Here in Ontario, spring comes in April. Last year, it came sooner, but was followed by a burst of bitter cold that killed off the hopeful fruit tree buds and buried eager Snowdrops and Crocuses in a chilly blanket of snow.
While you can watch your garden begin to send up new growth any time from February through April, you cannot actually plant anything in the garden, itself, until April or you risk losing it to the late return of winter! Besides, the ground will generally be frozen as solid as a rock during that time and you will not be digging.
However, don’t let that stop you from choosing your own date to celebrate the onset of spring! I have chronicled my lack of due tolerance for Ontario winters all over this blog, and my commitment to banishing them is becoming a bit of a saga, but here I go again!
There are several ways in which you, too, can approximate the annoying behaviour of retailers who put up Christmas decorations before Hallowe’en, if you are desperate to brighten your world of dirty, lingering snow. Bringing in cut flowers and branches either from the store or garden is one way. The other way is via indoor and outdoor planters that anticipate spring, and that is the subject of this post.
You may wait until spring is nigh to take everything out of your winter planters and either completely re-create them for spring or hire someone to do this for you. OR, if you are far less patient than that, you may do as I do and pounce on your planters after Christmas on the first day you feel sufficiently over the need of cozy, red, warm and fuzzy and have a sense that lime green, pink and blue will not look ridiculous to the neighbors. I keep the winter elements that still fit in with the look of early spring, and replace those I feel are at odds with the new season.
Use these tips to gradually but inoffensively trick spring into your planters early:
1. Remember what’s leafing out and blooming in actual spring, for guidance on what to take out, add or keep in your planters. White birch branches and red-twig dogwood are stil leafless in the landscape in spring, so you can keep them in your planters to complement spring elements. I will also keep my fake birds for a month or two, as real winter birds are desirable at this time of year. Once spring break and Easter are nigh, though, they will be at odds with Easter colours and have to be banished to the pretend birdhouse under the stairs where the tin witch and styrofoam Santa live when off-duty.
2. Remove actual SYMBOLS OF WINTER gradually: evergreen boughs may fall under point number 1, above, but are too symbolic of winter decorating to keep once you really want to scream “SPRING!” Shiny red Christmas ornaments fall into this category, and eventually those pinecones will also have to go.
3. Gradually add in symbols of spring–by March, nothing rocks my world like those bright blue, cold-sensitive hydrangeas sold for Easter and a couple of fake bunnies! Hyacinths and daffodils have been available at nurseries and grocers for weeks. Buy bulbs not quite in bloom, and keep them well-watered if you use them indoors, for prolonged enjoyment. I am not above actually keeping the heat turned down in areas of the house where I have gone wild with bulbs, to prolong their beautiful blooms. (Sweaters, kids; fresh air is good for you!)
Also available and perfect for this use: Tulips, (less hardy for very early outdoor use, though) Polyanthus, Primrose and Gerbera Daisy, and soon, Helleborus Niger, Christmas Rose, which you can plant outdoors later on, to enjoy for many Springs to come.
I’ll be looking for curly pussy-willows (shown in my previous post) to switch up the red twig dogwood whenever they are available.
4. Utilize tolerant and available male brawn (whoa, easy, single ladies!) for bringing heavy planters inside if the temperature unexpectedly dips and tender blossoms need to come inside overnight. (well, we say it was unexpected when it happens) #heavylifting Sorry, no photo of this 😦
5. PANSIES are the first tough staple of a transitional planter that can actually be put outside. There are winter-hardy varieties available in recent years. I prefer to wait a little and buy the gorgeous early spring colours that match the rest of my scheme as soon as they come into stores around late March or early April.
6. FAKE IT! When you must have it but nature won’t let you, just throw in faux ivy and even, taste permitting, faux daffodils, crocuses, tulips and more. Viewed from the street or driveway, their tawdry beauty cannot be discerned. Since I am a bit of a purist with nature, I cannot bring myself to anything other than real flowers, but I am definitely not above fake ivy or even boxwood in my climate. The reason I can justify this “cheat” is that Toronto, so close in distance but so far away in plant hardiness zone and temperature, is filled with boxwood and ivy in planters throughout the winter and causes not just a little of the other green, garden envy, in my mind, and I cannot abide visiting the City and accepting the idea that I cannot have the same lush planters.
And don’t forget to feed the winter birds: they can add so much colour, life and entertainment to your garden views in January and February!
Naturally, when your neighbors make dubious comments about your somewhat early excesses, you may blame that garden-obsessed blogger that you read. I am prepared to take the rap for this.
Or blame your relatives in Victoria. People will understand.
How long can you be patient? Do you throw the old away and start anew, or gradually alter things as Spring gets closer? I welcome your ideas, below.