Today, it is a normal mid February day, sunny, but cold. The daffodils are up about 3-4 inches, and the primroses are blooming in spite of losing all their leaves to browsing deer. Early perennials are starting to show a few tiny leaves at the base of the dead sticks that will need to be cut back soon. Forsythia and Lilac buds are swelling and showing promise of things to come.
The local Costco store and garden centers are already stocking bare root plants and summer bulbs. I am not even tempted because in my yard the ground about an inch down is still frozen. It will be a few weeks before the ground is soft enough to plant shrubs or trees.
Back in 2005 we had an unusually balmy February. My husband had the pond dug out and used the extra fill dirt to create a base for a new patio between the house and the shop. The new flowerbed space that was created on the edge of the pavers got my gardening juices flowing! Wisely knowing that it was far too early to plant I held off until March when the stores were again bursting with shrubs and perennials. I was beguiled by all that I saw and purchased flowering quince, forsythia, lilacs and rose bushes. Two days after planting, it started to snow. It snowed for at least a week and the little bushes were covered. It stayed cold for another six weeks! The plants survived, but never seemed to thrive after that.
My best advice after years of struggle with the issue of when to plant in Central Oregon is to wait until April or May for bare root or potted shrubs. Wait, and I mean WAIT, until the END OF MAY to plant any hardy perennials and wait until JUNE to plant annuals outside. You can get by earlier with Pansies, but I refuse to grow them even though I really like them because they are irresistible to deer and I choose not to afford them a lovely salad. If you live near the river, in Redmond 15 miles to the north, or in what we call the Banana Belt on the north side of Pilot Butte, then you can sometimes get away with planting a bit earlier. Once your soil thaws and stays thawed, you can plant shrubs. Check with your local experts when choosing perennials, shrubs and trees. The folks at my favorite nurseries, Solar City Gardens and Landsystems, are a wealth of knowledge. If you live in a different area, do the same. Your local nurseries that have been in the area for over 10 plus years should be able to tell you what will do well and when to plant.
September is my favorite month to plant. We are located on the South East side of Bend on a windy hill. The weather going into fall is much more predictable than the weather in the early part of the year. Plants have more time to settle in for the upcoming winter without the huge swings in temperature typical to March through May and the irrigation system will still be on for another month. Most years, the irrigation canals provide water until October15th and we can continue to irrigate until the end of the month. The other reasoning behind this time of year is that the garden is usually in need of some late summer clean up at the end of most of the plants blooming season, and what a great time to re-evaluate what worked that summer and what did not. The daylilies that clashed with the poppies that should be moved, and so forth. The added bonus of working outside in beautiful weather is also a huge plus.