Flowers are blooming, last call for cool weather crops, it is planting season!

The crocus and daffodils are blooming and may already be winding down their show of flower fireworks.  The hyacinths are just starting to flower as the fall planted bulbs do their part to announce the arrival of spring 2014.  The best results in gardening, as in much of life, takes a little planning and preparation.  These small bulbs packed full of life condensed into tiny flower bulbs, when planted in the ground in the fall, watered and rooted in, then exposed to cold weather will literally leap from the ground early the following spring or about now to produce their colorful displays of flowers. They transition us from the cold and bleakness of winter as we launch into the colors, bright light and energizing life of spring and then summer.  These early bulbs will then be followed by tulips, anemone and ranunculus.  There are many summer flowering bulbs we plant now, in early spring, to grow and produce color this summer including gladiolus, dahlias and lilies as well as canna roots.

Just as the bulb crops have a rotation that delivers color from spring into summer, so do the flowering shrubs.  Their spring show begins with the brilliant yellow forsythia, followed by the hot orange and red flowering quince and then goes through the color wheel with azaleas, camellias, rhodendrons, hydrangeas, viburnums, roses, lilacs and finally the crape myrtle and rose of Sharon that peak in the summer heat.

Nature produces a similar show with our flowering trees that begin with ornamental pears, peaches and plums ,redbuds, crabapples, and then magnolias.  The flowering shrubs and flowering trees are available at your local nursery or garden center year round as container grown plants so you can plant them most anytime the ground is not frozen.   Hopefully we are done with frozen ground for this year even though we likely face several more light freezes as our last average freeze date is around April 10th.  You can plant container grown flowering trees and shrubs when they are in bloom and you have them on your mind or in the normal spring or fall planting cycles.

This is also a great time to plant most all of the perennial crops as they tolerate some cold weather and light freezes.  It is great to add some perennials to your landscape that will come back year after year and make a great foundation for your ornamental gardening.  Perennials save much of their energy to help make it through the following winter so they don’t bloom for as long as annuals each season.  Many perennials will bloom for 3 to 6 weeks each year while annuals will use most all of their energy to flower throughout the season but have to be replanted each year.  It works well to plant combinations of perennials and annuals so you get the big color impact from the annuals and get the periodic flower show of the perennials while reducing how much you have to buy and plant each year.

 I would still encourage patience before you plant the warm season annual ornamental crops like periwinkle, pentas, begonias or impatiens or vegetable crops like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant until mid April, when most of our chances for freezing have passed.  If you are determined to plant warm season crops early be prepared to protect them on cold or freezing nights with covers like Hot Kap wax paper cones, Wall-O-Water’s that provide a pyramid of tubes filled with water or insulating blankets all available at your local garden center or by using old sheets or blankets to cover these tender crops.

 This is the last call to plant the cool season vegetables, bare root trees, shrubs and berries.  We are also running out of time to apply your pre-emergent weed killers or weed and feed products.

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