Cheer up greenthumbs, spring isn’t all that far away

January 16, 2013 

The third week of January is time to banish the mid-winter blues with colorful thoughts of spring. If dark days and cold weather has you winter-weary, perk up your outlook with these tips for renewal:

1. Get yourself to a home and garden show.

The Tacoma Home and Garden Show runs Jan. 23-27 at the Tacoma Dome. This indoor show has hundreds of vendors, but go see and smell and touch the garden displays and you’ll reap the benefits of inhaling nature. I’ll be speaking at the show every day at 2 p.m. (an hour later at 3 p.m. Saturday). To stimulate your spring fever, I’ll be giving away samples of some cool new plants. “Taming Your Garden” is the topic for Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. On Thursday and Saturday, I’ll be speaking on “Cool New Plants and some Old Favorites.” Tickets are $10 and information is available at otshows.com/ths (find a discount coupon at that website). Check this newspaper next week for more stories about what will be featured at the show.

2. Grow fresh rosemary, basil or thyme in your kitchen window.

A windowsill herb garden improves your inner health in three different ways. First, you reap the visual beauty of living plants that soften all the hard surfaces of a working kitchen. Second the smell and texture of these Mediterranean herbs relaxes the mind simply by evoking memories of well-seasoned meals. Then there is the third benefit, that of actually consuming herbs from their fresh, most nutritious state. Snip the tips of rosemary into stews and soups, layer basil leaves into sandwiches, salads and pesto sauces and trim your potted thyme plants and use these pruning crumbs to flavor eggs, bread and chicken. Herbal renewal is just a potted plant and kitchen countertop away.

3. Force some forsythia.

It is nice to fool Mother Nature when you simply cut leafless branches of early spring blooming shrubs such as forsythia now and place the cut stems into a tall vase of warm water. In a few days the tight buds will plump up and then open to sprays of sunshine-colored blossoms. You can also try forcing cherry, quince, magnolias and camellias to bloom indoors. Low humidity inside the house might hinder the early forcing of some flowering shrubs, but anyone can force forsythia. Don’t have a forsythia shrub to trim? Double the inspiration value by offering to prune a neighbor’s plant and then share the cut branches when they burst into bloom.

4. Buy some seeds.

Celebrate the coming spring by displaying the seed packets in a basket or use clothes pins to clip them onto a length of twine in a location where this visual promise of spring will greet you each day. Even if you never get around to planting your seeds, the artwork and planting instructions are enough to kick start a hibernating winter brain into waking up with energetic spring plans.

5. Buy some cool new berry plants.

One of my favorites for spring 2013 are the easy-to-grow but super healthy Lucium Goji berry, also called wolf berry. This year Proven Winners is introducing a new variety named “Lifeberry.” It was named for the highly nutrient rich berries that can be enjoyed dried or fresh with antioxidant and other health benefits.

I am also sweet on “Raspberry Shortcake” a dwarf, thornless raspberry plant perfect for containers or small gardens. This compact new raspberry plant is also self-fertile so you only need one plant to yield big berries. Winter is a good time to transplant or add berry plants to the garden. Local nurseries will also offer bare root strawberry plants, thorn less black berries, ever-bearing raspberries, fall raspberries and several new blueberry varieties including the popular “Pink Lemonade” blueberry grown by Briggs nursery in Olympia - and now selling out at nurseries all over the United States.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. For gardening questions, write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, WA 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply. She also can be reached at binettigarden.com.

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