On the other hand, is it? The birds are chirping and the trees are leafing out, so yes it is spring. Or is it? Although the climate here in Texas, in particular Houston, is rather nice though chilly at times yet mild, not so many other places can say the same. Remembering the cold, wintry days as a child, I recall seeing the beautiful spring bulbs peeking through snow that had fallen in the still of the night.
It seems that as people, we are never truly content with what we have. Specifically in gardening. Be there gardeners who envy the tropical plants that beautify the warmer climates with their foliage and large luscious blooms of a hydrangea to the gardeners who envy the spring bulbs we could never grow due to the regularity of warmth. Nevertheless, spring in a cooler climate is definitely a provoker of envy. From the early bloomers of columbine to the creeping phlox and variegated weigela with yellow peonies. With life as colorful as this, maybe winter should be welcoming. Who knows, I live in Texas.
Anyway, should you reside where it is very cold and will be for awhile at least, there is still time to get on your gear and get out there to take pictures, make notes in your garden journal and take note of your beautiful, spring garden. There are more plants and spring bulbs suited for the cold climate than elsewhere so take in the nostalgia of it all and create memories of wintry days.
With the uncertainty of spring here in Houston, we hardly know how to identify its season. But when temps are 20 degrees and lower in the colder climate, there are ways to identify spring right there in your garden amidst the snowflakes, sleet and a ray of sunshine to keep you mesmerized as you wait to see your hard labor from the previous autumn. The rule of thumb in the colder climate is to plant early. The warm season gardener can plant as late as January however. Because as mentioned before, when is spring in Texas? Spring flower bulbs need to be planted prior the first hard frost and its best to plant them when purchased; otherwise, store them in a crate or box with peat moss in a cool garage. Now, should you use the method of refrigeration I’m most familiar with, be sure to keep them away from all ripening fruit due to gas emitting from the fruits ripening process that can destroy the bloom. You’ll get the foliage but no bloom.
Yeah, yeah, we know the most common spring bulbs: tulips, daffodils, crocus but how about trying some muscari, a great sight seer for your rock garden that needs a bit of excitement or let it naturalize year after year under a favorite tree; the fritillaria, companioned with a weigela is a definite must see. The camassia a northwestern native that has longer, thinner legs than the “next top model” tops off with a head of voluptuous flower blooms. My favorite (almost forgot) scilla, another rock garden partner and can be used in a woodland setting or border and yes, it naturalizes as well (a must-have for indoor forcing). As a gardener, be willing to try new adventures to enhance your knowledge, respect, love, and appreciation for gardening.
Because of the varying climates we live in, it is best to choose bulbs recommended for your area. Alternatively, consider what "yours truly" does, experiment.
In closing, for long-time friends of the South, there are alternatives, the horticultural term, bulb forcing. This simply means inducing a plant to bloom ahead of schedule and out of its native habitat. For beginners, do your homework and choose only bulbs recommended for forcing. Spring flowering bulbs can be forced indoors from December through March.
Seasoned gardeners already know about the muscari, colchicum, and the wild crocus in particular, that display color every year in the foothills of the European Alps. (The pictorials are breathtaking). Some high maintenance ones include freesia, lily of the valley, tulips, and daffodils partially due to special requirements such as lighting and controlled temperatures. Plant any of these (cluster form my favorite) in part garden soil, part peat moss, and part perlite, into a chosen planter, specifically, ceramic to add beauty. Then, partially fill the container with potting soil mix, placing the bulbs carefully on the soil surface. The larger bulbs plant them first and completely cover with soil. Then add medium sized bulbs and lastly, the smaller ones. Once the bulbs are in place, add additional potting soil to cover completely. Water and add a slow-release fertilizer and Wala! Step back, take a sip of coffee, and look forward to the many colors and fragrant aromas of spring.
Yes, it is indeed spring, in your indoor, winter garden, so enjoy an aromatic hibernation period while waiting for the steamy, hot summer days ahead.