Give your garden winter life

Some days things never seem to go right. Have you ever had days
that were similar to this? Things start off bad when your eighth
grader breaks the news during breakfast that she forgot about her
book report.
Some days things never seem to go right. Have you ever had days that were similar to this? Things start off bad when your eighth grader breaks the news during breakfast that she forgot about her book report.

When you ask when the book report was assigned, you learn she’s had six weeks to do it, but just remembered it was due today. Things get worse when you get home after driving her to school, finally sit down to relax, turn on the TV, only to find Jerry Springer interviewing your parents!

Time for a horticultural pick-me-up. Even when it’s cold or wet outside, there’s a flower to brighten your outlook. So-called “instant” flower color is as near as your retail garden center.

This time of year there’s still time to get plenty of color from so-called winter flowers. These include: potted cyclamen, pansies, violas, primroses, primula, cineraria, calendula, Iceland poppy, snapdragons, stock and more.

Bet you didn’t know there was such a choice for winter color! Yes, we don’t just have to settle for impatiens, petunias, marigolds and geraniums in the summer. Thanks to our mild winter weather, there’s an abundance of bedding plant choices this time of year.

The best thing about planting any of these specimens is that they are relatively cheap, and they’ll bloom right on into summer. Most are available in jumbo six packs for around six for $3.

If you really want instant color, choose from 4-inch containers that run around $2 to $5 apiece. Some are even available in 6-inch pots or gallon cans for slightly more. Make sure to include a couple bags of planting mix, potting soil or organic compost, and you’re on your way.

Winter annuals can be planted either in the ground or containers. Wherever you plant them, you’re bound to run into wet, compacted soil. That’s why it’s important to revitalize your old soil by adding some new amendments to it. If you’re planting in containers, simply fill containers with straight potting soil. If you’re planting in the ground, go ahead and mix planting mix, redwood soil conditioner or organic compost about half and half to existing dirt.

Primroses and primula (fairy primrose) are great cold-weather bloomers. In fact, I have primroses blooming in my garden right now.

They feature crinkly, dark green foliage, with bright flowers that grow just above the foliage.

Primula has larger, flat, medium green leaves, but bloom softer pastel-colored flowers that stand well above the foliage on slender, delicate stems.

Another mainstay in my garden this time of year are snapdragons. These old-fashioned flowers grow more vertically, with varieties ranged from six inches to four feet. It’s always nice for a change to have some vertical color – whether it’s in large containers or as a backdrop to a flower bed.

Finally, no column on winter color would be complete without pansies or their smaller-flowered cousins: violas. The biggest difference between these cousins are their size. Pansy flowers are usually twice as big as violas. Viola flowers are not only smaller, but grow on more compact plants.

So, go ahead and brighten your day with some instant color with winter bedding plants. They’ll last until June or even July.

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