the orange gardener

Master Gardeners of Orange County, NC


Seasonal interest

Below is a simple ‘shortlist’ of plants that are normally in bloom this month or are of interest for fruit, bark or foliage. See Bloom & Berry for comprehensive lists with links to photos and cultural information.

Perennials Shrubs Trees
Barberry (frt)
Beautyberry (frt)
Hollies (frt)
Nandina (frt)
Pyracantha (frt)
Witch Hazel
Dogwood (frt)
Hawthorn (frt)


Turfgrass science: Controlling Winter Annual Broadleaf Weeds TN extension

  • Feed established cool-season lawns at Thanksgiving (grass should be green but not growing). If you don’t test your soil, apply a complete NPK turf-grade fertilizer (12-4-8 or 16-4-8), using 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet.

Ornamental plants


Remember to water newly-installed or evergreen plants thoroughly before winter sets in, particularly if weather conditions have been dry.


However, you can cut a few branches if berries are desired in table arrangements over the holidays.


  • Apply mulch after the ground has frozen but before the coldest temperatures arrive. Find the best mulch for your situation.
  • Remove the foliage of the following plants and dispose (don’t compost):
    RosesBlackspot overwinters in fallen leaves & appears again in spring.
    PeoniesLeaves & stems can harbor botrytis blight.
    Bee balm, phloxLeaves & stems can harbor powdery mildew.
  • To reduce winter damage, leave frost-killed stems on:
    • butterfly bushes
    • hollow-stemmed species like salvias and hardy lantana
    • marginally hardy species
  • You can leave frost-killed foliage on many other perennials to provide winter interest and/or cover and food for birds.
  • Test your soil if you have not done so for two or more years. Take several core samples from over the area to be tested, mix them together and fill the sample box. Sample boxes and submission forms are available from the Cooperative Extension Office and some local retailers. Note that soil tests are free from April-November, but the state now charges $4/sample during the peak season of December–March.

Planting, propagating

Fall is the ideal time to plant, divide, and transplant most species. Warm soil and cool air let plants focus energy on roots rather than foliage, and because our soil stays warm enough for root growth almost year-round, roots can establish before the heat and drought stress of summer. Our detailed instructions for all aspects of planting show how to choose soil amendments, prepare the soil, and install plants (including special advice for planting trees).

  • This is the best time of year to move plants, but dry soil is often a problem — historically, October is our dryest month unless a hurricane brings rain. If possible, delay moving plants until November or later when rain usually is more plentiful.
  • Plant/transplant most species and divide spring/summer-blooming perennials. Some exceptions:
    • Most fall-blooming perennials, including fall-blooming ornamental grasses — their energy reserves are low
    • Plants that require a full growing season to develop a good root system
      • tap-rooted plants such as many of the newer hybrid echinaceas
      • plants with slow-growing root systems like magnolias and camellias
    • Tender perennials
  • Root-prune any woody plants that you plan to move next spring.
  • Research shows that bonemeal and vitamin B12 do not stimulate root production or decrease transplant shock.


  • Fertilize spring flowering bulbs at planting time with a balanced fertilizer. Bonemeal is not necessary.
  • Dig and store summer bulbs like gladioli, dahlias (hardier cultivars can overwinter in the ground in protected locations) and caladiums before frost.

Frosts & freezes

Frost damage will be less if there is some wind or cloud cover. Spraying plants with water before the sun strikes the leaves can reduce or eliminate damage from mild frosts. Usually, freeze damage usually does not occur until the air temperature is 30°F.

  • Because cold air settles, there is usually more damage in low-lying areas.
  • Plants on the east or south side of a building or wall are the most likely to be damaged. These areas warm up quickly after a frosty night and typically warm up faster in spring. Plants don’t know whether or not to stay dormant.
  • Bark can split on trunks and branches after the sun warms up plants following an overnight freeze. Wrap trunks of young trees with cloth or paper for protection. Note that it often takes weeks/months before the damage is visible — azaleas may not show damage until the first hot spell.
  • Remove snow by gently sweeping branches upward to lift off snow without further stressing the limbs; do not attempt to remove ice. Frozen, laden limbs are very brittle and snap easily if bent the wrong way. Young branches often recover.
Radiant Heat

Effectively trapping radiant heat from the ground can increase hardiness by more than 10°F.

  • Covers should go all the way to the ground so that heat does not escape, but use stakes to prevent them from touching the plants.
  • Burlap, bed sheets, blankets and agri-fabric are preferred, but plastic buckets work as well. Plastic sheets and metal buckets are not recommended because they overheat too rapidly once the temperature rises.
  • Be sure to remove the cover once the temperature is rising to prevent cooking the plant.

A layer of mulch around the crown or a covering of conifer branches helps protect roots of tender plants. For special plants, make a wire cage around the plant and fill it with leaves.

Ice-melting Substances

Sand, cat litter, or ashes are the best choice. Salts and fertilizers of any kind are not recommended — runoff from salts can harm plants, while runoff from fertilizers can contaminate streams and groundwater.



  • Watch for cool season annual weeds such as henbit, chickweed, hairy bitter cress and annual bluegrass. Selective post-emergent herbicides can be applied to these small, inconspicuous weeds now before they become obvious next spring. These products will be more effective on days when the temperature is above 40°F all day long. If herbicides are not in your repertoire, continue with hand weeding or whatever strategy you use.
  • Treat perennial weeds such as wild onion/garlic and mock strawberry with a broadleaf herbicide when temperatures are above 50°F. Be careful to distinguish mock strawberry, an invasive alien, from our native barren strawberries.


  • Dig sweet potatoes before frost kills the plants.
  • Dig and divide rhubarb.
  • Asparagus
    • Plant one-year-old asparagus crowns.
    • Cut asparagus foliage to the ground after it is killed by frost and remove other plant debris. This minimizes winter carry-over of insects and diseases.

Landscape ideas

Seasonal Beauty

Photo tours of the JC Raulston Arboretum


Look to see if windbreaks are needed around your home. Winds during winter and spring can be fierce and can cause significant evaporative loss from susceptible plants as well as erosion from dormant garden areas.

  • Generally, a windbreak protects an area 10–15 times its average height.
  • A windbreak with 40–60% density in two staggered rows works well.
    • As wind is deflected up and over a windbreak, low pressure on the downwind side draws the wind back down. Low pressure is stronger in dense windbreaks, drawing the wind down quickly and reducing the size of the protected area.
    • Windbreaks with high density tend to decay over time due to root competition and shading, and any gap like a path, driveway, or plant decline acts to funnel wind through at high velocity.
  • To discourage diseases, plant a diversity of species. This also helps creates valuable habitat for wildlife.


Check your houseplants for insects before bringing them indoors. A few insects on plants outside can easily turn into a problem inside. Wash leaves thoroughly and soak the soil in a bucket of water for 3–5 minutes to encourage any insects hiding in the soil to come out.



Soil Moisture

Colors indicate inches of precipitation deficit/excess with a resolution of 4km.

Alabama State Climatologist Lawn/garden moisture index

This live feed maps the difference between recent garden-effective precipitation and the amount normally adequate for the time of year. Soil water-holding capacity is not considered, but the index still provides a good idea of current soil moisture.

Check drought conditions



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Our radio show features stories that explore gardening in our region, the intersection of horticulture and innovation, and the people who are leading the way.
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Farm stands, U-pick
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2015 Farmers Market Schedules

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Carrborowebsitemap 3–6
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Chapel Hillwebsite map 3–6
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Architectural Trees
Camellia Forest
Durham Garden
For Garden’s Sake
The Garden Hut
Get Rooted
Homewood Nursery
Lakeview Daylily
Niche Gardens
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The Plant Lady
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Southern States
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The Unique Plant
Witherspoon Roses
NCDA FarmFresh
Grow Local Raleigh

Japanese maples, new & rare shrubs, trees
camellias, Asian trees & shrubs, primroses
mature specimen trees, shrubs, hardy palms
general, 20 acre garden
Japanese maples, new & rare shrubs, trees
Japanese maples, conifers, aquatics
mature, field-grown, proven-performer daylilies
locally grown mature Japanese Maples
premium annuals, vegetables
natives, display garden
new & rare perennials
5715 Guess Rd, Rougemont, 919.644.0087
large nursery, many B&B trees
general, Japanese maples
general & aquatics
Japanese maples, new & rare plants, display garden
roses, some perennials, display garden
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