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Additionally, our daylight hours have shrunk during the first few weeks of winter and pushed plants into dormancy. The position of the sun in the sky in winter months also means the light we receive arrives at an acute angle and with a diminished intensity. Finally, February marks the time right before we begin annual pruning of many of our favor- ite cultivars. Much of the remaining foliage is now a year old and is showing signs of its age. Some foliage has dropped, resulting in the shrubs looking "leggy." (See the accompanying photo of hibiscuses.) The leaves that remain are often spotted and small, and they may even appear withered. They are telling us they need pruning. However, the wise gardener will wait until the first of March, when, traditionally, we are out of danger of an Arctic cold snap. What, you may ask, can the prudent gardener do in February? Be patient. That is the virtue all successful horticulturalists have in com- mon. Reduce watering, since soil-drying rates are low. Over watering in winter will result in disease issues and encourage the prolifer- ation of moisture-loving weeds. One should plan to make autumnal fertiliza- tion a habit, so there will be some nourishment available to plants when winter warm spells occur and temperatures spike. Finally, be vigilant about watching for the appearance of disease or pest infestations. Sometimes, if your yard plants are looking unattractive, you can squint until they appear blurred and imagine how beautiful they will all be when February departs and spring returns! After all, even in a leap year, this is the shortest of months. Rick Wielgorecki may be contacted at 362- 0600 or % These bougainvilleas are tired of February, too. Photo by Rachel Hackney Sarasota News Leader February 21, 2014 Page 101

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