New England

February, 2012
Regional Report

Plan to Direct-Sow Cool Season Annuals

Some cool season flowering annuals are easily grown from seeds sown directly in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked. Sow seeds of calendula, white lace flower (Ammi majus), bells-of-Ireland (Moluccella laevis), sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), larkspur (Consolida ajacis), love-in-a-mist (Nigella), and annual baby's breath (Gypsophila muralis and G. elegans) where they are to grow. These plants will often self-sow in future seasons if you let some flowers go to seed.

Start Seeds of Cupflowers

Cupflowers (Nierembergia spp.) form low, compact mounds of finely cut foliage covered with purple or white cup-shaped flowers. Tender perennials grown as annuals, cupflowers bloom all summer and into the fall, doing best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. They make great edging or container plants. To start early, sow seeds 8-10 weeks before the last frost date for your area. Well hardened-off seedlings are tolerant of light frost and can go into the garden a couple of weeks before the last frost date. But give them some protection if a hard frost is forecast.

Give Long Lasting Roses for Valentine's Day

A dozen long-stemmed roses is a traditional and lovely Valentine's Day gift, but one that can be enjoyed only fleetingly. Why not give a gift certificate for an actual rose plant instead, so the sight and smell of rose blossoms can be enjoyed for years to come? Choose a hardy, disease-resistant shrub rose like one of the Knockout series for beauty and ease of care. To really woo your sweetheart, offer to plant the rose yourself come spring!

Check Garden for Heaved Plants

The nearly snowless winter we had so far makes it more likely that newly planted or shallow rooted perennials will be heaved out of the ground as a result of the alternate thawing and freezing of the soil, exposing roots to injury from cold and drying. (When there is a thick, insulating blanket of snow, the ground stays consistently frozen, making heaving less likely.) Take a tour of your garden and if you notice heaved plants, push their crowns back gently into the ground.

Don't Worry about Early Sprouting Bulbs

It's not unusual to see the foliage of early hardy bulbs peeking prematurely out of the soil if there's a period of unseasonably warm weather in late winter, especially if bulbs have a southern exposure or are planted near a warm house foundation. But don't be too alarmed. The flower buds are still tucked safely underground. The exposed leaves may be nipped when cold weather returns, but the plants will still go on to bloom later in the season.

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