Favorite or New Plant
'Fat Albert' Blue Spruce
One of the most common landscaping mistakes I see is a full-size spruce tree planted in an average-sized front yard. Sure, it looks in scale for maybe the first decade after planting, but sooner or later (usually sooner!), its branches are sweeping out over the driveway or blocking light to windows as the tree towers disproportionately high over the house. How much better things would look if a 'Fat Albert' blue spruce (Picea pungens 'Fat Albert' ) had been planted instead! This dwarf Colorado spruce cultivar grows slowly to a mere 10-15 feet tall, forming a broad cone of silvery-blue needles 7-10 feet wide. Like all Colorado spruces, it does best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil, but is tolerant of dry soil when established. Adapted to Zone 3-7, it looks great combined with ornamental grasses, sedums, and low, spreading junipers like 'Green Sargent' Chinese juniper.
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener
I know we're all waiting for spring, but with Niki Jabbour's book The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener (Storey Publishing, 2011,$19.95) you can start planning not only for a summer harvest of veggies, but one for next winter as well. Subtitled How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year No Matter Where You Live, the book contains lots of great general vegetable gardening advice, then goes farther to explain how to continue the harvest through months of cold. Based on hands-on experience in her Nova Scotia garden, Jabbour describes how to use row covers, cloches, cold frames, mini-hoop tunnels, unheated greenhouses, and poly tunnels to extend the harvest season. She provides cultural information for a wide range of vegetables, noting which are warm-season, cool-season, or cold-season crops, and includes a planting calendar showing when to plant in spring, summer, and fall. She's inspired me to try her methods this coming season so that I can be harvesting hardy salad greens from a cold frame or low tunnel next winter rather than paying exorbitant prices for organic greens at the market.