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Sorry to say it, but February is the month when clients ask, "Why does the ______ (fill in the blank with any landscape tree, shrub or ground cover) look so bad?" Usually, the short answer is, "Well, it's February." The long answer is that there are things that happen this time of year that conspire to make the healthiest of plants look ragged. The advent of cooler temperatures means that plants have to adjust to getting less of Mother Nature's beneficial moisture. Everything looked lush and beautiful after last summer's copious rainfall — almost 10 inches each month. Since September, our rainfall has been far short of the usual amount. Irrigating with well or city water can minimize the shock, but most plants will still register the difference by dropping leaves and looking spindly. Another factor that contributes to the February flop is temperature inversions. They do not have to be sub-freezing plunges. When temperatures vary from between 40 and 80 degrees that is enough to shock plants into dropping foliage, and even browning of the tips of leaves can occur. This is especially true of the fragile tropical cultivars that so many of us enjoy planting, even though this area is slightly north of their most desirable climatic location. These hibiscuses are weary of winter. Photo by Rick Wielgorecki COOLER TEMPERATURES, THE SUN'S ANGLE AND LACK OF RAIN CAN MAKE FOR LESS THEN PLEASING APPEARANCES IN THE LANDSCAPE THE UGLIEST MONTH By Rick Wielgorecki Contributing Writer

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