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Whistling Gardener Blog

"What’s Blooming in your Garden?" by the Whistling Gardener

Camellias are blooming! Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

It’s official, spring is now here. This week marks that magic moment when our days finally become longer than our nights.

Of course there is no guarantee that any of these days will actually have the sun shining but it is at least encouraging to know that the potential is there to experience on the average three more minutes of daylight every day from now until the summer solstice, at which time we start losing three minutes a day until we hit the fall equinox when once again the days become shorter than the nights.

"A few things to do," by the Whistling Gardener

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

The last day of February started out cold and frozen with a few snowflakes falling from the sky, but as the day went on the sun came out and it actually felt like a taste of spring for me.

I was working in the garden doing some cleanup and for the first time this year I was whistling and lost in thought as I scurried about with my pruners, rake, and wheelbarrow.

"Signs of Spring," by the Whistling Gardener

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

I know it doesn’t feel like it but spring has arrived despite the cold and wet (dare I say snowy) weather we have been experiencing.

I will be the first to admit that when it is this cold I prefer to stay inside and wait for the sun to come out. But despite my reluctance to go digging in the garden, the season continues to march on, stimulated by the increased day length and occasional sun breaks, few and far in between as they have been.

"It’s show time!" by the Whistling Gardener

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show runs February 22nd through 26th, at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. Photo courtesy of Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

This week marks the beginning of the 29th annual Northwest Flower and Garden Show which will run Wednesday, February 22nd, through Sunday, February 26th, at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.

This is a world-class production that is sure to get you in the mood for the upcoming gardening season. Every year I come away with some new ideas, a few new plant purchases, and an overall renewed excitement for gardening.

"What a difference two weeks makes," by the Whistling Gardener

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

I just returned from spending two deliciously warm and sunny weeks in Mexico doing as little as possible while the rest of you endured “Snowmageddon” and some nasty freezes that pretty much put the skids on any productive work in the garden.

With that kind of weather I would have expected my garden to look about the same as when I left it fourteen days prior but I discovered some surprising changes.

"February To Do List," by the Whistling Gardener

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

It’s funny how one year can be so different from the next. With last year’s winter being so mild everything in the garden seemed to be three to four weeks ahead of schedule.

My Cornelian Cherry started blooming in early January with a mass of spidery yellow blooms and lasted almost two months. This year it is still completely dormant without a trace of color, all because of those three weeks of freezing weather we just went through.

"The Importance of Plants," by the Whistling Gardener

Winter doesn’t have to be boring! Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

I realize that for many of you I am probably preaching to the choir but for the rest of the world it never hurts to remind them that plants (next to dogs perhaps) are man’s best friend.

We simply would not exist if it weren’t for plants. Plants provide food for our bodies and materials for our shelters and release oxygen into the atmosphere that we need to breathe but probably even more important is the roll they play with our mental health.

"Surviving the Deep Freeze," by the Whistling Gardener

Pretty primroses are a needed burst of colorful happiness on these winter days. Photo courtesy of Sunnnyside Nursery.

By the time you read this column it will probably be raining and the cold dry spell of late December and early January will be behind us.

According to the weather gurus, this was the coldest winter since 2013 with temperatures dipping into the mid-teens in most areas during the night and staying at or below freezing during the day for over a week.

"The Importance of AWE," by the Whistling Gardener

New growth and frost, what an interesting combo. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

I recently read an article by Jessica Hullinger in “The Week” about the importance of experiencing “AWE” in our lives.

To quote Ms. Hullinger: “I'm a nature nerd and an awe junkie. Regular injections of natural beauty help keep me afloat in a world that would otherwise drag me down. I need brushes with wonder to maintain my sanity. I need that swelling in my chest and goosebumps down my spine, that tear-jerking act of kindness, or brilliant full moon, or stirring speech. Awe and wonder just make me feel good.

"A New Season and a New To Do List," by the Whistling Gardener

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Image courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

Okay, here we go. Out with 2016 and in with a whole new gardening season and hopefully a whole new attitude about life.

First off, we are over the hump which loosely translated means that we have passed the shortest day of the year and things will only get better from this point on (I am talking about the garden, can’t promise anything as to the rest of your life).

"Shifting Gears," by the Whistling Gardener

Colorful conifers are great this time of year. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

Despite the fact that you and I both know there are still serious gardening chores to accomplish before the end of the year, the truth is that our thoughts are turning to the holidays and decorating.

It actually started last month for Halloween with inflated ghosts and witches, haunted houses, lights and of course corn stalks, bales of straw and pumpkins.

Next up is Thanksgiving, which is mostly a harvest theme and then it’s onto the Christmas season with wreaths, swags and holly berries.

"Pruning made easy – It’s time we all understood how to do it," by the Whistling Gardener

Heuchera Cinnamon Curls. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

There is no task in gardening that generates more anxiety then pruning. Simply put, the real secret to proper pruning is in understanding how a plant will react to the cut you make on a branch. “Where” you make that cut, and to a lesser degree “when,” will determine how the plant will respond.