Winter Landscape Ideas
– Long gone are the colorful blooms of summer such as vibrant plum petunias or red geraniums. Say goodbye to colorful mums and asters which herald fall. Unless you live in a warmer climate like California or Florida, the change of season marks a change of landscape. People are disappointed and look as if I told them there’s no such thing as Santa Claus when I tell them they can’t get impatiens in December. As someone that works in a garden center, I have people ask me the same questions over and over again. Here are answers to four of the most commonly asked questions.
Do You Have Any Mums?
Right after Halloween, people get the urge to put chrysanthemums out in the garden to decorate for Thanksgiving. Here on the East Coast and other cooler regions, mums tend to finish blooming just before Halloween. There are several different variety of mums which range from early-mid-late season blooms with the last hold-outs barely hanging on till the end of October. Disappointed customers come in search for Mums and get upset that we can’t get them in. Are you sure, they ask? But especially with global warming, crops are blooming earlier every year and chrysanthemums are no exception. Sometimes you can buy what are called florist mums. These are tender greenhouse grown mums that will do in a pinch if you have a late fall get together and want to spruce up your planters for the weekend but their bloom time is fleeting, less than a week and if hit with a cold snap, the flowers and foliage will blacken and die.
What Plants Bloom All Winter?
Plants are really no different than people. If you had to stand outside in freezing temperatures for the next few months, would you continue to smile all winter? Of course not. Blooming plants need some sun and warmth to bloom and thrive. Pansies can withstand cool temperatures. However once it’s freezing outside, the plant will look somewhat wilted and shriveled but if you keep watering when temperatures are above freezing, it will most likely keep the plant and roots alive so that your pansies will survive the winter and bloom prolifically in the spring. In containers, plant hardy evergreens like dwarf Alberta spruce, hollies or boxwoods and surround with pansies and trailing ivy. The evergreens will provide a bit of wind protection and constant green. You can also throw in winter cabbage and kale which come in white, pink and red. If you want crocus, tulips, daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs, don’t forget to plant them as this time as well.
Do You Have Any Winter Pansies?
As a plant buyer, none of my wholesalers ever sold me pansies that were specifically called winter pansies. However, some varieties probably winter over better than others. When you plant pansies in the fall & winter, although it’s technically an annual, this cold-hardy plant stays somewhat dormant in the winter but is revived when the ground warms again in the spring. So you actually get two seasons of bloom when you plant pansies in the fall/winter. The downside is the extra care required and plants exposed to the possibility of death by freezing. But those that survive are often hardy and strong. The key is to get pansies in at least a month or so before a hard freeze in your area to develop good root growth. Having well established roots mean a greater likelihood of strong blooms. If you traditionally use a slow release fertilizer like Osmocote, forget about using it in the fall/winter as it requires heat to release the fertilizer. Instead, opt for planting with a handful of Espoma Triple Superphosphate or root stimulator. Mulch with leaf compost and a mulch like fine pine. Continue the rigorous practice of deadheading spent blooms and watering over the winter.
Can Poinsettias Be Put Outside?
Believe it or not poinsettias originate from Mexico and once nighttime temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, poinsettias will languish. When you buy a poinsettia in winter, be sure to be careful as you leave the store. Protect the plant from any sudden gusts of cold wind as this will cause immediate leaf drop. Although not freeze tolerant, as temperatures cool, you can try cyclamen in outdoor planters. It is often commonly used in container plantings in England and throughout Europe. However, it must be cool and temperate but not bone chillingly cold. So another way to look at it, is that if the cyclamens only last outside for a week or so, it is no different than purchasing cut flowers for the inside which have a limited shelf life. If you’re unsure, just leave the cyclamen in the plastic pot you purchased in and bury the container. If it looks as if the temperature is going to dip, just bring the plant inside. But remember to transition it into a cool protected area like a cool garage or basement cellar otherwise the contrast of cool to 70 degree room temperature will also cause the plant to deteriorate.