Xeriscape Demonstration Garden in winter

Every winter is different (thank goodness!), and this year, we’ve had a pretty good solid winter with somewhat consistently cold temperatures and periods of decent snow cover. Some of those cold snaps have kept many of us indoors, getting a little stir crazy. We gardeners gaze out our windows, looking for that “winter interest” we hear so much about. If we happen to be houseplant people, we can put our gardening attention there. If not, maybe we peruse the seed catalogs again and again…

It seems mid-February is when I notice many of my fellow gardeners starting to get a bit tired of being indoors and itchy to be doing something, anything, to jump start their green thumbs for the upcoming season. If you’re one of this group, may we suggest the following five things you can do to ride out the end of winter into early spring:

1) Visit a public garden
A nice sunny winter day can be a fine opportunity for a trip over to the Colorado Springs Utilities Xeriscape Demonstration Garden (2855 Mesa Rd) or even for a road trip up to Denver Botanic Gardens. The cool little demonstration garden outside the old Carnegie building at Penrose Library is looking really great too. The snow cover is doing a nice job protecting plant roots and a terrific job of creating beauty in these gardens. You may even be surprised by some early bloomers in the warmer microclimate areas.

2) Clean up and organize your seed starting area(s)
For me, this can take quite a bit of time, so I like to break it up into 30 minute sessions. But just spending some time putting your seed packets back into some sort of order (and in a place where you can find them!) and cleaning and stacking your seed starting trays and pots can give a terrific sense of accomplishment. While you’re at it, make sure you have the supplies you are going to need. Go pick up some potting soil if you’re running low, which leads us to….

3) Stop in at your local garden centers
Here’s a little secret I’ll share; just the scent of potting soil brings me a sense of well being and lifts my mood. And my favorite local garden centers have aisles full of the stuff, just waiting to be appreciated. Some of the garden centers have terrific houseplant offerings as well. And even though I’m not an avid houseplant person, I love to wander around the remarkably healthy looking specimens over at Rick’s Garden Center. It’s like a little trip to a small tropical house at a botanic garden. And then, check out all the cool new “stuff” coming in for this year’s garden season! Hoses of every color! Cushier kneeling mats! More comfy gardening gloves!

4) Watch some of those cool movies and nature documentaries that you never have time for in the gardening season
This is a good way to take a virtual vacation, enjoying (probably) warmer weather and observing some of the amazing plants and/or animals that populate this planet. A few suggestions: The “Botany of Desire” episodes are available for streaming at video.pbs.org; quite a few episodes of the excellent PBS series “Nature” are also available at pbs.org (I just love the hummingbird one! Oh! And the duck one! and…etc, etc); and check out the DVD selection at your local library – you will probably be surprised what they have in nature and travel documentaries.

5) Read some of those awesome gardening and nature books that you never have time for in the gardening season
I always have several books stacked up in my “to read” list, and now is a terrific time to check a few of them off. So many fabulous gardening and nature books have been published in the past few years; it really is an embarrassment of riches. And don’t overlook some that have been around a bit longer. Once again, a trip to your local library to peruse the sections in the 635 to 712 (Dewey decimal system) area will yield several “must reads.” Next on my list is “The Wildlife-Friendly Gardener: How to Grow Food in Harmony with Nature” by Tammi Hartung. Please – feel free to add any recommendations in the comments. (Uh oh, my reading list may grow even longer.)

6) BONUS – Get out for a walk!
Bundling up and getting outside (and leaving your cell phone turned OFF) can be an amazing mood lifter. Even though we aren’t out actively gardening, that doesn’t mean interesting things aren’t going on out there! Regular walks around your own neighborhood will reveal such fun wonders as the first blooming crocus. Walks in nearby parks will let you observe hawks, squirrels, songbirds, gorgeous snow crystals, interesting shadows, the first green stubs pushing out of the ground.

Hang in there! Time goes by quickly. Enjoy what is going on now while waiting for the much anticipated idealized spring weather to arrive. (Of course by now, we’ve all forgotten what spring weather is actually like in our area, right?)

Submitted by Carey Harrington, Colorado Native Plant Master and Certified Colorado Gardener