As a gardener, I’ve come to appreciate that gardening is never really finished. Sure, we mark the Last Mowing of the Year with pride and admire the look of a freshly-raked yard free of leaves for the (hopefully) final time, but if you’re anything like me, the satisfaction of a season finished is all too quickly replaced by the longing for spring upon the arrival of the first seed catalog in late December or January. As you start to dream of spring, here are some plants—new and old—I’ve come to love over the last few years that you might put on your spring wish list.
Admittedly, some patience is in order for the majority of the plants listed below. Many garden centers in our area don’t really stock up on plants before mid-February, and most won’t have a full selection until early- to mid-March. One plant already in stock at Vander Giessen’s, however, is the hellebore, commonly called Winter Rose or Lenten Rose.
Most gardeners have at least some familiarity with hellebores, but if you haven’t planted one (or more) in your garden yet, now is a great time to start! They bloom through winter’s darkest days, tolerate full shade to part sun, require minimal maintenance, are very deer-resistant, and have pleasant-looking green foliage year-round. ‘Joseph Lemper,’ a pure white variety blooming now with large flowers is one of my favorites, but ‘Snow Fever’ is a fun twist on a classic cream-colored variety with speckled green-and-cream leaves that look great all year long.
A second plant that we carry at Vander Giessen Nursery both now and throughout the year is heuchera, or Coral Bells. A couple years ago I wrote about it as the “perfect plant”—they’re evergreen, stay small, come in nearly every color of the rainbow, bloom through the summer, and grow in sun or shade. With the surging popularity of heuchera in recent years, it’s been hard to keep up with the number of varieties introduced. One of my favorites is ‘Dolce Cinnamon Curls,’ a rusty-red variety with ruffled leaves. ‘Dolce Blackberry Ice’ and ‘Obsidian’ are a couple more of my go-to varieties; boasting purple leaves, they make the brighter colors of most blooming plants pop and add drama to a container planting.
My third plant pick I’m dreaming of this winter is a favorite among ‘edibles’ gardeners: blueberries. While many edible shrubs and trees require at least some regular maintenance to perform well, blueberry bushes planted in a sunny spot will generally reward you with great crops of antioxidant-rich fruit year after year regardless of how much gardening know-how you possess.
If you’re looking for ways to incorporate more edibles into your landscaping in the coming year, one variety of blueberry in particular would work well. ‘Sunshine Blue’ is a dwarf variety that tops out at just three to four feet tall and wide. In spring is puts on a beautiful show of pink and white flowers followed by good crops of berries in summer without requiring a cross-pollinator. In winter, it remains semi-evergreen as well, adding to its appeal as a landscape shrub.
Soon spring will be upon us, and along with it the joy of watching life begin again out in the garden. As we gardeners relish the slower pace of winter, though, now is the time to dream. What specific plants, colors or textures are you missing in your yard and what do you hope to grow this year? Stop by the nursery and start browsing seed racks, see the selection of winter-interest shrubs and perennials and begin to put together your wish list of plants to enjoy in your garden in 2016.