In the Garden:
Upper South
February, 2010
Regional Report

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Winter won't get you down when you got a garden to plan and dream!

Winter Ennui

No matter how you slice or dice it, and all calendar evidence to the contrary, February is the longest month of the year. It's cold, very cold, to say nothing of gray and bleak. And there's snow, depending upon where you live, from a few inches to a few feet. Yes, the snowdrops started blooming in January, but even they have bowed heads now. The houseplants bring some solace, but also spider mites, white flies, and aphids. No doubt, this weariness and dissatisfaction will dissolve with those first warm days in March. Those days when the frogs start peeping and the birds' songs change to a flirting lilt. In the meantime, here are some ways to energize our spirits, gardening and otherwise.

Go to a Garden Show
If you're fortunate enough to live near Philadelphia or have the wherewithal to visit, there is no greater winter garden inspiration than the International Garden Show, http://www.theflowershow.com, held this year from February 28th through March 7th. Fortunately, most cities have their own version of a flower and landscaping show (although many are more oriented to home remodeling), so check when one is near you. Then go and smell the flowers, admire the trees and shrubs, and get ideas for patio, deck, paving, and fencing options.

Go to a Conservatory or Public Greenhouse
Botanical gardens, arboreta, and parks often have a conservatory or greenhouse outfitted with large tropical plants, orchids, bromeliads, waterfalls, and pools. There's nothing like the warm, moist air of a conservatory on a snowy day. Go back multiple times. Sit on a bench and drink it all in.

Buy Some Garden Magazines
Racks at groceries and home stores are already displaying spring garden magazines. These can be depressing if they make you think that you're the only one with a weedy, not-so-pretty garden, but use them, instead, for bits and pieces of ideas and inspiration. Few of us will ever have our entire properties ready for their "close up," but it's always fun to add or improve some portion of our gardens.

Browse Catalogs and the Internet
Even if you're someone who likes to shop locally, plant and seed catalogs as well as the internet again offer tons of ideas and inspiration. These also provide information about plant varieties. When I see an unfamiliar plant at a garden center, I often go home and check it out in catalogs and on the web to learn more about it. Then, I can make a well-informed opinion as to whether it will be a good addition to my garden.

Read a Garden Book
Have a stack of gardening books you've never gotten around to reading? Use these snowy days to catch up! Utilize your public library now when most people aren't thinking about gardening. Looking for a good, basic garden how-to book? Consider American Horticulture Society New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques ( Mitchell Beazley, 2009, $45.00). This 480-page tome is filled with over a thousand color illustrations and photos covering just about every aspect of gardening. Most importantly, it has a focus on earth-friendly, organic gardening practices.

For a more fun read, look for Rhapsody in Green: The Garden Wit and Wisdom of Beverly Nichols (Timber Press, 2009, $17.95).This is a compilation of excerpts from Nichols' gardening books, written by the British author in the first half of the twentieth century. At turns practical, humorous, and philosophical, this Nichols book makes perfect bedtime reading, allowing us to fall asleep to sweet dreams of spring.


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