A photo showing two containers of yellow Knock Out roses sitting on a kitchen table.

Easy Bee-zy Knock Out roses.

Presents are always fun to receive, especially when they’re plant- and gardening-related. A couple of months ago, my friends at Star Roses shipped me the next best thing in Knock Out Roses.

The beautiful Easy Bee-zy Knock Out will be introduced this spring at area nurseries and box retailers. I opened my plants right away and the room was filled with an amazing scent to rival some of my most treasured hybrid-tea blooms. The citrus fragrance was unmistakable.

The semi-double blossoms’ clear yellow petals surround a cluster of delicate stamen and pistols that will attract bees to your landscape. This rose’s bushy and rounded shape will mature to 3 to 4 feet tall and about 3 feet wide. They’re perfect in large containers – keep them watered, please – as well as specimen plants in a high-visibility spot. They need full sun, and they’re disease-resistant. Check them out at knockoutroses.com.

Another present arrived in my mailbox the first week of January, seeds from All-American Selections. Each year the organization, based in Illinois, conducts trials and releases its list of recommended new annuals, ornamentals, perennials and vegetables.

Last year’s package included several tomatoes that I fell in love with: The compact and firm Purple Zebra and the colorful yellow and orange grape variety Sunset Torch. My other go-to cherry tomato from several seasons ago, Midnight Snack, won my heart with ping-pong sized globes with deep purple shoulders and red sides. Yummy.

This year AAS mailed a nice variety of tomatoes, peppers and other edibles, plus new annuals and perennials, including celosia plumosa, impatiens, zinnia, snapdragons and others. I can’t wait to start the seeds in February and March to ready them for my gardens after the last frost in April. Visit all-americaselections.org to check out the latest for 2024.

February is ‘count the birds’

Although it is cold outside, it’s time for a very important February activity: helping our fine feathered friends through the Presidents’ Day Weekend Great Backyard Bird Count. It’s taking place all across North America.

Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the 4-day Great Backyard Bird Count can be a fun family activity. You can participate in as little as 15 minutes anytime between February 16-19. Just decide where you’re going to count the birds you see, then use the online resources to record how many birds you see or hear in that 15-minute session.

Visit birdcount.org/participate to learn all the details and watch the online videos for tips. It’s best to do this about a week before the event to familiarize yourself with the process. The website includes ZIP code-specific checklists to make it easier to zero in on the birds most likely to be seen in your area.

Download a couple of apps to your phone and/or laptop, including the Merlin Bird ID app and eBird Mobile app (search for them in the app store), or for your desktop/laptop use eBird website, birdcount.org/ebird-on-computer.

You can count from your deck or patio, a nearby park, part of the lake’s shoreline or any place you like. And as long as you count in 15-minute segments, you can do multiple counts during the event.

Remember to fill your feeders to help the birds on their migration, and take time to count – and see – what kinds of birds inhabit your neighborhood.