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com www.GoddessGardener.com 925-377-STAR Tune into Cynthia's Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.net I am available as a speaker, designer, and consultant.

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