We are 10 days into January 2021. Everyone is hoping this will be a much better year than 2020. We are all tired of staying at home, not getting to meet friends and eat out and all the other small pleasures of life.

Gardening is a pastime that does not involve others, most of us are socially distanced when we are gardening and it's very healthy exercise. We are forecast to have another week about like this past one, cool days and chilly nights.

Although it seems to have come very quickly, it is time to start planting your spring bedding plants from seed. If you like to grow your own spring transplants, starting early will produce strong young seedlings when it's time to plant.

Some spring flowers can be planted outside from seed now. Larkspur and all types of poppies prefer not to be transplanted once they have germinated. Prepare the soil, scatter the seed over the loose soil, water the seed gently into the soil and keep the area moist until after the plants have germinated and are a few inches tall.

Larkspur does well in this area if planted early enough to bloom before the heat arrives. It flowers in shades of blue, purple and white and grows to about four-feet tall. It needs full sun for best growth and flowering. It will continue flowering into late May and is a beautiful border plant or to line a fence.

We are full swing into camellia season. We have had enough chill hours for the big japonicus to open and many are at their peak. We are truly fortunate to live where these big beautiful evergreen bushes produce large colorful flowers through our winter.

If you do not have camellia bushes in your yard to enjoy, there are many planted all around Valdosta.

Valdosta State University has the Whitehead Camellia Trail. It begins on the northeast section of the campus and follows a paved walkway with interactive information along the way concerning specific plants and naming varieties. There are an assortment of sasanqua and japonicas on the trial, all are identified. 

The plants were put there by Mrs. Whitehead who lived just north of the campus across the street. She planted over 400 camellias on campus and she had hundreds more in her gardens around her home.

VSU cares for the trail and the shrubs for everyone's enjoyment. But parking is a problem. Two small parking areas are off of Georgia Avenue and the Camellia Trail is just across the street. But it takes special permission with proof to park there or you will be given a ticket. 

Quitman is the Camellia City and there are camellias down the middle on the medians of the streets. Drive down Court Street, as you come back up toward the courthouse, most yards on the right hand side are full of camellias.

There is a small garden beside the historical museum; it is dedicated to Betty Sheffield, a nationally known camellia hybridizer, from Quitman. She bred the first "Betty Sheffield" and many of the variations and sports from that cultivar.

Loch Laurel Nursery specializes in camellias and there are hundreds on the property that you can see blooming. Many are in a natural landscape setting and have been growing for years, others are potted and offered for sale out back under shade cloth. It is a great treat to see this many colors and forms of these beautiful winter blooming flowers.

Robins have been visiting for a couple of weeks. Walking outside, every square foot of ground has about 30 hard round seeds from cherry laurel trees. 

There is very little food on the seed as they only have a thin coating of skin around the seed. As the seed fall atop buildings with metal roofs, it sounds like someone's throwing pebbles. There will be another half million volunteers coming up in everything from the yard to flower pots.

I have decided one person (me) cannot keep up with my desired flowers, shrubs and trees while battling an unending army of weeds. Even with chemical herbicides, they continue to grow and overtake flower beds, they grow tall and lush as if tended and cared for.

They come in predictable waves, the same each year. Each season has its own assortment of weeds. Right now we are experiencing cold weather weeds, the next great wave will be early spring sprouting ones; after that the warm-soil weeds will come up, chamber bitters and vines of several species, then fall weeds and on and on. 

Weeds may grow over my grave, just to prove they could!

Enough ramblings, I am out of space. See you next week.

Susan Grooms lives and gardens in Lowndes County.

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