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Homeyer: Thinking Spring

02/24/11 5:55PM By Henry Homeyer
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(HOST)  Chances are that there's still plenty of winter ahead for Northern New England, but commentator Henry Homeyer is already 'thinking spring'.

(HOMEYER)  Ground Hog Day has come and gone. Any woodchucks in my neighborhood have been hiding for weeks, and wouldn't have been silly enough to burrow out through the deep white snow to look at the weather. That means, tradition has it, that winter will soon be over. I doubt that. I'm prepared for this winter to be a long one, with the kind of cold and snow we all remember from winters of our youth - whether we actually had them or not!

So what can a gardening guy like me do to keep sane if we're to have another two months of winter? Here are a few strategies. First, I'll go to as many of the spring flower shows as I can manage. Flower shows are full of forced flowering forsythia, bold yellow daffodils and fire engine red tulips. I'll attend workshops and talk to other gardeners who are also lamenting the lack of warm weather. The Vermont Flower Show takes place March 4th to 6th at the Champlain Valley Exposition Hall in Essex Junction.

Every week or two I'll go to my local florist shop and buy some flowers. Even 3 stems with bright blossoms can make a big difference in my attitude towards life. Chrysanthemums, asters, sea lavender, lisianthus and Bells of Ireland all hold well in a vase. You can make the arrangement seem more full and dramatic by snipping some stems of a white pine, the bare dark branches of a wild cherry or the bright stems of a red-twigged dogwood. I'll change the water and cut back the stems of my cut  flowers every few days to keep them fresh.

What else? I'll buy potted flowers at the grocery store. I'll buy primroses or whatever else looks good, even though most won't survive if planted outdoors later on. And then there are the orchids. Just before Thanksgiving I bought a Phalaenopsis orchid and it's still blooming - 10 weeks later. They can be pricey, but if you do the math, they provide lush tropical colors for just pennies a day.

And of course there are the seed catalogs - both in-hand and on-line.  I'll order seeds and try to double up with other gardening friends so that we share in the shipping costs - generally six packets of seeds cost the same to ship as one. It's still too early to start seeds indoors, but in another month I'll be starting the garden slowpokes like peppers and onions.

Surviving the winter here in the North Country can be a challenge. There are icy roads, roofs that need shoveling, cars that won't start. But it won't be long before snowdrops and crocus come alive, my magnolia tree bursts forth with a thousand white blossoms and those cheerful dandelions explode in my lawn. Winter makes me appreciate spring all that much more - whenever it gets here.
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