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  • February garden tips & tasks

    Fight cabin fever by getting on a sunny day to pick up sticks, leaves and other garden debris that has accumulated.

    Keep bird feeders filled to attract a wide variety of winged visitors to your garden in winter.

    Plant a tree if the soil isn't frozen. Dig a hole that is slightly wider than the tree's root ball, but no deeper. Place the tree in the hole; replace the soil and water it well. Add mulch, but don't mound it up around the tree's trunk.

    A Valentine's Day bouquet of roses will last longer if you cut off the bottoms of the stems at an angle bfore you place them in lukewarm water in a clean vase. Remove the lower leaves from the stem before you place the bouquet in water.

    Dig winter annuals out of the garden beds: deadnettle, henbit, chickweed and other unwanted plants before they take over the beds.

    Cut back or mow over liriope (monkey grass) before new growth begins.

    Don't overwater your houseplants. Before you add water, check the soil's moisture level by sticking your finger into the soil.

    Provide nesting boxes to welcome birds to your garden Cavity-dwelling birds may start a family in a simple box with 11/2-inch entry hole.

    Grow your own transplants indoors under lights. Start seeds of cool-weather plants now to have sturdy transplants to set out in a few weeks.

    Save the date - Middle Tennessee garden events

    Planners of the ever-popular Nashville Lawn & Garden Show announce that next spring's show will be March 2 - 5, 2017 at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The theme will celebrate Gardens of the Future with garden displays, lectures, vendors, floral designs, and special features for children. The centerpiece of the all-indoors event is, as always, the walk-through, interactive garden displays from some of Middle Tennessee's top landscape and gardening companies. Free lectures are planned each day on a range of garden-related topics, and visitors can shop the Marketplace with more than 150 vendors. Complete details will be available soon at http://nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com, where you can also sign up for the email newsletter and receive updates.

    The Perennial Plant Society's annual Plant Sale will be April 8, opening at 9 a.m. at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The sale offers newly released and hard-to-find perennials from top local nurseries -- more than 450 varieties of perennials, vines, grasses, shrubs and annuals. The event supports local scholarships for Tennessee horticulture students and monthly gardening programs, open to the public, at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. For information visit www.ppsmt.org.

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The trouble with winter creeper

QUESTION: A vine with dark green, oval leaves and thick woody stems is growing up through the middle of my shrubs. It seems to grow all year. What a nuisance! How can I get rid of it?

Winter creeper euonymus grows in sun or shade, can cover slopes, fences, trees, and is hard to get rid of once it's established.

It sounds like you are describing winter creeper euonymus, an evergreen that can sprawl along the ground (or on slopes, where it can help control erosion) or it can climb and attach itself to trees, walls and other surfaces with aerial roots.

You may see it described as “tough” or “aggressive,” and come to understand that to mean you’ll have a hard time getting rid of it. Indeed, it’s a non-native invasive plant, brought here from  the other side of the world in the early part of the last century. The Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council lists it as a “lesser threat,” but a threat nonetheless.

Cutting it down, pulling it out and digging it up are the best ways to begin the attack on winter creeper. Where digging doesn’t work, try cutting it back and applying glyphosate herbicide (such as Roundup) as a 2-percent solution (8 ounces per 3-gallon mix) in water to the stump that’s left. You’ll have to keep doing this, and you’ll have to be careful not to get the herbicide on the surrounding plants.

After the vine has been removed, the best way to keep it from returning is to keep an eye on the area and pull up individual seedlings as soon as you see them.

Small space, big harvests

Is that really possible? Maybe, and there’s a new book in the Complete Idiot’s Guide series that’s here to help. The book is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Small-Space Gardening, and the author, Chris McLaughlin, provides quite a bit of good information on how to make the most of whatever plots or pots you have available. It’s published by Alpha Books; the price printed on the book is $19.95; at the Web site idiotsguides.com it’s listed as now $12.97.