Fantastic Lakes gardeners may be feeling like winter won’t ever end. What’s a gardener to do, other than head south? Fortunately, the days are becoming longer, winter is on the wane and there are a couple of flowers in the garden to cheer the spirit. February provides a last opportunity to get things done from the garden before the coming of spring, and an opportunity to get a jump on next season’s garden. It’s only 28 days; it’ll be over fast.
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Look for early-flowering bulbs. Flowers outdoors in the winter from the Great Lakes garden aren’t necessarily the product of a cabin-fevered mind. The oldest of the small bulbs, for example Winter aconites (Eranthis spp) and snow crocus (Crocus chrysanthus) sprout and blossom when not buried in snow.
Snowdrops (here, Galanthus elwesii) peek their heads over the snow.
Planting these oldest of bulbs in a hot microclimate will ensure reliable February blossoms each year.
A number of the witch hazels (here, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Sunburst’) begin unfurling their own strap-like petals on warmer days in February. Some varieties are fragrant. Espaliered against a wall, witch hazel can blossom even sooner.
Enjoy indoor blossoms. Even when the garden does not cooperate, there are indoor blossoms to dispel the February blahs. All those forced bulbs brightens up last fall ought to be in full bloom today, such as this blended pot of ‘Synaeda Amor’ tulips (Tulipa) and ‘Flower Record’ crocus (Crocus vernus).
Plan for spring. You will find things gardeners can perform inside this month to plan ahead for the gardening season.
Purchase The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program directory to organize visits to outstanding local gardens. Park Place at Barrington Hills, Illinois, shown here, was open to the public for only one day each in 2011 and 2012, and it would have been a shame to miss it.
Purchase seeds today so they arrive in time to get them started six to eight weeks before the last frost date. Procure seed-starting gear as well so that will be ready in March.
Unusual, hard-to-find perennials may be arranged online today, with a requested ship date for April, to ensure your choices aren’t sold out.
Prune woody plants. Gardeners itching to do something out from the garden can sharpen up the pruners. February is the perfect time to form up dormant woody plants.
Without foliage, the crossing branches of the crabapple tree (Malus x ‘Prairiefire’) are plainly visible, making pruning much easier.
Winter pruning is not advocate for trees which “bleed” from the winter, for example as maples (Acer spp) or to get plants that bloom on old wood, for example magnolia, forsythia and lilac (Syringa vulgaris).
Shape clematis. Type III, late-flowering or Clematis viticella hybrids, such as this Clematis viticella ‘Betty Corning’, which bloom on new growth, may be cut back today. Cut the stems back to 1 foot from the ground. Instead, where the blossom is outgrowing its space, it may be cut all the way to the ground. It is prudent to wait to cut back dead foliage until fresh leaf buds look on Type II, ancient, large-flowering clematis (usually in March).
Force flowering branches inside. While you’ve got the pruners in hand, snip several branches of forsythia or other early-spring-blooming shrubs, such as flowering quince (Chaenomeles sp) and pussy willow (Salix sp) to force into bloom indoors to get a spring trailer. Branches could be forced when the flower buds have begun to swell.
Put the freshly cut branches in warm water, then in room-temperature water the next day, and change the water daily.
Forsythia generally will blossom within two weeks of cutting, but as with almost any forced woody plant, the closer it is cut to blossom time, the earlier it will open.
Hang in there, spring is nearly here.
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