In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
February, 2012
Regional Report

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The hot pink, vibrant blue, and bright yellow in this bed of primroses remind me that spring isn't too far away.

In Search of Late Winter Color

I go on a nursery-hopping trip with my gardening buddies every year. It's a tradition and one I look forward to with great anticipation. Sometime in mid- to late-February we choose a date, load as many people as we can into someone's van or SUV, and hit as many of the small nurseries and out-of-the-way greenhouses as we can comfortably manage in a single day. It's a bit of a whirlwind, but planning our stops is almost as much fun as actually visiting each destination.

We want to be the first to find the newly introduced annuals and tiny, but full of potential cuttings of our favorite fuchsias and geraniums. On our first nursery sweep of the New Year I was mesmerized by a display of primroses at a local garden center. Their bold, vibrant colors were like magnets to me, and I loaded up my shopping basket with a dozen of the little gems.

Spectacular Primroses
Primroses are impervious to rain and cold weather, boldly blooming from January through April in our region. The leaves are bright green to emerald green (depending upon soil fertility) and highly textured, so even when they're not blooming they add interest to garden beds and borders.

Primroses have a compact growing habit and are perennial, but I treat them as annuals, spacing them shoulder to shoulder to get concentrated pockets of color. The close spacing doesn't affect their performance at all.

Reliable Pansies
Winter-blooming pansies are available in a variety of bright colors, including red, yellow, violet, and blue. They flower when the weather is mild (above 45 degrees F) but stop when really cold weather hits. However, once it warms up, they're flowering again.

Gorgeous Ground Covers
Algerian iris (Iris unguicularis), a native of Greece, can really brighten up a winter border. It's a ground cover for a sunny spot, and it thrives in poor, dry soils. The lavender-blue flowers have a honeysuckle scent that's especially pleasing when you cut them and bring them indoors. Another reliable ground cover is the common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis). I love the drooping white blossoms against the dark green foliage.

Including a few of these reliable late winter bloomers in your garden will surely brighten even the stormiest winter day!


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