Almost everyone loves March. This one in particular, with the big blue sky, sparkly stars, has been the darling of the months. My husband is skiing and using his snowmachine to his heart’s delight. The days are so very obviously longer. The snow is fabulous for protecting plants.
What’s not to like? Well, where shall I start? The bitter cold and accompanying wind, for one. The fact that I would much rather be outside gardening. I really think that winter lasts too long. Enough is enough.
For 20 years I had a tough little cat, Mia, and the five feet of snow that would greet her as she attempted to sally forth would take its toll on her in March. This would be the month that she would decide to destroy the furniture and eat the house plants and yowl endlessly. I felt her pain. She and I were kindred souls. Now that I’ve got that said you would think that I would feel better about all this. No, it’s still March. But what I will do is carry on. Thanks for listening.
The plants under the lights in the guest room are thriving, almost too much. They are as ready for the greenhouse to get fired up as I am. Experience has taught me not to hurry that task. At eight feet wide and 15 feet long it seems small until it comes time to warm it up. We have two electric space heaters that can get the job done IF night temperatures hang around the low 20s. Lower than that and they can’t keep up. I’m glued to the weatherunderground.com site. I check it twice a day, hoping to see favorable temperatures. But March is not to be trusted so no matter what the forecast I hold out for April, hopefully the first. Every year is different and with my vast ability to be flexible I will wait it out.
In the meantime the alliums all need to be moved to larger containers. John has shoveled out the door to the greenhouse. This is the first time in a few years that needed to be done. In the fall I bring everything I think I’ll need to get going in the spring inside. I almost had it covered but the last several winters have been so mild that I’ve gotten lax. I need to get some containers out of there and pot up: two kinds of onions, leeks and shallots. Goodness. I think the tomatoes will be fine until they get into their summer home. I’ve potted them up once. Any more potting up and I’ll run out of space under the lights.
The tuber begonias are on the window sill and the joy they bring is amazing. They are healthy and showing lots of pink buds. Excellent. I have four of these. Three will go into the window box and the other will be potted up in cobalt blue container by the French doors where we have our morning tea. If you don’t have any of these tubers may I suggest that you get one, or even two? If you have already done so and yours are looking large go ahead and divide them now. Just take a kitchen knife and cut it in half and if its really big, quarters. Let the cut edges dry out over night and pot them up. Really, you’ll be rewarded. The cutting seems daunting but once you’ve done it you’ll never doubt yourself again. And you’ll have more begonias which can become too much of a good thing, but that’s what friends are for —give them away.
I think I’ve solved my problem of what to plant with my peonies. I did have campanula glomerata in there for years but I got tired of them. Even though I divided them, and tried to contain them, they just weren’t blooming at the right time anymore. They were getting really really tall and flopping all over the place. They just had to go. So, they’re gone.
But the question of what to replace them with has been weighing on me until I struck on the idea of Magic Fountain delphiniums. I started some of these from seed about two years ago and they are thriving. This variety doesn’t need to be staked and I think that is why I haven’t embraced them sooner, my idea of delphiniums are the Pacific Giants that get almost six feet tall (taller, depending on the year) and need staking. I love them — so much drama. The flaw to the Magic Fountains are the colors. I could only find a package of mixed seeds. Even seedlings that I found in our excellent nurseries were mixed. What I really need are the dark purple with the dark bee. And I need a lot of them. So I did a Google search and there they were. Exactly what I have been looking for. I started some of them March 2 and only about five germinated so I started more today, in the same container. Maybe I’ll have a ton of them in different stages of development.
Even the though the garden is small I like a lot of one plant or at least a lot of one color. I like the impact. Too many different kinds of plants in one bed starts to annoy me. But go ahead and have one of this and one that if that’s what you like — it is, after all, your garden.
Rosemary Fitzpatrick has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.