Using the wintertime to set out your spring plan of attack is a great way to pass the time and get a jumpstart on next year's garden. You might want to create a garden-specific calendar, create a word document, or use a journal to keep up with all the places you will, might, or want to go. Read on for some inspiration on how to plan you plant quests ahead of time.
Research, research, and more research
Plan and decide which plants you will need next spring and summer. "Need" might be in quotations or you could actually have an open spot in your garden that is really in need of a specific plant, if you know what I mean.
Irises and other specific varieties
I will offer this section with the example of irises, but you could do this with any kind of popularly sold plant such as daylilies, tropicals, or succulents.
If you are specifically a sucker for irises, be sure to plan a trip to visit one or more iris growers. Irises are often sold at specialized nurseries that let you walk through their iris fields during blooming season to pick your poison or just enjoy the view. These fields are a sight to behold in themselves and make a fun day of browsing or shopping. There is bound to be one of these iris lover's wonderlands near your part of the world. Now is the time to search them out so that by the time iris blooming season comes around, you'll have your trip all planned out.
A fast and easy way to discover growers of any specific kind of plant in your area is by using the Dave's Garden Garden Watchdog. Scroll down the Watchdog homepage until you get to the area where you can choose the retail category. All plants are listed under "Plants:" and then the specific variety. To plan my trip, I clicked on "Plants: Iris (Modern)" and then I was directed to a page where I could narrow down the search to my state. I chose Colorado and then saw several results.
Within those results, I clicked on each of the companies that was near me and went to their website to look for further information. Most iris growers will have visiting information on their website; in addition, most specialized growers of any plant whether it is orchids or African violets will offer private tours or public visitation hours.
I have found a couple places that are near me in Colorado and planned out an itinerary to visit each place. Knowing how many places I will visit will help with budgeting and making the most efficient trip for gas mileage. It's true, I still might blow my budget at the first place, but at least I'll know what to expect.
For each place that I find, I record the hours of operation, their peak blooming season, and directions to the business from the main thoroughfare. As it turns out, most of the good iris nurseries around these parts are in Denver and north of Denver. I can make a Saturday trip to visit all of them with a little early planning.
Local Sales and Societies
Because I'm a relative "newbie" in my city, I don't know all the societies, sales, and bargains to be found in the plant world here. During my research of iris growers, I also discovered a very active local iris society that has a sale in late July or early August. Now I know to keep my eyes open for that sale.
Last year I stumbled upon a fantastic ‘waterwise' plant sale put on by the local Horticultural Arts Society. I found tons of penstemons for my growing collection, native grasses, and daylilies. I would really kick myself if I missed the sale this coming year. I'm putting it on my calendar now as well as looking for other local sales.
Winter is a great time to search for sales put on by local organizations such as colleges or universities, Master Gardener chapters, or even big farmer's market events. You might not be able to find out exact dates now, but you can probably find dates from years past and narrow down which part of the season you can expect the next one. If there is a college or university near you with any kind of horticultural department, they almost always have sales. As the students learn about propagation, they sell their experiments as fundraisers.
I also found out that there is a local society for almost every type of plant: for daylilies, native plants, irises, carnivorous plants, herbs, roses, cacti and succulents, water gardens, dahlias and I'm sure many more. I searched online for ‘Colorado Springs plant society' and got back 232,000 hits. Who knew? Colorado Springs really isn't even that big of city, so I was surprised to find all these active gardeners. Do the same for your area to see what you find. Often times you can find a person to contact and inquire about sales or membership if you are interested. Mark the sales on your calendar so that when it comes time to jump in spring, you know which way to go.
Local Retail Stores
If you are anything like me, you'll be chomping at the bit the first mild day you experience in spring. Even if it is a fluke "defrost day" in March, I get antsy and put all my houseplants out on the back porch. I go to the nearest hardware store and look for super hardy perennials to put in and I start looking for surface water plants to get the pond jumpstarted. I know, pretty dumb.
Planning for the first *intelligent* shopping trip of spring is my M.O. this year. I'm making a list of all my favorite nurseries around town as well as some new ones that I haven't visited yet. I plan on calling each store to see when they will open for spring sales (some nurseries close during winter) and when they plan on getting in a good selection of perennials and annuals. Many places will sell you whatever you want to buy even if it is not time yet, so be sure to check when your last frost date is predicted. Sometimes locally owned nurseries will offer spring and summer classes on gardening specifics that are free to the public. Now would be a good time to get those class titles and dates on your calendar.
Even though spring always seems to take its sweet time in coming, it always tends to surprise me with a frenzy of to do lists and not enough daylight in which to do it all. I hope I have inspired you to seek out and plan some plant shopping trips to get you through the winter humdrums and be well prepared for spring. Since none of us is made of money, it will behoove us to plan ahead, budget, and equalize our eyes with our stomachs when it comes to spring plant shopping. Mark your calendars for sales, events, and new places you want to visit in spring.
Photo credits:Iris 'Batik' scene - Mainer Iris field (from Mid America Gardens) - bonjon Butterfly on zinnia - morguefile (earl53) Calendar - morguefile (dave) Hand with pen - morguefile (Alvimann)