Moving ahead

Even though it feels like winter has stalled over New England and we might never see the ground again, we are moving ahead towards spring. Our engines are revving and we’ll be ready to hit the ground running at the first sign of thaw. We’re sowing seeds, taking cuttings, and keeping up with the insect activity in the greenhouse (or at least trying to).

For anyone without a greenhouse it would be a little early to start most seeds but we have the leeway of lots of light, a little heat (particularly during the day when the sun is out) and now that the new planthouse is finished, plenty of room. The extra space gives us the chance to get a more of a jump on early season annuals so they can do a little more growing before we get them in the ground.

But we are also taking advantage of the snowy, cold weather to start some seeds that need a period of winter temperatures (stratification) to induce germination. Plants that self sow, such as poppies, larkspur, bells of Ireland, and bachelor buttons, along with perennials like dianthus, primrose, and sea holly (Eryngium spp.), are perfect candidates for winter sowing. Those seeds can be stratified for a few weeks (most seed packets will indicate ideal timing) in the fridge or, if space in there is at a premium and the weather outside is frightful, they can be left outdoors instead. Cover pots and packs with window screen or extra trays to prevent nibbling (the critters around here are hungry by now) and get them under cover if the forecast calls for heavy rain. As soon as the snow melts, we’ll do some direct sowing in the gardens as well.

Yesterday Betsy and I took a moment to admire some of seeds we were sowing and let our imaginations run wild.


Warm sunny daytime temperatures in the greenhouse have also spurred new growth ripe for taking cuttings from our tender perennial stock plants. It takes discipline to stick to a plan and not try to root every single perfect tip… There’s a waiting list for bench space in the new planthouse as it is.

Tender perennials rooting in the cutting bench.

Tender perennials rooting in the cutting bench.

New growth, exciting as it is, comes with a downside. It’s delicious. We haven’t gotten out the big guns yet (our arsenal is insecticidal soap, horticultural oil, and neem if things get really out of hand) but have been washing leaves, blasting mealybug with the hose, and squishing as we go. In the last couple of weeks spiders have set up shop with elaborate networks to help with infestations too.

Libby and Dianne cleaned scale and sooty mold off the camellias while it snowed -again- outside.

Dianne and Libby cleaned scale and sooty mold off the camellias while it snowed -again- outside.

Are you moving ahead towards spring? Have you started any seeds indoors or out? Have you been taking cuttings?