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…
Oh, how I detest this time of year. Sure, the days are getting longer, but sunshine is not in abundance and there are so many dreary days. While January was marked by rain events and very little snow, now we are getting nuisance snow events and even ice and hail. The next few days will bring rising temperatures only to see them fall again and with more snow in the forecast. Grrr.
These days I spend more and more time in the basement, tending plants. The latest round of cuttings from my ‘Marrakesh’ coleus has been successful even when I forgot to water one of the cuttings and noticed it completely wilted 24 hours later. A bit of tender, loving care and it perked right up. I would consider coleus as one of the easiest plants to take cuttings from and even a novice gardener would be able to increase the number of plants from just one plant. If you come across a coleus you absolute like this year, make sure you take a few cuttings come fall so you have new plants to put out in your garden the following spring!
I also started three trays with seeds. Grass in my case, and not just ordinary grass, but ornamental grasses. Two different types sprouted within the week, while the third tray doesn’t show any greenery yet. Few things are more satisfying than seeing seeds sprout and grow and nothing is more frustrating than waiting for anything to poke through the soil and announce its arrival. Oh, I hate this patience bit. Granted, gardening is all about patience. Waiting for spring to come around; waiting for that first flush of green and then the first bright colors returning to gardens and the world around us. Right now, I am more than ready to jump feet first in the garden if only 1. It was spring. 2. The weather was better. 3. It was spring!
On line I go to YouTube and watch British gardening show. Right now, I am on an Alan Titchmarsh kick with his “Love your garden” shows. Every episode shows how a new garden is created for a well deserving person who has experienced loss of a child, spouse, catastrophic health problem, or someone who brings joy to many others. All recipients are nominated by friends, family or co-workers and then Alan swoops in with his team and transforms a (usually derelict) garden into a place of peace, contemplation, play-space for kids and all-around beautiful space. They spare no expense and each garden is different from the next one with an amazing eye to detail and tailored for each recipient. If you need an uplifting gardening show this time of the year, it is worth finding it on YouTube. I also manage to glean bits of plant knowledge from this show and note worthy plants in my little gardening notebook so I can look for them in time for spring planting.
My repotted primroses are growing like weeds and blooming to their hearts’ content. Their bright bunches of flowers brighten up my days while I wait, most impatiently, for the days when I can work outdoors again and see my garden come back to life. I know it’s coming, it’s just not coming soon enough.
Hallelujah! January has come and gone. 31 long and dark days I did my best to ignore. The weather wasn’t too frightful; a few inches of snow now and again and at the very end of the month an Artic cold snap which brought temperatures down to single digits and even down to 1 degree. But it didn’t last long and now we are in for a “warm snap” going up into the low fifties in a few days. What a welcome surprise that will be.
Looking through old photo albums I came across pictures of the spring garden in Holland, blooming less than six months after I left. My father, the gardener, had been busy planting lots of bulbs in fall and my mother took pictures of the resulting eruption of color. While I lived in a fourth-floor walk-up halfway around the world I held a piece of home in my hands, probably wishing I could walk around the garden and sit down to admire it. I was lucky to be able to go back almost every year to visit family and while both of my parents are now gone, we still return every few years. Funny how pictures can transport us back in time, decades ago but it feels like yesterday.
In the basement seedlings are starting to grow. Watching an (English) gardening show on YouTube I came across a nice ornamental grass being used in a garden. It was called Milium effusum ‘Aureum’ or Bowles’ golden grass. It is a brightly colored (gold!) grass which likes a moist and shady spot. It can handle clay soil and grows 12-16 inches tall. In other words, a perfect addition to my garden where I can plant it under the willow and then add to that my yellow blooming Louisiana irises to brighten up the space. A quick search on the internet showed me it wasn’t for sale anywhere in the US, which is ironic as it is also known as “American millet”, but seeds could be had from a store in the UK. Not content to buy just one packet of seeds, I also picked up a few other grasses and within a week I had my seeds. I started my first flat of seedlings about 14 days ago and by now the first blades of grass are up about an inch. The second flat was started 7 days ago and the last flat I started today.
As always, I couldn’t control myself around the primroses in the grocery stores. These bright beacons of spring in the middle of winter were only $5 for 3 plants and after I bought the first 9 in various colors, I came across the bargain rack with plants for $1. I brought home 3 more and now have an even dozen in shades of white, yellow, orange and red. I just repotted them in bigger pots and by April I will be able to put them outside in the garden where they will bloom for years to come.
Days are getting longer and by March 10th we will have an extra hour of daylight as Daylight savings starts; YEAH! It will be here before we know it, or so I hope. In the meantime I dream of flowers to come.