By Marty Ross
The snow-shoveling season allows Midwestern gardeners plenty of time to dream up ideas for the gardening year to come. Winter is the season of promise and possibilities.
At my desk I’m already gardening: big amaryllis bulbs (technically they’re Hippeastrum, but everyone calls them amaryllis) are easy to grow in small pots, and I start new bulbs every year. They’re very dramatic: You can see the flower stalks grow a little every day. The flower buds open into enormous trumpets that defy the frosty weather from a sunny windowsill, blooming for weeks while the snow swirls outside.
While the amaryllises are blooming, I make plans for spring. This year I plan to fill in the gaps in my garden. In the front yard I intend to plant a few new hostas in shady spots in the big flowerbed along the driveway. I’m not that picky about varieties, but I know variegated hostas make the space a lot more lively. Some new ferns (I am partial to autumn fern) add interesting texture and contrast.
Daffodils and tulips bloom all along my front walk in spring, but when our big maple tree leafs out, those flowerbeds become quite shady. They need a little more color for summer and fall. This year I’m making room for toad lilies (Tricyrtis), which bloom in beautifully purple shades in fall. I’ll add a few hardy geraniums between the big boxwood balls that bound ponderously up either side of the walk to the front door.
In the backyard I’m going to concentrate on shrubs: I’m planning to try the new Bloomerang® purple reblooming lilac in a sunny spot. I like to balance native and nonnative species, so I’ll plant native purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dichomata) or American cranberrybush viburnum (V. trilobum ‘Redwing’). The Great Plants for the Great Plains program at the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum recommends both.
2013 was a big year in my community garden plot, and I am eager to get started again. I plan to plant a quick early crop of radishes before I set summer’s tomatoes, peppers, and basil in the raised beds. Radishes are so easy—you can grow them in a window box. I thin the rows carefully, plucking out tiny radishes for the first homegrown harvest of the year. They’re great in a salad. What have you got cooking for your garden this year?
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