“More winter than we need”

    This post is from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

     Is there consolation in that the big snow storm of ’93 was in April when it is supposed to be spring and at least this blizzard is in February during the official winter season?  While I enjoy winter most years, I agree with Mr. Wilson’s observation in Dennis the Menace recently, “There seems to be more winter than we need this year.”  The Plugger comment adjacent says it all: A plugger lifts his winter blues with thoughts of spring green as he opens his mail box and remarks, “Hot Dog!  The new seed catalog is here!” 

   An article in Sunday’s (Feb. 3) Gazette provided seed catalog suggestions.  Following is an article written by Master Gardener; Thea Cole entitled “Planning My Cutting Garden.”  Thea has some excellent suggestions for seed catalogs, too.   Thea says, Spring is just around the corner; soon, I’ll walk in my blooming garden and gets my hands in the warm black soil.  This is truly a bit of heaven.   I am engrossed with planning my annual cutting garden, building on past accomplishments and undaunted by past failures.  The barren winter garden provides the canvas for this new artistic endeavor.  The future August garden will only slightly resemble my anticipated garden. 

  Holiday activities required stacking the new garden catalogs and magazines until the house was stripped of its decorations.  From mid-January to mid-February I delve into their pages to discover what will again challenge my gardening skills.  My favorite catalogs include: Vermont Bean Seed Co., Select Seeds, The Cook’s Garden, Jung Quality Seeds, Park Seed, Shepherd’s Garden Seeds, Nichols Garden Nursery, and Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Further enlightment was gleaned from the pages of Taunton’s Fine Gardening, White Flower Farm’s The Gardener, and August Home’s Garden Gate.

   My plant list is near completion.  Agrostemma, cosmos, Verbena bonarienses, Cleome, larkspur, and Nicotiana sylvestris are some repeat stars that create height and movement.  The zinnias, salvias, ageratum, asters, poppies and heliotrope provide contrasting texture and color interest. The new plants to my annual garden include Cynoglossum amabile, Armeria pseudameria, Layia elegans, Lupine hartweggii and Celosia “Hi Z”.  

  Within a few weeks the seeds will have germinated and the process of transplanting them to flats will proceed.  My basement will fill with seedlings that require months of care.  Many will never make it out of the basement and into the real growing world.  Some will be lost at planting time, because Iowa weather is either too cold, too wet or too dry.  After planting, a contest for dominance will ensue between the plants and the weeds until the first frost.   I am determined to do a better job deadheading and cutting back my annuals this summer.  I have neglected this task in the past to the detriment of their vigor.  I use grass shears for overall shearing, hand pruners to cut the tough stems, flower scissors to trim the weak stems and my fingers to hastily pinch off the spent blooms.   Passers by are always welcome to share in the celebration of my accomplishments and in the frustration of my failures.  Visions of blissful moments in my new cutting garden persuade me to remain a devoted gardener. 

   If starting seedlings isn’t your bag, visit your favorite garden center and purchase started pots. Plus, it’s an opportunity to see the plants in real life.  And, don’t be daunted by Latin names.  Call the Horticulture Hotline at 319-447-0647 or, again, visit your garden center.  Either will be happy to define and describe the plant.

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