We are still in winter’s grip, but the days are getting brighter and longer. Temperatures remain on the chilly side, but already I can see glimpses of spring. The Witch hazels (Hamamelis variety Arnold Promise) have unfurled their yellow flowers. They are not yet in their prime but give it a few more days of sun and they will beckon the first bees with their scent and color. The low growing sedums, which are easily overlooked in winter, are starting to take on their spring hues; the dragon’s blood sedum is turning bright red while other varieties are taking on different colors. Soon my front patch of sedums will be bright green, yellow and red, with flowers following soon thereafter.
In the basement pots (and plants) seemingly multiply. My one Coleus plant ‘Marrakesh’ from two years ago has now multiplied into 60 new plants. The original 12 cuttings from late September had already grown into nearly foot tall plants. I cut these plants back by about half in order to grown them into bushy plants. The best cuttings were used for 24 new plants and the rest went onto the compost heap.
In the big box stores you can find all kinds of boxes with rootstock or bulbs which can be planted out in spring in the garden. I purchased a few boxes of Japanese Iris root stock as well as bags of different varieties of Dahlia rootstock and one peony. I take these smaller plants/root stocks, pot them up and grow them under ideal circumstances for a few months indoor before they are ready to be put in the garden. While I have little to show right now, in two to three months I will have nice size plants to add to my garden and they will only get better and bigger during spring and summer. One box of Japanese Iris includes six plants; three blue blooming varieties and three in yellow. Six plants for $15 comes down to $2.50 a plant and even if you add in the price of good potting soil (the pots I re-use from year to year) I will have the equivalent of a $10+ plant in spring from a nursery for ¼ of the cost. Buying multiples of the same plants also allows for a more cohesive planting design rather than a hodge-podge of “onesies”.
Of course, this time of year with mouthwatering catalogs arriving in the mail, it is easy to go overboard buying new plants. Frankly, I may have already crossed that bridge. There will be at least 5 or 6 nurseries delivering packages in two months or so and only today I received another catalog I will be ordering from. Then there are the willow branch screens I ordered and picked up as soon as they arrived in the store and the arbor and potting bench delivered last week. And, finally, there is the metal front door with windows I found at a salvage yard which will be put in the garden as soon as the weather is conducive to work outside again. There is lots of work to be done soon but first I get to enjoy the oldest flower show in the nation, the Philadelphia Flower Show, which will be held the first week of March. I will probably come home with more ideas for the garden AND without a doubt, more plants! I am going to need some more room in the basement…