Timely Tip: If you have over wintered bulbs such as cannas and dahlias, now is a good time to check them to make sure they have not dried out. If they are beginning to look a bit shriveled or the packing sand or peat moss is dry, spray the surface of the packing medium with just enough water to slightly dampen it. Remove any bulbs that feel soft and mushy.
This can be a tough time for a lot of gardeners. With the hustle and bustle of the holidays far behind, the digging juices are beginning to flow. But alas, the weather outside if not frightful is cold and the soil is frozen solid. And unless you’re a serious contender in “the great tomato race”, it’s too early to start seeds. So what’s a gardener to do?
Why not consider starting a plant collection. Now is a perfect time to take up collecting because all the new plant and seed catalogs are out and there’s lots of time to peruse them, pick your passion and begin making a wish list.
Unlike antiques if you pick your plants wisely and are patient, plant collecting doesn’t have to be expensive. We often hear stories of Hosta collectors who have to be the first on their block to show off the latest and greatest and are willing to pay hundreds for new introductions. But those who sit back and relax can pick up the same plants a few years down the road at reasonable prices.
If you garden in the shade, perennial ferns are also worth collecting and they mix beautifully with hosta and other wild flowers.
Many herb gardeners enjoy collecting thymes. Of the 350 species of Thymus more than half a dozen are currently used in ornamental gardens and there are numerous cultivars of every specie, so there’s a lot to choose from.
Last summer I got hooked on salvias. They thrived in the hot dry weather, were pest free, and flowered their heads off. I’m mad for them.
But you don’t have to limit yourself to a single genus. Some folks collect by color. Others, such as rock gardeners, search out plants that grow in dry, gravel filled beds. Bog gardeners collect plants that thrive in muck. Some folks prefer to collect miniatures, while others search for gentle giants.
Half the fun of collecting is the thrill of the hunt. So why not take some time now to begin planning your safari.
Start by taking a mental tour of your garden and list the plants that you not only enjoy growing and but also do well in your garden. No use collecting specimens that will have to struggle. Next peruse you garden books and magazines for additional inspiration. And don’t forget the library. Also check out the Internet. Google (www.google.com) is my search engine of choice. Just type in the plant’s Latin name, hit go and your off the races.
Catalogues are a great way to ascertain what’s available. The Avant Gardner Newsletter publishes an annual directory of general and specialist mail order suppliers. These 387 reliable and often hard to find U.S. and Canadian sources sell seeds, perennials, herbs, roses, fruits, nuts, wildflowers, trees and shrubs, plus tropicals for the home. greenhouse and garden. The Source Guide is $3 postpaid from the Avant Gardener, P.O. Box 489, New York, NY 1003. A free sample of a regular issue of this interesting newsletter will be included The list gives names and addresses only, but once you have the names you can use Google to look for websites.
If you grow a variety of salvias let me know. Exchanging plants and seeds with other gardeners is part of the fun of collecting.