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Are you a good gardener or
a great gardener?

March 2007

If your garden looks spectacular in the summer, you're a good gardener. If your garden looks spectacular in early spring and late fall, too, you're a great gardener.

That's because, as most gardeners know, it takes extra thought, planning and effort to create beauty in early or late season. But if you aspire to greatness, now is the ideal time to prepare for that honor.

Frost is going to start killing plants. That's a good time for you to note what varieties withstand light frosts. Those are the ones you want to add to your beds next year really early in the season or to plant indoors in containers and take outside in early spring. Then, while your neighbours are waiting to plant out such tender annuals as impatiens and marigolds and zinnias, you'll have a colorful show of such frost-resistant plants as petunias, gazanias, dusty miller, dracena, snapdragons, pansies, alyssum and the like placed in strategic viewing areas.

Of course, you can also plant tulips, daffodils and other bulbs now for early spring blooming. But don't stop there. While you're preparing the soil for planting those bulbs, obtain lily bulbs and plant those beneath your tulips and daffodils. Then, when the spring bulbs are dying back, the lilies will shoot up between them and offer an exciting later show.

Remember that martagon lilies are the first to bloom, followed by the Asiatics, then the Trumpets and finally the Orientals. So you can mix both early and late liles to extend the season of color even long--a sure sign of greatness!

Don't forget, too, that it's worth bringing some hardy garden plants indoors and take them outside onto the deck or patio or front steps during the nice days through the winter. So while your neighbours' yards are bleak and brown, you can have geraniums, dracena (spikes), dusty miller, a wonderful blue variety of nemesia, alyssum and petunias providing a splash of much-needed outdoor color. Hopefully, you have some nice bright coolish area in the house in which to keep them.

The standard variety of green dracena keeps getting bigger each year and will even flower in about five years with white, nicely-scented blooms.

I'll bet not a single gardener you know has achieved that feat! Dusty miller will bloom the second year, too, with orangy-yellow flowers--a rare sight!

Even sweet pepper plants can be cut back and taken indoors into a sunny window, then taken outside next year for a new crop of peppers! If you aspire to greatness, that's another way of pumping up your prowess! Seed your veggies in the garden now! Carrots, lettuce, spinach and swiss chard will get a head start in the spring with a fall sowing. In fact, many seeds often prefer a cold dose of winter to improve their germination!

Try all of these things and you may hear the treasured words "great gardener" from a relative or an admiring passerby. But even if you don't, you'll have a heck of a lot of fun trying to get there!

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