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This week in the garden

These little blooming workhorses known for their

These little blooming workhorses known for their "smiling faces" are available in yellow, orange, maroon, purple, blue, pink, rust and other variations, all with a trademark "face" in the center of each flower. What's unusual about these low-growing plants is that unlike other annuals that thrive during summer and die out as frost hits, pansies bloom in fall, survive the winter and repeat the performace in spring before the heat does them in. Some are even marketed as "winter pansies," but don't be fooled by the hype: Just about all pansies will make it through winter and return in spring. Credit: Cornell University

This weather makes it easy to take care of all the February garden chores. But it looks like we might be getting a storm on Sunday, so get out there before then.

The first thing you should do is assess your trees and shrubs. February is pruning time. If you need to know which plants to prune and how it should be done, check my complete guide to pruning trees and shrubs. 

Then bring in some of the branches you cut off -- a few stems of forsythia, pear, pussy willow or quince -- and stick them in a vase of water. They'll bloom sooner than those in the garden and bring you an early taste of spring indoors.

If you're pruning away diseased rose canes, be sure to disinfect pruners between cuts with a 10-percent bleach solution, or disinfectant spray, or the pathogen will spread to your other plants.

It's also time to plant lavender and thyme seeds for transplanting outdoors in spring. Put them on a sunny windowsill.

Finally, keep an eye out for yellow winter aconites and white snowdrops in the garden; they should be blooming anytime now. My pansies have been blooming on and off all winter. What about yours?


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