Nystrom's Nursery
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Winter in the landscape

By Neil Peterson

Last Updated Oct 30, 2009 1:40:43 PM

     Now that October has passed, we begin to settle into the start of winter. Although the snow season doesn't offer much in the way of gardening activity, there is still much that can be done. Let's start with some ideas to brighten up the house.

    Forcing bulbs is an excellent way to shake the winter blues with some spring color. People are familiar with Daffodils or Tulips brought into bloom in pots for sale around the end of January. Little do most realize- it's very easy and cheap to do yourself at home. First procure some bulbs by mid-November (bulbs bought later may be dessicated and dead). Small daffodils such as Tete-de-Tete or Jetfire are good choices, as are Crocus and early Tulips. Pot the bulbs densely in a pot of your choice- four bulbs to a 6" pot, with about 2" of soil at the bottom. Cover the bulbs with an additional three to four inches of soil. Water throughly, place in a loose plastic shopping bag, then put in the crisper of your fridge for about 8 weeks. Check periodically to make sure the soil isn't dry or saturated, just moist. Bring into a bright location at room temperature, a couple of weeks later-Viola! spring! After the bulbs are done, throw them out, because they won't rebloom.

   Another simple way for spring color is in mid-Feburary, cut some Forsythia, Quince, or any other early blooming shrub branches and plop them into a vase of warm water-you should have flowers in about 7 to 10 days.  

   Use the windows in your house-where are you looking out the most? Since winter can last 6 months in Northern Illinois, think of the places you would like to see color. Colorful bark, bright red berries, or intresting structure all help to cheer-up an otherwise gray and dreary time of year. One of my favorites is Winterberry (Ilex verticillata cvs.) This decidious Holly produces heavy crops of bright red berries that remain through the new year. The berries are typically gone by January, so no mess in spring. The only downside is these gorgeous plants need both a male and female plant to produce fruit. Another fine plant is Paperbark Maple. The modest size and slow growing nature of this handsome maple make it suited to almost any landscape. Although it has amazing fall color, and great looks all summer, winter reveals it's copper colored peeling bark. Take some time this winter to hop on the internet and find some plants you like-spring will be here again before you know it!