Surviving Spring

It is an extreme form of cruelty to label Mar. 21st the first day of spring. Only in Canada do spring celebrations involve snow shoes, a toque and only one layer of long underwear.

This can be a difficult time for gardeners. You’ve gone through the catalogues three times, Martha Stewart advises it’s time to plan your garden, and you’re willing, but you can’t find it under the snow.

Here’s what we do to hurry spring along.

It’s seed starting time. We buy and trade seed from around the world. We attend horticultural society meetings to listen and to learn. We build trellises. We look at pictures of last year’s garden to decide what worked and what didn’t. We look out the window: the golden stalks of last year’s treasures define the shape of things to come. We attend seminars and conferences. We read plant books.

We design new gardens. Our plans this year include returning to our roots with a proper vegetable garden. Last year, we sold 60 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. We were able to taste them only through the kindness and growing skills of our friends Nancy and Gail, who planted, labeled, harvested and then shared the bounty and participated in the taste testing.

While we appreciate their efforts, we’re determined this year to grow enough tomatoes for our own consumption, plus many of the other vegetables we’ve been craving since we started WildThings.

We’ve also been busy designing a series of container beds for the field. We grow about 1500 varieties of perennials. They don’t all want the same growing conditions. We will tailor our test plots to suit the plants, and expand the sites as time allows. Our plan is to eventually invite customers to participate in the plant trials.

Container beds can be a good idea for the backyard gardener with limited space, time, and challenging conditions. It’s easy enough to plan, control and tend a defined area.

We’re also hoping to begin woodland shade beds. The area is challenging because we want to protect the native flowers, such as trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits and trout lilies while introducing a home for our hosta collection and other woodland plants from around the world. If we’re lucky, we’ll begin to create the beds by July. If we’re really lucky, we’ll get them planted by fall. Whoever said gardening was instant?

And now to the shows. Springtime is showtime in the plant world. Judging by the number of garden festivals springing up like dandelions in the lawn, we’re not the only ones craving greenery at this time of year. There are shows in virtually every town including the giants like Canada Blooms in Toronto (March 12-16).

If you don’t like big crowds and big prices, there are some wonderful garden shows in the spring. If there’s one happening in your town, check it out. It’s a great way to spend a wintry spring day.