It’s been a quiet winter season here in Lake Wobegon. Oh wait! We’re in Dane county, but the sentiment still applies. After a particularly mild start we finally have snow. Which we love, by the way. There hasn’t been anything that can remotely be called a Polar Vortex. Yet.
The weirdest botanical event was the early appearance of some blossoms on normally early-spring blooming shrubs, not notably on lilacs, azaleas and magnolias. That very cool weather in mid-autumn followed by the warm temps in early November provided just enough chill period to break dormancy on those flower buds. Flowering for the coming spring will be affected, but in the long term, your shrubs will be just fine.
The Garden Center is fully stocked with garden seeds for 2022 and it’s time to start seeds for annuals and vegetables that require a long germination period. This group includes things like leeks, petunias and lisianthus. Make sure that you use a soil-less potting mix meant for seed starting as this will help to prevent the terror of all seed starting gardeners everywhere, the dreaded damping-off disease. And don’t forget that bright, and consistent, lighting is the key to successful seed starting. Consider using fluorescent grow lights to make your life easier and your seedlings healthier. The Garden Center has lots of options and we’d be delighted to help you make an appropriate choice.
You can also start seeds for perennials like delphiniums and columbine. Sown now, they will more than likely bloom for you this first year. And take good care of any cuttings that you started last fall. Pinch them back to create stockier plants and check regularly for pest and disease problems. Again, grow lights will help produce more successful cuttings by keeping them vigorous.
Start planning your annual patio containers. Try to remember what worked last summer and what didn’t. Consider using some vegetable plants in combination with your foliage and flowers. It’s more fun than relying solely on flowering plants and many of these plants are decorative, as well as tasty. We like succulents combined with grasses. Their diverse forms and colors combined with hardiness, drought tolerance and ease of care are all compelling reasons to give them a try. You can easily winter succulents indoors if you wish or plant the hardy varieties in the garden at the end of summer.
Even if seeds are not your thing, and you purchase baby plants instead of starting them yourself, it’s not too early to begin planning for the spring. Any of those beautiful gardening magazines or seed catalogs will inspire you. Get a bit of relief from your spring fever at the Wisconsin Garden & Landscape Expo held at the Alliant Energy Center February 11th thru the 13th. It will be all hands on deck at the Bruce Company booth. Everything you ever wanted to know about indoor and outdoor gardening is available there, and you know how gardeners love to talk! Free seminars are presented every day, as well as workshops and demonstrations. It’s great to realize that we live in such a vibrant gardening community. Advance tickets are now available at the Garden Center, cash or checks only.