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Enjoy the subtle sights of a native plant garden in winter

Sign up for a free winter ramble Sunday near Davis

The 2023 Winter Ramble was soggy but there was plenty for close observers to see in Patricia Carpenter's native plant garden.

The 2023 Winter Ramble was soggy but there was plenty for close observers to see in Patricia Carpenter's native plant garden. Kathy Morrison

Winter gardens are subtle but satisfying for plant lovers. The changes and activity require closer observation than other times of the year.

Patricia Carpenter, a California Native Plant Society Garden Ambassador, gives the region's garden fans a chance to enjoy those views this Sunday, Jan. 28. She'll open her secluded 1-acre native plant garden west of Davis from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday for a Winter Ramble.

The garden, on the west side of Pierce Ranch Road south of Russell Boulevard, will be open rain or shine for self-guided tours; visitors can start any time during those hours. Maps will be available for use on site.

Admission is free but registration is required. Register here.

Here's what Carpenter describes as the highlights of the winter garden:

  • Winter growth, wildlife, birds, fungi and emerging wildflowers.
  • Color, form and texture of the trees, flowers, berries, leaves and bark.
  • Observe seasonal maintenance — pruning, cutting back, planting and pest control.

An optional short orientation and Q&A gathering with her will be held at noon and 2 p.m. Meet at the check-in table.

Visitors are welcome to bring a lunch or snack to enjoy on site. Please leave dogs at home. Carpenter suggests wearing sturdy shoes; any footwear that can handle mud is a good idea this time of year. A composting toilet is available on site as well.

 Read more about Carpenter's garden and access a map at her CNPS profile page. Her non-native garden also will be open for strolling Sunday.

For anyone wishing to start or add to their own native plant garden, Miridae Mobile Plant Nursery's truck will be at the garden entrance for sales. Check the current inventory here.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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