I love the Hamptons in the Winter! As the tourists migrate back to the city the real troopers and diehards nestle away for the off-season, ready to enjoy the pleasures of lack of crowds and the ability to get reservations at restaurants! When I visit my Southampton rental it is the perfect time to enjoy the natural beauty that makes the Hamptons so wonderful. I wander in the village, take in the beaches, which allow dogs, and come to a peaceful place. It's a home away from home. But no sooner than I've relaxed than my gardener's internal voice starts up: I know there is work to be done.
Once you call yourself a gardener, there is no reprieve. That means there is always something that can be done in the garden. Early on, novice gardeners may feel deprived in the winter as they believe there is nothing worth focusing on—or that winter is a vacation from gardening. But as your skills and knowledge increase, quite often so does your passion. Here are a multitude of ideas to clue you in that "it's not too late to....and it's never too early for" gardening—even in the winter.
A sunny day.
Perfect for cleaning up debris from recent storms or putting down a bit of extra mulch on something that was recently planted. It's also a good time to trim and reshape flowering trees, while assessing any winter damage that may require immediate attention. Consider prepaying or contracting for tree service throughout the season; it ensures that your trees get the attention they deserve and most likely will get you a discount.
Assess the situation.
Take a walk in your garden with a pencil and pad, noting where you might want to move something or divide a perennial. You may consider removing a tree or selective branches to allow additional light into your garden beds. If you decide to remove a tree, make plans to plant another on your property; pick a strategic location, and pick a tree that adds year-round interest because of its shape and bark.
I love wisteria. If you want it to flower, then it's not too late to prune and it's definitely not too early. Wisteria must be pruned twice a year, once in the early summer and again in the winter (ideally in February.) I love being outside trimming my wisteria knowing that soon I will be sitting under a canopy of beautiful purple flowers. For winter pruning, trim the long shoots down to three to five buds. You will also want to trim any long unruly shoots remaining from the previous season. Make sure your shears are sharp and that you make a clean cut.
February is also a great time to force branches of flowering trees and shrubs. Trim small branches of Forsythia, Bradford Pear, Crabapple, Ornamental Cherry, Lilac, Pussy Willow and Magnolia. Place them in a large container of warm water. Trim the ends at an angle two inches above the original cut and place in temperate water in a large vase. Flower preservative is a good idea but not necessary.
This winter, remember that the Hamptons is where you want to be. Not just because of the beautiful sea views, the crowd-less shopping or the fabulous restaurants. But also the ability to get things done without any distractions. (Besides, the world-renowned privet hedges are somewhat bare, so getting out allows you to take a peek, too!)
Maybe we'll run into each other. I'll be at Robert's in Water Mill quite a bit. There you will find me not just dining, but planning my winter garden activities—with a MARtini in my hand.
And there you have it.
Mar is an Emmy Nominated TV Host, Lifestyle Expert and best-selling author of "Life On Mar's, A Four Season Garden," that chronicles the evolution of his Westport, Connecticut garden. www.marjennings.com